The gradual recovery of the Russian situation meant that Elcin was invited to Denver (20-22 June 1997) at the summit of the industrialized countries ( G7, which with the full entry of Russia became G8), even if the Russian delegation did not participate in the economic-financial meetings but only in the political ones. However, there were still many problems to be solved; the discontent of the population, mainly due to the restrictions imposed in order to restore the economy (which also included a freeze on wages), still created numerous problems. In March 1998, for fear of attempts at revolt, President Elcin relieved Prime Minister Černomyrdin from office, opening a new crisis. After various controversies and obstacles, especially from the left-wing opposition, on April 24 the Duma entrusted the leadership of the new government to the youngest premier of the post-communist era, the 35-year-old Sergej Kirienko, former Minister of Energy in the previous government. The economic crisis, however, he seemed unstoppable and Elcin, in August, decided to entrust himself again to the faithful Černomyrdin, also indicating him as his successor at the end of the presidential term (end of 2000). Twice rejected by the Parliament, with a communist majority, in September Černomyrdin was forced to retire and Elcin, under the specter of a popular revolt, had to resign himself to giving the job to Yevgeny Primakov, opposition candidate, who won the trust of the Duma. After the collapse of the USSR and the advent of a liberal economy, Primakov’s investiture represented a clear victory for the Communists. The economic crisis, however, aggravated by rampant political corruption, did not have a resolution. The International Monetary Fund, called to help, rejected the government’s anti-crisis plan. The leadership Primakov, anyway, was short-lived: in May 1999, Elcin removed the entire government, for the poor performance in the economic field, and appointed as the new prime minister Interior Minister Sergei Stepašin, which in turn, in July, he was replaced without reason by the head of the secret services Vladimir Putin. In December of the same year Elcin, although investigated with some members of his family for corruption and economic speculation, with the election of the new Duma, seemed to further strengthen his power. The new Parliament, in fact, while confirming the Communist party as the majority party, which in the previous legislature together with its allies had blocked all the most significant political initiatives of the president, saw the advance of a group of moderate and reformist pro-government forces.
The political support derived from the Duma, however, could not prevent President Elcin from resigning at the end of the year in exchange for immunity, as he was involved in the economic scandal which, by now, had taken on increasingly international dimensions. It replaced him ad interim Prime Minister V. Putin. On the international level, on the other hand, the country’s position took on critical tones: despite its decisive role played in Kosovo, where during the conflict between Serbia and NATO in June, Moscow had sent a contingent of troops, the resumption of fighting in Chechnya at the end of 1999 marked a first cooling, after a decade, of relations with the West. The presidential elections of March 2000 registered the clear victory of Putin, who firmly took the leadership of the country into his own hands. Even if some serious problems remained unresolved (that of Chechnya above all), the president’s policy produced significant results at the level of international relations, as evidenced in May 2002, when the country joined the new NATO Council of 20, set up specifically to intensify relations between the most important Western countries and, indeed, Russia. The Chechen issue came back dramatically in October of the same year, when Russian special troops were forced to break into a Moscow theater, where more than 800 people were being kidnapped by a terrorist commando made up of Chechen guerrillas. The operation ended with a tragic toll: 39 terrorists killed and over 129 hostages poisoned to death by the gases used to neutralize the kidnappers. In the international crisis between Iraq and the United States, which resulted in the war in March 2003, Putin initially assumed a mediating position between the United States and European countries opposed to an armed solution, but ended up associating himself with France’s opposition to the war in within the UN Security Council and condemning the Anglo-American attack. From then on, relations between Moscow and Washington gradually became more and more acidic, seeing the two countries always place themselves on opposite sides in almost all international matters – apart from the fight against terrorism – and the United States systematically criticizing Russia for the undemocratic and illiberal aspects of its internal politics. In November 2003, M. Khodorkovskij, the most importantRussian businessman, but also the one with the closest relations with the USA; in the course of the year, on several occasions, various media outlets had meanwhile been brought under the more or less direct control of the presidency. The elections of December 2003 for the renewal of the Duma were won by Edinaia Rossia(United Russia, the nationalist center party set up to support Putin) which won an absolute majority of seats followed at a distance by the communists and then by the other parties, while very few deputies from the liberal parties entered Parliament. In February 2004, Putin suddenly decided to replace the government of Mikhail Kasyanov, in office for four years, accusing him of slowness in carrying out the reforms desired by the president, and appointed a new prime minister by choosing a little-known personality, Mikhail Fradkov. In the presidential elections of the following March, Putin was reconfirmed as president with a very large majority. His second term began with the launch of a series of institutional reforms aimed at drastically limiting the autonomy of regional leaders, shifting to the center even more powers in an attempt to obtain a homogeneous application on the territory of the economic directives drawn up by the government and previously often boycotted at the local level. But soon it was the Chechen question that returned to the fore. In May, an attack killed the pro-Russian president of the Caucasian Republic, Kadyrov, in Groznyi during an official ceremony; between June and July some guerrillas carried out a series of large armed attacks in neighboring Ingushetia, even occupying the buildings of the ministries and the police headquarters; and finally in September a commando of terrorists linked to the Chechen guerrillas seized a school in Beslan, in Ossetia, in which there were more than a thousand adults and children. After two days of negotiations, the situation worsened and a battle of many hours broke out in the school that resulted in the deaths of 353 hostages and twenty kidnappers, followed by bitter protests by the population against the inability of the security forces and the lack of transparency of the subsequent investigation.
