On 7 May 2008 Dmitry Medvedev took an oath as the third President of the Russian Federation in a ceremony held in the Grand Kremlin Palace. After taking the oath of office and receiving a gold chain of double-headed eagles symbolising the presidency he stated:
I believe my most important aims will be to protect civil and economic freedoms... We must fight for a true respect of the law and overcome legal nihilism which seriously hampers modern development.
His inauguration coincided with the celebration of the Victory Day on 9 May. He attended the military parade at Red Square and signed a decree to provide housing to war veterans.
On 8 May 2008 Dmitry Medvedev appointed Vladimir Putin Prime Minister of Russia as he had promised during his election campaign. The nomination was approved by the State Duma with a clear majority of 392–56 with only communist deputies voting against.
12 May 2008 Putin proposed the list of names for his new cabinet which Medvedev approved. Most of the personnel remained unchanged from the times of Putin's presidency but there were several high-profile changes. The Minister of Justice Vladimir Ustinov was replaced by Aleksandr Konovalov; the Minister of Energy Viktor Khristenko was replaced with Sergei Shmatko; the Minister of Communications Leonid Reiman was replaced with Igor Shchyogolev and Vitaliy Mutko received the newly created position of Minister of Sports Tourism and Youth policy.
In the presidential administration Medvedev replaced Sergei Sobyanin with Sergei Naryshkin as the head of the administration. The head of the Federal Security Service Nikolai Patrushev was replaced with Alexander Bortnikov. Medvedev's economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich and his Press Attaché Natalya Timakova became part of the President's core team. Medvedev's old classmate from his student years Konstantin Chuichenko became his personal assistant.
Medvedev was careful not to upset the balance of different factions in the Presidential administration and in the government. However the influence of the powerful security/military-related siloviki weakened after Medvedev's inauguration for the first time in 20 years. In their place Medvedev brought in the so-called civiliki a network of St. Petersburg civil law scholars preferred by Medvedev for high positions.
From the beginning of Medvedev's tenure the nature of his Presidency and his relationship with Vladimir Putin was subject to considerable media speculation. In a unique situation in the Russian Federation's political history the constitutionally powerful President was now flanked with a highly influential Prime Minister (Putin) who also remained the country's most popular politician. Previous Prime Ministers had proven to be almost completely subordinate to the President and none of them had enjoyed strong public approval with Yevgeny Primakov and Putin's previous tenure (1999–2000) as Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin being the only exceptions. Journalists quickly dubbed the new system with a practically dual-headed executive as "government by tandem" or "tandemocracy" with Medvedev and Putin called the "ruling tandem".
Daniel Treisman has argued that early in Medvedev's presidency Putin seemed ready to disengage and started withdrawing to the background. In the first year of Medvedev's presidency two external events threatening Russia—the late-2000s financial crisis and the 2008 South Ossetia war—changed Putin's plans and caused him to resume a stronger role in Russian politics.
Main external events
2008 South Ossetia war
The long-lingering conflict between Georgia and the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which were supported by Russia escalated during the summer of 2008. In the night of 7–8 August Georgia launched a military operation in South Ossetia with 10 000–11 000 soldiers and 75 tanks. Several Russian peacekeepers were killed in the fighting and many South Ossetians who had Russian citizenship.
At the time of the attack Medvedev was on vacation and Putin was attending the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At about 1:00 a.m on 8 August Medvedev held a telephone conversation with the Defence Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov. It is likely that during this conversation Medvedev authorised the use of force against Georgia. The next day Medvedev released a statement in which he said:
Last night Georgian troops committed what amounts to an act of aggression against Russian peacekeepers and the civilian population in South Ossetia ... In accordance with the Constitution and the federal laws as President of the Russian Federation it is my duty to protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens wherever they may be. It is these circumstances that dictate the steps we will take now. We will not allow the deaths of our fellow citizens to go unpunished. The perpetrators will receive the punishment they deserve.— Dmitry Medvedev on 8 August 2008
In the early hours of 8 August Russian military forces launched a counter-offensive against Georgian troops. After five days of heavy fighting all Georgian forces were routed from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On 12 August Medvedev announced an end to the Russian military operation entitled "Operation to force Georgia into peace". Later on the same day a peace deal brokered by the French and EU President Nicolas Sarkozy was signed between the warring parties. On 26 August after being unanimously passed by the State Duma Medvedev signed a decree recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. The five-day conflict cost the lives of 48 Russian soldiers including 10 peacekeepers while the casualties for Georgia was 170 soldiers and 14 policemen.
