1. Consolidation of state institutions and formation of the common legal space. Consolidation of the power vertical and state institutions, and restoration of the constitutional order in the entire country were one of the first steps towards overcoming Russia's systemic crisis.
The common legal space has been restored, and the legislation of the regions tailored to the federal laws. At the same time, the powers of the Federation, regions and local bodies of self-government have been strictly delimited. At the same time, a considerable part of functions in the socio-economic sphere have been transferred to the regional and local levels. In other words, the powers have been seriously decentralized.
2. Social orientation in domestic policy. President Putin has adopted a new approach to social problems. He has described it as a "policy of investment in people, and, hence, in Russia's future." Government policy has focused on improving the living standards of the Russian people. This is the goal of the priority national projects, which were introduced in 2006. The projects cover the most important and backward spheres, such as health care, education, housing, and agriculture.
The results are obvious. Under the public health project, more than 40,000 units of diagnostic equipment and over 13,000 ambulances have been purchased; more than 90% of mothers have received birth vouchers; free medical care has been provided to 1.3 million women and more than 300,000 children; 1,2 million of newborn children have been screened for five congenital diseases; 300,000 patients have been given high-tech medical assistance; massive campaigns on preventive medical examination and vaccination have been conducted.
3. Improvement in the demographic situation. The alarming trends toward the growing death rate and declining birth rate have been overcome in the last few years. In 2007, 145,000 more children were born, which is 10% more than in 2005. Over the same period, the number of deaths was reduced by 178,800. The nation has not seen such figures in the last 15 years.
The situation has been improved owing to reforms in medical care and measures to promote the birth rate, such as the introduction of the maternity voucher. The first owners of this voucher will be able to use the money in 2010. Last year, vouchers were received by almost 314,000 women. This year, maternity capital has been increased to 271,250 rubles (over $10,850). Social benefits for families with children have been raised substantially.
4. Stabilization of the situation in Chechnya. Consolidation and reformation of the army. The country's disintegration was prevented by a great effort. The war in the North Caucasus was brought to an end. A serious blow was dealt at separatism and its patron, international terrorism. The Chechen Republic became a fully-fledged member of the Russian Federation. It had democratic elections of parliament and president, and adopted a constitution.
At the same time, the conflict in the North Caucuses revealed serious problems in the Russian Armed Forces. Many of them have been resolved in the last few years. The upkeep of officers and men has been improved; troops have been equipped with modern weapons; and a reform of the army has been carried out after numerous delays.
5. Revival of physical training and sports. After years of decline in this sphere, the government has focused both on professional sports and sports events for the public. It has drafted and started implementing a federal program on the development of sports and physical training for 2006-2015, which provides for the construction of 4,000 sports facilities, most of them in small towns and villages.
The decision of the 119th session of the International Olympic Committee in Guatemala to conduct the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi confirms that Russia is retrieving its title of a great sports power. Presentations by the Putin-led Russian team largely contributed to this decision.
1. Rampant corruption. Top-level officials admit that in the last few years, Russian society has failed to find a cure for its grave disease - corruption. There were attempts to combat it - in 2007 more than 1,000 cases of bribery by high-ranking officials were taken to court. In some estimates, kick-backs in the system of government purchases amounts to about 10% from their total, or some 300,000 billion rubles (over $12,000) in value terms.
An anti-corruption bill has not been adopted despite large-scale debates on the problem. Moreover, Russian legislation does not even define corruption. But the main problem is that too little has been done to remove the causes of corruption - excessive administrative barriers.
2. Dependent and non-transparent legal proceedings. Contrary to verbal declarations, the conditions making the judicial system truly independent of the executive and legislative branches of power have not been created. Illegal verdicts are still being made on the basis of telephone calls or for money.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin complains that rank-and-file judges are very dependent on court chairmen. The judicial reform designed to guarantee the implementation of the constitutional provisions on independence of courts has not achieved its goals in full measure. On a par with corruption, dependence and biased attitudes, which judges display in economic cases, are substantially impeding the development of the economy and blocking the flow of home and foreign investment.
3. Mounting xenophobic and nationalistic attitudes. Despite appeals for tolerance and numerous educational measures, radical nationalism continues to grow. Cases of race-related violence have become more frequent. Xenophobic attitudes are still running high in public mentality.
Over 25% of those polled by the Public Opinion Fund have declared that they are irritated by people of other ethnic origins. The Moscow Human Rights Bureau has registered 230 ethnic hate crimes - 74 people were killed and 317 were injured. In the estimate of the SOVA Human Rights Center, the growth of violence has registered 12% over the previous year.
4. Massive political apathy. In the estimate of the VTsIOM pollster, 60% of Russian people do not care about politics. In a poll conducted by the Levada Center together with the EU-Russia Center 94% of respondents said that they can do nothing or very little to influence current developments in Russia. Some analysts explain this by the failure to create an effective mechanism of checks and balances, which would not allow one branch of power to dominate over all others and which would promote interest-driven public dialogue and guarantee active public participation in determining the tasks and methods of building a new state.
The recent changes in the election legislation are driving ordinary people and the elite further apart. This applies to the cancellation of governors' elections, introduction of party lists, a ban on the right to recall an objectionable deputy, and abrogation of the "against everyone" column.
The authorities are increasingly monopolizing a system of government control, assuming responsibility for decision-making and depriving society of this right.
5. Renunciation of plurality. Human rights champions and some journalists believe that the authorities have been waging a vigorous onslaught on the independent media. The number of television companies, radio stations, and newspapers independent of the government or local authorities has sharply dropped. A narrow circle of personalities have established monopoly control over Russian national television, and are determining the tastes and political preferences of the public. The hopes that television and other media will become the fourth branch of power, which would be truly independent and would reflect the entire range of public opinion, have not been realized. Only the Internet still remains a free territory. But recent initiatives by our MPs are calling its future into question.