MOSCOW — Russia's leaders are increasingly mistrusted and there is a growing desire for an alternative to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev in 2012 polls, a study said Monday.
The report by the pro-government think-tank Centre for Strategic Research said an unfair 2012 presidential election win by either Dmitry Medvedev or Vladimir Putin may lead to a crisis similar to one that brought down the USSR.
"People have not only stopped fearing a 'third person' but are beginning to wish for his emergence," said the report, based on the group's own polling and focus group work.
"The most important change in the political consciousness of Russians over the last eight months consists not just of a fall of trust in the tandem and its participants but also a growth in demand for a 'third' person."
The past year has seen an onset of a "political crisis" in Russia as ratings of Medvedev, Putin, and the ruling party United Russia fell by 12, 21, and 18 percent, respectively, it said.
Observers in Russia have closely watched for an indication of whether Medvedev will seek re-election or if Putin is likely to run again. The leaders have said that they will decide between themselves which one of them will run.
But based on the think-tank's polling, it said that "Medvedev seems an unelectable figure" while Putin is gaining "anti-electorate" among not just the opposition but wider society that accuses him of acting in self-interest.
If the trend of falling trust in authority keeps strong over the next year, Russia will arrive at a political crisis that could "in its intensity surpass the end of the 1990s and closely approach the end of the 1980s," it added.
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Another interesting report, highlighting the worsening corruption in Russia during Putin´s reign, was also published today:
Opposition leaders claimed on Monday that corruption has worsened under Vladimir Putin's rule, and his friends and relatives have abused their positions for personal gain.
Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and two other opposition figures presented a report alleging corruption under Putin over the past decade.
Former State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov cited data by the Indem think tank, saying corruption increased tenfold between 2001 and 2005 to well over $300 billion, or a quarter of the economy.
"Corruption is killing the country's economy, welfare, hurts its morals, political system and robs Russia of a future," Ryzhkov told reporters.
The report says a handful of Putin's friends and relatives — all relatively obscure until the 2000s — have accumulated fortunes with the help of state companies. In one of the examples, Putin's friends came to control a small bank, Rossiya, which received a handful of lucrative assets from Gazprom in the mid-2000s.
The report also highlights the activities of Gennady Timchenko, a low-profile Russian oil trader with Finnish citizenship.
His declared fortune shot up from about $2 million in 2000 to $2.5 billion in 2008, according to Forbes magazine. While paying taxes in Switzerland, his company Gunvor exports at least one-third of Russian oil, buying it from state oil companies at preferential rates, the report said.
"All of them got rich at the state's expense," Nemtsov said, referring to Timchenko and Putin's friends involved in managing Gazprom's assets.
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Nothing has changed - at least not for the better - after Putin installed Medvedev as president, even if Medvedev repeaedly has spoken about the need for freedom and reforms. This German video is as true as it was shown for the first time in 2008, except that Putin chose to leave his office in the Kremlin, at least temporarily.