The Russian popular opinion of the military intervention was broadly positive not just among the supporters of the government but across the political spectrum. Medvedev's popularity ratings soared by around 10 percentage points to over 70% due to what was seen as his effective handling of the war.
Shortly in the aftermath of the conflict Medvedev formulated a 5-point strategy of the Russian foreign policy which has become known as the Medvedev Doctrine. On 30 September 2009 the European Union–sponsored Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia stated that while preceded by months of mutual provocations "open hostilities began with a large-scale Georgian military operation against the town of Tskhinvali and the surrounding areas launched in the night of 7 to 8 August 2008."
2008–09 economic crisis
In September 2008 Russia was hit by repercussions of the global financial crisis. Before this Russian officials such as the Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin had said they believed Russia would be safe due to its stable macroeconomic situation and substantial reserves accumulated during the years of growth. Despite this the recession proved to be the worst in the history of Russia and the country's GDP fell by over 8% in 2009. The government's response was to use over a trillion rubles (more than $40 billion U.S. Dollars) to help troubled banks and initiated a large-scale stimulus programme lending $50 billion to struggling companies. No major banks collapsed and minor failures were handled in an effective way. The economic situation stabilised in 2009 but substantial growth did not resume until 2010. Medvedev's approval ratings declined during the crisis dropping from 83% in September 2008 to 68% in April 2009 before recovering to 72% in October 2009 following improvements in the economy.
According to some analysts the economic crisis together with the 2008 South Ossetia war delayed Medvedev's liberal programme. Instead of launching the reforms the government and the Presidency had to focus their efforts on anti-crisis measures and handling the foreign policy implications of the war.
In the economic sphere Medvedev has launched a modernisation programme which aims at modernising Russia's economy and society decreasing the country's dependency on oil and gas revenues and creating a diversified economy based on high technology and innovation. The programme is based on the top 5 priorities for the country's technological development: efficient energy use; nuclear technology; information technology; medical technology and pharmaceuticals; and space technology in combination with telecommunications.
In November 2010 on his annual speech to the Federal Assembly Medvedev stressed for greater privatisation of unneeded state assets both at the federal and regional level and that Russia's regions must sell-off non-core assets to help fund post-crisis spending following in the footsteps of the state's planned $32 billion 3-year asset sales. Medvedev said the money from privatisation should be used to help modernise the economy and the regions should be rewarded for finding their own sources of cash.
Medvedev has named technological innovation one of the key priorities of his presidency. In May 2009 Medvedev established the Presidential Commission on Innovation which he will personally chair every month. The commission comprises almost the entire Russian government and some of the best minds from academia and business. Medvedev has also said that giant state corporations will inevitably be privatised and although the state had increased its role in the economy in recent years this should remain a temporary move.
On 7 August 2009 Dmitry Medvedev instructed the Prosecutor General Yury Chayka and the Chief of the Audit Directorate of the Presidential Administration of Russia Konstantin Chuychenko to probe state corporations a new highly privileged form of organisation earlier promoted by President Putin to question their appropriateness.
In June 2010 he visited the Twitter headquarters in Silicon Valley declaring a mission to bring more high-tech innovation and investment to the country.
Medvedev made reforming Russia's law enforcement one of his top agendas the reason for which was a shooting started by a police officer in April 2009 in one of Moscow's supermarkets. Medvedev initiated the reform at the end of 2009 with a presidential decree issued on 24 December ordering the government to start planning the reform. In early August 2010 a draft law was posted on the Internet at the address http://www.zakonoproekt2010.ru for public discussion. The website was popular with more than 2 000 comments posted within 24 hours of its opening. Based on citizen feedback several modifications to the draft were made. On 27 October 2010 President Medvedev submitted the draft to the lower house of the Russian parliament the State Duma. The State Duma voted to approve the bill on 28 January 2011 and the upper house the Federation Council followed suit on 2 February 2011. On 7 February 2011 President Medvedev signed the bill into law. The changes came into effect on 1 March 2011.
