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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 25th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

On Dec. 25, 1991, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev went on TV to announce his resignation as the eighth and final leader of a Communist superpower that had already gone out of existence.

. Russia was always an Empire – as such it only changed name when the Empire survived WWII and even became larger but just as undemocratic under the Soviets as it was under the Czars. Will the Russian Winter lead to a RUSSIAN SPRING in 2012 or 2013? Where these last 20 years the time-span required to allow the germination of  democracy in a land mass that never knew one? Did the modern communication systems, such as the internet and travel, make this inevitable?

Vast Rally in Moscow Is a Challenge to Putin’s Power.

Few protesters said they held out hope for rapid changes, and they will have to find a way to channel their still-vague frustrations into a movement that can be sustained for the long haul. The demonstrators have ranged from stylish young clubgoers to diminutive pensioners, all of whose lives were fundamentally transformed 20 years ago Sunday when the Soviet Union came to an end.

Now they are seeking another shake-up, as the torrent of social, economic and political forces that came after the hammer and sickle was lowered over the Kremlin for the last time has left the country traveling a current that is frustrating to many.

“We want to live in a free country,” said Timur Khutseev, 23, a theater aide who shivered in the freezing Moscow weather. “Our parents grew up under [Leonid] Brezhnev,” whose 18-year reign over the Soviet Union became a synonym for stagnation and repression. Putin, too, is seeking to extend his era to 18 years in March presidential elections. “We don’t want that,” Khutseev said.


Dec. 24, 2011, Denis Sinyakov / Reuters,  Flag-waving and chanting demonstrators call on Saturday for a disputed parliamentary election to be rerun, increasing pressure on Vladimir Putin as he seeks a new term as Russian president.

The rally exceeded the size of one held two weeks ago, whose scale surprised even the organizers. On Saturday, they estimated, 120,000 people protested in temperatures that were in the teens. The Interior Ministry put the number at 29,000.

The challenge for organizers will be keeping up the fight. The movement’s strengths and weaknesses were on display Saturday, as many of the young, middle-class people who have been the driving force behind the sudden show of discontent this month said they remained cautious about politics in general even as they thought the country needed to change.

The protest comes shortly before a 10-day national holiday that includes New Year’s Day and Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7, virtually shutting down the country. Organizers called for another protest in early February, and the March 4 presidential elections will help maintain focus, but if Putin is reelected and few changes follow, activists will need to find other ways to keep the crowds motivated.

“We don’t know who the leader might be, because there is no person who represents us,” Viktor Shenderovich, a popular writer, told the crowd. “But this is an expression of moral attitude. People don’t want to be stepped on.”

Two decades after he resigned from office, the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, told Putin to follow his example. “I would advise Vladimir Vladimirovich to go right now,” he told Ekho Moskvy radio, citing his own resignation on peaceful terms. “That’s what he should do too.”  But Gorbachev remains more influential  outside Russia than at home, and his opinion was unlikely to sway minds here.

Dec. 24, 2011

Russian opposition flags are a common sight during the demonstrations.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Dec. 24, 2011

This protester’s placard reads, “Freedom to political prisoners.” The bird-shaped placard reads: “Russia without Putin.”

Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters

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Dec. 10, 2011

People wearing masks attend a rally on a bridge near Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.

Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

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Protesters in Moscow hold a poster depicting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, second from right, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, right, during a demonstration against alleged vote rigging in Russia’s parliamentary elections Dec. 24, 2011.

Mikhail Metzel / AP

James Hill for The New York Times

The crowd at the Moscow protest on Saturday heard exhortations from Aleksei L. Kudrin, the former finance minister, and Aleksei Navalny, a popular blogger.

By  and 
December 24, 2011 –  Published – The New York Times on-line

MOSCOW — Tens of thousands of citizens converged in Moscow on Saturday for the second huge antigovernment demonstration in a month, an early victory for activists struggling to forge a burst of energy into a political force capable of challenging Vladimir V. Putin’s power.

The first such demonstration, two weeks ago, was unprecedented for Mr. Putin’s rule, and there were reasons Saturday’s turnout could have been lower — among them, winter holidays and the onset of bitter cold.