In the second half of 2005 there was also an important turning point in internal politics: after verifying the political failure of the reform ofwelfare, which began in January and soon “frozen” due to protests held throughout the country, Putin was oriented towards using the surplus commercial obtained in recent years by the very high oil prices to improve some basic social services, health and education in the first place, which had been seriously neglected since the last period of the USSR. In November, Russia joined the WTO. In 2007, two years after the double election that will involve the two countries at the end of 2008, the tense relationship between the United States and Russia returned to the forefront of international politics, which, as in the times of the Cold War, are measured at a distance through the system. of the respective alliances and the associated grabbing of energy resources. In the same year, during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao, cooperation agreements were made between the two countries; Furthermore, Putin announced Russia’s withdrawal from the treaty on the reduction of conventional forces in Europe as a response to the construction of the “anti-missile shield” wanted by the United States in Eastern Europe. In September 2007, Prime Minister Fradkov resigned and Viktor Zubkov was appointed in his place. In November the Duma approved the withdrawal from the Treaty on the reduction of conventional weapons, proposed by Putin as a retaliation for the American space shield project and elections were held for the renewal of the Duma itself, in which United Russia was affirmed with a large majority, but the EU and the OSCE denounced the irregularity of the vote. In March 2008 the presidential elections were held which saw the victory of D. Medvedev, with about 70% of the votes. In May the new president received the post from his predecessor Putin who was appointed premier (May 8). In August, Federation troops entered Georgian territory in defense of the Russian minorities present in South Ossetia, persecuted by T’bilisi. The Russian government later recognized the breakaway regions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In December the head of the Orthodox Church Alexei II died. The Duma approves at second reading, with 351 votes in favor and 57 against, the amendment to the Russian Constitution which extends the presidential term to six years, now by four. In January 2009, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad was chosen by the Conclave as the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Moscow, in July, President Medvedev and the American B. Obama signed a new treaty on the reduction of nuclear weapons, effectively replacing the Salt I treaty.1991. In January 2010 the Duma ratified the reform of the European Court of Human Rights; the country was the only one of the Council of Europe to have not yet approved it, while in April a reform came into force that reduces the time zones in the country. In April, President Medvedev signed with B. Obama a new agreement on the reduction of nuclear weapons. In the same year, the customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan entered into force. In November 2011 the elections for the renewal of the Duma took place, in which United Russia remained the first party, with 238 seats, but lost a lot of support compared to the last consultations in 2007; the opposition parties, the Communist Party (92 seats), Just Russia (64 seats) and the Liberal Democrats (56 seats), while increasing their consensus, denounced electoral fraud and organized street demonstrations throughout the country. In March 2012, Putin became president of the country for the third time, winning in the first round with 60% of the preferences. In 2014, the country intervened directly in the Ukrainian crisis in support of the Russian-speaking minority.
The Russian Parliament approved President Putin’s request to resort to the use of force to defend Russian interests in Crimea, home to a large Russian naval base. A self-proclaimed referendum saw a large majority in favor of the secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its annexation to the Russian Federation; the document was signed in March 2014 by Putin. Subsequent Russian support for rebel militias formed in the eastern regions of Ukraine undermined relations with the US and the EU, which approved economic sanctions against Russia. In February 2015 Boris Nemtsov, one of Putin’s most prominent political opponents, was assassinated in central Moscow, sparking anti-government demonstrations and protests. Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues its geopolitical projection, often placing itself in conflict with Western interests. After the return by Russia of some Ukrainian ships seized the previous year, in 2019 the first meeting was held between Putin and the Ukrainian President Zelenskii. However, violence continues in eastern Ukraine: a ceasefire between the parties was signed in July 2020. Meanwhile, the EU has renewed sanctions against certain sectors of the Russian economy (finance, armaments, energy) until January 31, 2021. Controversy has also raised suspicions, denied by Moscow, of Russian interference in the British elections of 2019. Russia it is also active in the Mediterranean, where Moscow often operates on opposite fronts with respect to the growing influence of Turkey. In Syria, Russian support was key to bolstering the Basshār al-Asad regime’s offensive in December 2019; in Libya, Russian equipment and forces support General Ḥaftar. In domestic politics, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country heavily (over 1 million cases, more than 20,000 deaths in October 2020), Prime Minister Medvedev had been removed in favor of the new Prime Minister Michail Mišustin. In July 2020, a constitutional referendum was held, with which a reform was approved with 77.9% of the votes that allows Putin to reapply for the presidency for two more terms. The regularity of the vote was contested. Subsequently, opposition leader Alexey Navalny was the victim of suspected poisoning, a hypothesis confirmed by the German government, where he was transported to be treated. Returning to his homeland, Navalny was arrested along with several of his supporters. with which a reform was approved with 77.9% of the votes that allows Putin to reapply for the presidency for two more terms. The regularity of the vote was contested. Subsequently, opposition leader Alexey Navalny was the victim of suspected poisoning, a hypothesis confirmed by the German government, where he was transported to be treated. Returning to his homeland, Navalny was arrested along with several of his supporters. with which a reform was approved with 77.9% of the votes that allows Putin to reapply for the presidency for two more terms. The regularity of the vote was contested. Subsequently, opposition leader Alexey Navalny was the victim of suspected poisoning, a hypothesis confirmed by the German government, where he was transported to be treated. Returning to his homeland, Navalny was arrested along with several of his supporters.