Under the reform the salaries of Russian police officers were increased by 30% Interior Ministry personnel were cut and financing and jurisdiction over the police were centralised. Around 217 billion rubles ($7 billion) were allocated to the police reform from the federal budget for the time frame 2012–2013.
On 19 May 2008 Medvedev signed a decree on anti-corruption measures which included creation of an Anti-Corruption Council. In the first meeting of the Council on 30 September 2008 Medvedev said:
I will repeat one simple but very painful thing. Corruption in our country has become rampant. It has become commonplace and characterises the life of the Russian society.
In July 2008 Medvedev's National Anti-Corruption Plan was published in the official Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper. It suggested measures aimed at making sanctions for corruption more severe such as legislation to disqualify state and municipal officials who commit minor corruption offences and making it obligatory for officials to report corruption. The plan ordered the government to prepare anti-corruption legislation based on these suggestions. The bill that followed called On Corruption Counteraction was signed into law on 25 December 2008 as Federal Law N 273-FZ. According to Professor Richard Sakwa "Russia now at last had serious if flawed legislation against corruption which in the context was quite an achievement although preliminary results were meagre." Russia's score in Corruption Perceptions Index rose from 2.1 in 2008 to 2.2 in 2009 which "could be interpreted as a mildly positive response to the newly adopted package of anti-corruption legislation initiated and promoted by president Medvedev and passed by the Duma in December 2008" according to Transparency International's CPI 2009 Regional Highlights report.
On 13 April 2010 Medvedev signed presidential decree No. 460 which introduced the National Anti-Corruption Strategy a midterm government policy while the plan is updated every two years. The new strategy stipulated increased fines greater public oversight of government budgets and sociological research. According to Georgy Satarov president of the Indem think tank the latest decree "probably reflected Medvedev's frustration with the fact that the 2008 plan had yielded little result."
In January 2011 President Medvedev admitted that the government had so far failed in its anti-corruption measures.
On 4 May 2011 Medvedev signed the Federal Law On Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation to Improve State Anti-Corruption Management. The bill raised fines for corruption to up to 100 times the amount of the bribe given or received with the maximum fine being 500 million rubles ($18.3 million).
President Medvedev initiated a new policy called "Our New School"[clarification needed] and instructed the government to present a review on the implementation of the initiative every year.
Development of the political system
Regional elections held on 1 March 2009 were followed by accusations of administrative resources being used in support of United Russia candidates with the leader of A Just Russia Sergey Mironov being especially critical. Responding to this Medvedev met with the Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Russia Vladimir Churov and called for moderation in the use of administrative resources. In August 2009 Medvedev promised to break the near-dominant position of United Russia party in national and regional legislatures stating that "New democratic times are beginning". The next regional elections were held on 11 October 2009 and won by United Russia with 66% of the vote. The elections were again harshly criticised for the use of administrative resources in favour of United Russia candidates. Communist LDPR and A Just Russia parliamentary deputies staged an unprecedented walkout on 14–15 October 2009 as a result. Professor Richard Sakwa has noted that although Medvedev has often promised to stand up for more political pluralism after the 2009 regional elections a gulf had formed between Medvedev's words and the worsening situation with the question arising "whether Medvedev had the desire or ability to renew Russia's political system."
On 26 October 2009 the First Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov warned that democratic experiments could result in more instability and that more instability "could rip Russia apart". On 6 November 2010 Medvedev vetoed a recently passed bill which restricted antigovernment demonstrations. The bill passed on 22 October notably prohibited anyone who had previously been convicted of organising an illegal mass rally from seeking permission to stage a demonstration.
