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Yearbook 2002

Russian Federation. The hostage drama at a Moscow theater in October put international focus on the war between the Russian army and the separatists in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. According to Countryaah website, some 40 armed Chechens took more than 700 hostages and demanded that all Russian military leave Chechnya. However, the Russian leadership did not give in, the theater stormed, the terrorists were killed and over 120 hostages died of the gas used by the security forces.

2002 RussiaThe Chechen terror campaign made the Kremlin's attitude harden. Moscow considered that the so-called anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya had finally been legitimized before the world community. The military went on a renewed offensive in Chechnya, tightening control over Russian media reporting on the war was tightened, and Chechen President Aslan Maschadov was completely rejected as a negotiating partner. Maschadov's representative Ahmed Zakayev was requested to be extradited after he was arrested after a Chechen exile congress in Denmark accused by the Russian Federation of terrorist involvement. However, the evidence was insufficient, according to the Danes, and Zakayev was released, which led to strained relations between the Russian Federation and Denmark.

2002 Russia

The Chechnya War (see further under Chechnya) also increased tensions between the Russian Federation and Georgia. The Russian Federation threatened to intervene militarily in neighboring countries unless Chechen rebels among refugees were extradited. During the year, the United States placed military advisers in Georgia and warned Moscow of intervention. The Russian Federation was accused of being behind bombings of Georgian areas.

The upswing of the Russian economy due to high oil prices continued. Although growth had slowed somewhat, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a Russian GDP increase of 4.4% during the year. However, the business community had major problems with organized crime and corruption. In education and health care too, people were often forced to pay bribes. Other notable societal problems were increasing racism, as was the intolerance of the Orthodox Church and the authorities towards small religious communities.

New labor law laws came into force. The right to strike was curtailed and it became easier for private employers to dismiss workers. Collective bargaining became mandatory, reducing the importance of small, independent unions that also criticized the laws. At the same time, a 40-hour work week was stipulated and the employees were entitled to four weeks' holiday each year. The official minimum wage for one month was raised during the spring from 300 rubles (corresponding to just over SEK 90) to 450 rubles. The State Duma passed a law that opened for the sale and purchase of agricultural land. The Communists tried to stop the law, which, for the first time since the Russian Revolution of 1917, allows ordinary peasants to own their own land.

Reports during the year showed that the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe have the world's fastest growth rate of HIV. The UN counted at least 700,000 HIV-infected people in the Russian Federation. Experts warned that the country could get the same high proportion of infected as parts of Africa.

The Russian Federation's relations with the West were strengthened during the year. In May, a new NATO-Russia Council was created. terrorism, peacekeeping operations and arms control. Prior to the agreement, President Putin had accepted the idea of America's new national missile defense, which he previously criticized harshly.

During the spring, the Russian Federation and the United States also agreed to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons by about one-third to between 1,500 and 2,200 each. The agreement was signed when US President George W. Bush visited Putin in Moscow. According to Bush, the settlement meant that the remnants of the Cold War were removed.

The Russian Federation's relationship with Belarus deteriorated during the year, after President Putin proposed a union built on the Russian Federation's constitution, in which Belarus would largely be a part of the Russian Federation. Instead, relations with the new NATO country Poland were improved through Putin's visit to Warsaw. It probably contributed to the Kremlin's final acceptance of NATO enlargement as far as the borders of the Russian Federation, announced in Prague in November. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and four other Eastern European countries will become NATO members from 2004.

Relations with the United States were put to the test through the United Nations' tug of war on US plans to attack Iraq. The Russian Federation, which has oil interests in Iraq, opposed the US plans and in November, the UN Security Council agreed on a resolution where the weapons inspection would precede a possible UN-sanctioned attack.

Relations with the EU were tested in connection with the acceptance of the three Baltic states and several other former Eastern Bloc countries in December as new EU members from 2004. The Russian Federation's demand for future visa freedom for travel to and from the Russian enclave Kaliningrad was not accepted by the EU. The tough negotiations led to a compromise on a flexible form of transit document, while the EU is exploring the possibility of visa-free travel on direct trains from Russia to Kaliningrad through Lithuania.

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