Russia wins no medals when it comes to democratic accountability and freedom of opinion. The critics of Russian social policies and Putin’s autocratic style of rule, can now add another incident to the country’s dull track record. A Moscow court convicted a punk rock band that goes by the name of ‘Pussy Riot’, to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism. The all-girls band, barged into Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral and berated Putin and his religious ties to the Church. The decision has been condemned by US and European nations.
Putin’s return to another term in office in April of this year, was not welcomed by Russian masses. Groups of 100,000 people reportedly gathered to protest against his return during the last winter’s election campaign. While the Russian population might not agree with the convicted punk band’s dramatic and ‘blasphemous’ actions, the general dissent towards Putin’s regime is evident. Pre-election polls showed a 55 percent support for the ex-KGB spy. After Putin’s election, widespread accusations of fraudulent ballots and vote manipulations surfaced.
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Moreover the dangers of decline in oil prices are looming over the Russian economy. Oil is Russia’s biggest export, and the general hike in its price has been able to mask the otherwise slowed industrial growth. Russia has peaked in its oil production in the past year, and the big oil producers of the world are now demanding reduced taxes to make the environment more investor friendly. The production of crude oil is expected to spiral down over the next three years and this would prove to be a major slump, as the economy derives 50 percent of its income from oil and natural gas. Russian currency, the ruble, is also very sensitive to a rise and fall in oil prices, and suffered during the last quarter when oil prices fell. Inflation is also on the rise and central banks have failed to hold it by any of their methods. Commodity prices are also on the rise, as electricity prices increased by 4.7 percent. According to the current trends, by the end of 2012, consumer prices would have risen by 5.9 percent.