Instead, people poured all afternoon into a canyon created by vast government buildings, and the police put the crowd at 30,000, more than they reported on Dec. 10. Organizers said it was closer to 120,000. Hours later, as the protesters dispersed, they chanted, slowly: “We will come again! We will come again!”

If the movement sustains its intensity, it could alter the course of the presidential election in March, when Mr. Putin plans to extend his stretch as the country’s dominant figure to an eventual 18 years. Opposition voters were furious over the conduct of this month’s parliamentary election, and will be roused again by Mr. Putin’s campaigning. Still, maintaining momentum is a huge challenge, and the initial giddy mood has already hardened into something more serious.

The crime novelist Boris Akunin, peering out through wire-rimmed glasses as he addressed the crowd from a stage, said demonstrators should prepare themselves for a long haul.

“We will have a difficult year,” Mr. Akunin said. “But it will be an interesting year. It will be our year.”

The protests have rattled the Kremlin, which has not encountered widespread political resistance for a decade. Mr. Putin initially sneered at the demonstrators, saying days after the first rally that the white ribbons they have adopted as a symbol resembled limp condoms, and that they participated only because they were paid by foreign agents seeking to undermine Russia.

But it is clear that government elites are taking protesters’ complaints as a warning and scrambling to head off a more dangerous confrontation. On Saturday, for the first time, two high-level figures connected to the Kremlin were at the demonstration.

Former Finance Minister Aleksei L. Kudrin, a member of Mr. Putin’s inner circle for more than two decades, took the stage to express his support for many of the protesters’ demands: the dismissal of the head of the Central Election Commission, Vladimir Y. Churov; the dissolution of Parliament and new elections; and changes in the election code to allow for free competition.

Mr. Kudrin published an article on Saturday in Kommersant, a respected daily newspaper, noting that many employees of state enterprises were participating in the demonstrations.

“It seems to me they wanted to say the following: ‘Respected leaders! Many of us have come here for the first time, fully consciously and entirely independently. We have something to lose, and we are for stability,’ ” Mr. Kudrin wrote. “But the violation of your own rules — and this is the way we take the information about mass falsifications and violations of statistical patterns — this is too much.”

The billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who has said he will run against Mr. Putin, was also in the crowd, though he did not deliver a speech. He arrived without a security detail, stooping occasionally to answer questions and pose for photographs with young women.

Both Mr. Kudrin and Mr. Prokhorov are viewed skeptically by a portion of the protesters, who fear they represent attempts by the Kremlin to dilute or divide a powerful new protest electorate.

“Sorry, what relationship does Kudrin have to democratic movements?” wrote Vladimir Varfolomeyev, an editor at the radio station Ekho Moskvy, via Twitter. “He’s a bureaucrat who has faithfully served the regime for 10 years.” When Mr. Kudrin took the stage, he was booed by some in the crowd and cheered by others.

Though all demonstrators interviewed said they were hoping to avoid a violent uprising, some left the possibility hanging in the air like a warning. Aleksei Navalny, the blogger whose enormous popularity set these protests in motion, was greeted with a deafening roar from the crowd, which had been begging to see him for more than an hour.

“I can see that there are enough people here to seize the Kremlin,” said Mr. Navalny, 35, who listened to the earlier protest on the radio while serving 15 days in jail. “We are a peaceful force and will not do it now. But if these crooks and thieves try to go on cheating us, if they continue telling lies and stealing from us, we will take what belongs to us with our own hands.”

Mr. Navalny especially delighted the crowd with barbed insults of Mr. Putin; indeed, hatred for the prime minister has become a motif at these events. One popular sign read “Putin is our condom,” in a reference to his comments about the white ribbons. Another, painted in the style of Salvador Dalí, showed the prime minister melting in front of a giant clock with the words “Your time has passed.”

“Where is this man?” Mr. Navalny asked. “Can you see him? Is he here?”

He added: “These days, with the help of the zombie-box, they are trying to prove to us that they are big and scary beasts. But we know who they are. Little sneaky jackals! Is that right?” The crowd roared. “Is that true or not?” Another roar.

Pavel Morozov, 23, said he realized that dislodging Mr. Putin might hurt the middle-class quality of life he enjoys. But he said it did not matter. “Putin is a reincarnation of Brezhnev,” he said. He added that while he did not know whether people like Mr. Navalny or the environmental activist Yevgenia Chirikova were worthy alternatives, “at least they are an alternative. Anyone now but Putin.”