In late November 2010 Medvedev made a public statement about the damage being done to Russia's politics by the dominance of the United Russia party. He claimed that the country faced political stagnation if the ruling party would "degrade" if not challenged; "this stagnation is equally damaging to both the ruling party and the opposition forces." In the same speech he said Russian democracy was "imperfect" but improving. BBC Russian correspondents reported that this came on the heels of discontent in political circles and opposition that the authorities in their view had too much control over the political process.
In his first State of the Nation address to the Russian parliament on 5 November 2008 Medvedev proposed to change the Constitution of Russia in order to increase the terms of the President and State Duma from four to six and five years respectively (see 2008 Amendments to the Constitution of Russia).
Medvedev on 8 May 2009 proposed to the legislature and on 2 June signed into law an amendment whereby the chairperson of the Constitutional Court and his deputies would be proposed to the parliament by the president rather than elected by the judges as was the case before.
In May 2009 Medvedev set up the Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests. In August of the same year he stated that he opposes the equating of Stalinism with Nazism. Medvedev denied the involvement of the Soviet Union in the Soviet invasion of Poland together with Nazi Germany. Arguments of the European Union and of the OSCE were called a lie. Medvedev said it was Joseph Stalin who in fact "ultimately saved Europe".
On 30 October 2009 due to the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions President Medvedev published a statement in his video blog. He stressed that the memory of national tragedies is as sacred as the memory of victory. Medvedev recalled that for twenty of the pre-war years entire layers and classes of the Russian people were destroyed (this period includes the Red Terror mainly under the lead of Felix Dzerzhinsky the crimes of Joseph Stalin and other evil deeds of the Soviet Bolsheviks). Nothing can take precedence over the value of human life said the President.
In a speech on 15 September 2009 Medvedev stated that he approved of the abolition in 2004 of direct popular elections of regional leaders effectively in favour of their appointment by the Kremlin and added that he didn't see a possibility of a return to direct elections even in 100 years.
In 2009 Medvedev proposed an amendment to the election law which would decrease the State Duma election threshold from 7% to 5%. The amendment was signed into law in Spring 2009. Parties receiving more than 5% but less than 6% of the votes will now be guaranteed one seat while parties receiving more than 6% but less than 7% will get two seats. These seats will be allocated before the seats for parties with over 7% support.
Russian election law stipulates that parties with representatives in the State Duma are free to put forward a list of candidates for the Duma elections while parties with no current representation need first to collect signatures. Under the 2009 amendments initiated by Medvedev the amount of signatures required was lowered from 200 000 to 150 000 for the 2011 Duma elections. In subsequent elections only 120 000 signatures will be required.
In August during the third month of Medvedev's presidency Russia took part in the 2008 South Ossetia war with Georgia which drove tension in Russia–United States relations to a post–Cold War high. On 26 August following a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly of Russia Medvedev issued a presidential decree officially recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states an action condemned by the G7. On 31 August 2008 Medvedev announced a shift in the Russian foreign policy under his government built around five main principles:
Fundamental principles of international law are supreme.
The world will be multipolar.
Russia will not seek confrontation with other nations.
Russia will protect its citizens wherever they are.
Russia will develop ties in friendly regions.
In his address to the parliament on 5 November 2008 he also promised to deploy the Iskander missile system and radar-jamming facilities in Kaliningrad Oblast to counter the U.S. missile defence system in Eastern Europe. Following U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement on 17 September 2009 that Washington would not deploy missile-defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland Dmitry Medvedev said he decided against deploying Iskander missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast.
On 21 November 2011 Medvedev claimed that the war on Georgia had prevented further NATO expansion.
In 2011 during the performance at the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum President Medvedev has declared that the doctrine of Karl Marx on class struggle is extremist and dangerous. Progressive economic stratification which can be less evident in period of economic growth leads to acute conflicts between rich and poor people in period of downturn. In such conditions the doctrine on class struggle is being revived in many regions of the world riots and terrorist attacks become reality by opinion of Medvedev.
In August 2014 President Barack Obama said: "We had a very productive relationship with President Medvedev. We got a lot of things done that we needed to get done."
During the official visit to Armenia in 7 April 2016 Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex to pay tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Medvedev laid flowers at the Eternal Fire and honoured the memory of the victims with a minute of silence. Russia recognised the crime in 1995.