Former President Mikhail S. Gorbachev told Ekho Moskvy that he thought Mr. Putin should withdraw his bid for the presidency. When asked whether he thought Mr. Putin would give up power voluntarily, Mr. Gorbachev, who was not at the rally, said, “What’s terrible about it?” and noted that he had done so 20 years ago. “Then all the positive that he has done would be safeguarded.”

For organizers, the challenge is to keep the movement alive at all, since the protesters are working people who will leave the city for two soporific weeks in January. Their commitment to politics is unclear; some say that they are willing to demonstrate for years, others that they will lose interest if a leader does not emerge.

“I don’t know what people here want or what they expect from today, but the fact that they are here is important and valuable in and of itself,” said Zinaida Burskaya, 22. “I do feel that it will affect things over the next two to three years. That people have torn themselves from off their couches and have come here and are not apathetic. This may allow for new leaders to emerge.”

Toward evening, the humorist Viktor Shenderovich looked out at the protesters and said, “This toothpaste cannot be put back in the tube.” And they dispersed in a great surge through back streets and alleyways — anarchists and incrementalists, nationalists and bread-and-butter voters waving the hammer-and-sickle flag of the Soviet Union. Marina Shkudyuk, 58, an economist, said she was motivated by rising housing and utility costs, and planned to keep coming out until her demands were satisfied. She said she did not see a leader emerging from the movement, but “at least let there be something different.”

“My family thinks that Grandma has gone crazy,” she said.

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IS RUSSIA RIPE FOR ITS THIRD REVOLUTION?   THIS TIME A MOVE TO BRING IT CLOSER TO THE EUROPEAN UNION – THE GROUP OF NATIONS WHERE THE RUSSIANS, HISTORICALLY, BELONG NATURALLY?  DID THE MOVEMENTS OF THE ARAB SPRING,  AND OF THE OCCUPY WHATEVER, INSPIRE RUSSIAN INTELLECTUALS, THE MIDDLE CLASS, and ITS POOR, TO ASK FOR A BIGGER SHARE OF NATIONAL WEALTH AND DISENGAGEMENT FROM INTERNAL WARS AGAINST NATIONALITIES ASPIRING TO MORE FREEDOM AND HOME RULE?  CAN THE 2011 RUSSIAN WINTER BE THE GATE TO A 2012  SPRING IN THE EMPIRE THAT IS NOW THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION?
The Russian Federation of today is a result of the Soviet bureaucracy division into republics with the Russian Republic having taken over the whole extent of the Czarist Empire before the post WWI enlargement in Europe, the Caucasus and Asia. Belarus is a natural part of Russia, but regions of the Caucasus parts of  the Russian Federation of today, and in far Asia, are not. The Muscovite’s would gladly part with those added-on regions.
Recently I had the good fortune to hear an off the record presentation by such a Moscovite and it seems that the public is inclined to speak up – and leave the previous attitude of “let us live in peace and we will not try any involvement.” A new westward looking Russian Nationalist is being created and a clearer participation in internal developments and in Europe is desired.
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Vladimir Putin
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Official portrait of Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister of Russia
Incumbent
Assumed office
8 May 2008
President Dmitry Medvedev

The Next Russian Revolution?

By ROBERT SERVICE
Published The New York Times December 23, 2011 – printed December 24, 2011, Western Christmas eve, the bear designed by Alain Pilon.

Oxford, England – – –  TWENTY years ago, Mikhail S. Gorbachevannounced the end of a huge global experiment. After seven decades, the Soviet Union would be dismantled, its 15 republics becoming independent countries, and capitalism replacing the planned Soviet economy. Lenin’s embalmed corpse was left undisturbed in the Red Square mausoleum in Moscow, but the cause for which he led the October 1917 revolution no longer held the affection of hundreds of millions of Russians and millions more around the world.

For two decades since, the Russian people have largely endured in silence the oppressive and corrupt system of power that ensued — until blatant irregularities in parliamentary elections earlier this month sent an estimated 50,000 people out in protest. These protesters have planned what is expected to be the biggest demonstration since the fall of Communism for Saturday in Moscow. Vladimir V. Putin, the once and future president, is at last facing trouble from the streets.

The terminal crisis of Communism, by contrast, was a quiet affair. The end of the Soviet Union was revolutionary, but it did not involve a crowd storming the walls of the Kremlin, an attack on the K.G.B. headquarters or calling up the Moscow army garrisons. Indeed the final days of the Communist era were remarkable for the low intensity of political activity of any kind.

On national television, Mr. Gorbachev put on a brave face: “We’re now living in a new world,” he said during a Dec. 25, 1991, broadcast of his resignation speech. “An end has been put to the cold war and to the arms race, as well as to the mad militarization of the country.” But he could not disguise his regret that the Soviet order was about to be taken apart.

Mr. Gorbachev was paying the price for his failures. The economic laws he introduced in 1988 had weakened the huge state sector without allowing private enterprise to emerge. He had irritated the country’s dominant institutions — the Communist Party, the K.G.B. and the military — but had merely trimmed their capacity to retaliate. By widening freedoms of expression, moreover, he inadvertently encouraged radicals to denounce Communism, despite his reforms.

Mr. Gorbachev had complacently assumed that reform would release the energies of “the Soviet people.” But the truth was that no such people existed. The Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians pressed for independent statehood and chose their own Baltic patriots to lead them. The Georgians in 1990 elected a wild nationalist as president. Throughout the western and southeastern borderlands of the Soviet Union, the disintegration proceeded apace.

In August 1991, while Mr. Gorbachev vacationed in Crimea, his subordinates acted to halt his reforms by staging a coup. But the plotters overlooked the need to apprehend Boris N. Yeltsin, an ex-Communist radical who had been elected president of the Russian republic two months earlier. Mr. Yeltsin raced to the Russian White House in central Moscow. Standing atop a tank, he defiantly denounced the plotters. The coup was aborted, and when Mr. Gorbachev returned from house arrest, it was Mr. Yeltsin who appeared the hero. Yet Yeltsin felt he couldn’t consolidate his personal supremacy unless he broke up the Soviet Union and governed Russiaas a separate state. He and his supporters saw Russia as a slumbering giant with a future of enormous potential if the encumbrance of the other Soviet republics was removed. He saw Communism as a dead end and a totalitarian nightmare. And unlike Mr. Gorbachev, he was willing to say this openly and without equivocation.

His opportunity for action arose on Dec. 1, 1991, when Ukrainians voted to break away from the Soviet Union. Without Ukraine, it was clear, the Soviet Union would face further secessionist demands. Mr. Yeltsin met quietly with the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus and came to an agreement to declare the Soviet Union abolished.

Mr. Gorbachev had no choice but to agree, and the vengeful Mr. Yeltsin unceremoniously bundled him out of the Kremlin. The Russian people, it turned out, preferred to watch politicians on television rather than become active participants in the country’s transformation. They had long been cynical about Communist leaders, and the trauma of the arrests and executions during Stalin’s Great Terror of the late 1930s had made them wary about taking part in politics.

Although thousands of young Russians had joined Mr. Yeltsin in defying the coup plotters in August 1991, civic activism declined as conditions worsened. As state enterprises underwent privatization, workers feared unemployment and resisted calls to go on strike. Russia’s manufacturing sector collapsed; only the petrochemical, gold and timber sectors successfully weathered the storms of capitalist development. A few businessmen became super-rich by exploiting legal loopholes and often using fraudulent and violent methods. Most citizens of post-Communist Russia were too exhausted to do more than grumble.

Public protest against the Kremlin became more difficult under Mr. Putin. Elected to the presidency in 2000, and now serving as prime minister, he has used ballot-box fraud, disqualification of rival political candidates and control of national television to stay in power. Although he gained popularity for bringing stability, his own administration is now attracting growing hostility.

Most Russians are sick of the corruption, misrule and poverty that plague their country while the Kremlin elite feasts on the profits from oil and gas exports — and who can blame them? At the turn of the millennium, 40 percent of the Russian people were living below the United Nations-defined poverty line. Rising oil prices have made poverty decline to some extent, but Mr. Putin has made no effort to eradicate it altogether.

The opposition, having suffered from years of harassment at Mr. Putin’s hands, has not yet succeeded in taking advantage of today’s unstable situation. But the recent outburst of public protest has flummoxed Mr. Putin, as he finds that his authoritarian government lacks the pressure valves that allow liberal democracies to anticipate and alleviate expressions of discontent.