Relationship with Putin
Although the Russian constitution clearly apportions the greater power in the state to the President speculation arose over the question of whether it was Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who actually wielded the most power. According to The Daily Telegraph "Kremlin-watchers" note that Medvedev uses the more formal form of 'you' (Вы 'vy') when addressing Putin while Putin addresses Medvedev with the less formal 'ty' (ты).
According to a poll conducted in September 2009 by the Levada Center in which 1 600 Russians took part 13% believed Medvedev held the most power 32% believed Putin held the most power 48% believed that the two shared equal levels of influence and 7% failed to answer. However Medvedev attempted to affirm his position by stating "I am the leader of this state I am the head of this state and the division of power is based on this."
2012 presidential elections
As both Putin and Medvedev could have run for President in the 2012 general elections there was a view from some analysts that some of Medvedev's contemporaneous actions and comments at the time were designed to separate his image from Putin's: examples noted by the BBC included his dealings in late 2010 with NATO and the United States possibly designed to show himself as being better able to deal with Western nations and comments in November about the need for a stronger opposition in Russian politics to present himself as a moderniser. The BBC also noted that other analysts believed the split to be exaggerated that Medvedev and Putin were "trying to maximise support for the authorities by appealing to different parts of society". There was belief that the court verdict on former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev both of whom funded opposition parties before their arrests would indicate whether or not Putin was "still calling all the shots".
On 24 September 2011 while speaking at the United Russia party congress Medvedev announced that he would recommend the party nominate Vladimir Putin as its presidential candidate and that the two men had long ago cut a deal to allow Mr. Putin to return to the presidency in 2012 after he was forced to stand down in 2008 by term limits. This switch was termed by many in the media as "rokirovka" the Russian term for the chess move "castling". Medvedev said he himself would be ready to perform "practical work in the government". Putin accepted Medvedev's offer the same day and backed him for the position of the Prime Minister of Russia in case the United Russia whose list of candidates in the elections Medvedev agreed to head were to win in the upcoming Russian legislative election. The same day the Russian Orthodox Church endorsed the proposal by President Medvedev to let Putin return to the post of President of Russia.
On 22 December 2011 in his last state of the nation address in Moscow Medvedev called for comprehensive reform of Russia's political system — including restoring the election of regional governors and allowing half the seats in the State Duma to be directly elected in the regions. "I want to say that I hear those who talk about the need for change and understand them" Medvedev said in an address to the Duma. "We need to give all active citizens the legal chance to participate in political life." However the opposition to the ruling United Russia party of Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin dismissed the proposals as political posturing that failed to adequately address protesters who claimed 4 December election was rigged.
On 7 May on his last day in office Medvedev signed the last documents as the head of state: in the sphere of civil society protection of human rights and modernisation. He approved the list of instructions by the results of the meeting with the Presidential council on Civil Society and Human Rights which was held on 28 April. Medvedev also approved with his decree "Presidential programme for raising skills of engineers for 2012–2014" for modernisation and technological development of the Russian economy.
Main article: Dmitry Medvedev's First Cabinet
Main article: Dmitry Medvedev's Second Cabinet
See also: 2017 Russian protests
|2008 presidential election|
|Dmitry Medvedev||United Russia||52 530 712||71.2|
|Gennady Zyuganov||Communist Party||13 243 550||18.0|
|Vladimir Zhirinovsky||Liberal Democratic Party||6 988 510||9.5|
|Andrei Bogdanov||Democratic Party||968 344||1.3|
|Source: Результаты выборов|
|For||Against||Abstaining||Did not vote|
|Source: Справка о результатах голосования|
|For||Against||Abstaining||Did not vote|
|Source: Справка о результатах голосования|
|Deputy Chairman of the Security Council|
|Assumed office |
16 January 2020
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Leader of United Russia|
|Assumed office |
30 May 2012
|Secretary General||Andrey Turchak|
|Preceded by||Vladimir Putin|
|Prime Minister of Russia|
8 May 2012 – 16 January 2020
|First Deputy||Viktor Zubkov
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