Mr. Putin can no longer take his supremacy for granted. It is not yet a revolutionary situation. After all, Mr. Putin, like Mr. Yeltsin before him, can count on the money and pork-barrel politics needed to win the presidency next year; and he has no qualms about letting the security agencies use force.

But Russians, having sleepwalked away from Communism, are awakening to the idea that if they want democracy and social justice, they need to engage in active struggle. Quiescent 20 years ago during Soviet Communism’s final days, they may at last be about to stand up for their rights.

Robert Service, a fellow at Oxford’s St. Antony’s College and Stanford’s Hoover Institution, is the author of the forthcoming book “Spies and Commissars: the Early Years of the Russian Revolution.”

——————————————————————

Freed From Jail, Russian Blogger Drives Anti-Kremlin Movement

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN

Aleksei Navalny moved quickly to promote a huge antigovernment protest against United Russia, the party of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

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  1. Mass Anti-Putin Protest In Moscow

    Sky News – 4 minutes ago
    He also said he was ashamed of prime minister Vladimir Putin’sreaction to anti-government protests in his strongest criticism of the Kremlin yet. 

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  2. ==============================
Vladimir Rodionov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Kremlin’s chief political strategist Vladislav Surkov, left, conferred with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

A Kremlin Strategist Tries to Defuse Discontent and Undermine the Protesters’ Leaders

By 
Published The New York Times: December 23, 2011

MOSCOW — The Kremlin’s chief political strategist sought to soothe the discontent of street protesters on Friday, a day before a rally expected to draw a large crowd, saying in an interview that the government had already acquiesced to many of the protesters’ demands.

“The system has already changed,” the strategist, Vladislav Y. Surkov, a former advertising man who has shaped the Kremlin’s public messages for years, said in the interview published in the newspaper Izvestia.

His comments continued what appears to be a two-pronged effort to defuse street protests with concessions, while simultaneously attacking the protesters’ already splintered leadership with accusations of foreign backing.

With 40,000 people indicating on a Facebook forum that they intend to join the Saturday protest in Moscow, Mr. Surkov made a point of bowing to some criticism. He said the Russian government had grown “deaf and stupid before your eyes.”

But he also insisted that calls for change had been heeded, pointing to Thursday’s state of the nation address by President Dmitri A. Medvedev. Mr. Medvedev, who leaves office in a few months, recommended long-sought political reforms, including the restoration of direct elections for governors and the creation of an independent public television station for news. But he has long labored in the shadow of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, and few political analysts think his words carry much weight at this juncture.

“Tectonic structures in society are shifting, the social fabric is taking on a new quality,” Mr. Surkov said. “We are already in the future. And the future is not calm. But there’s no need to be afraid.

“Turbulence, even strong, is not a catastrophe but a form of stability. All will be fine.”

In what appeared to be another effort to siphon off interest in the rally on Saturday, where the former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev is expected to speak, the leader of Russia’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, warned Russians not to trust social networking sites, where much of the protest organizing has been taking place. He said the sites were susceptible to manipulation.

He denounced “the naive confidence of a modern person in the information available on social networks along with moral disorientation,” the Interfax news agency reported, although he did not mention the protest.

Mr. Surkov, who is an amateur novelist and who also writes lyrics for rock music, is an architect of the Russian government’s plans to counter street politics, a system of countermeasures that have been in the works here since the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine alerted the Kremlin to the potential dangers. To his critics, he is a man who long ago moved on from advertising to propaganda, with particular influence among the Russian elite.

In September, the billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov, now a presidential candidate, called Mr. Surkov the “puppet master” of Russian politics, while denouncing what he called Mr. Surkov’s efforts at dialogue as a sham.

In the interview on Friday, Mr. Surkov vilified those protesters who he said represented foreign-inspired interests, repeating a formulation many officials in Moscow have used to dismiss the unrest. “The point is not these scoundrels,” Mr. Surkov said. “It’s the absolutely real and natural protests. The best part of our society, or rather, the most productive part, is demanding respect for itself.”

“People are saying, ‘We exist, we have significance, we are the people,’ ” Mr. Surkov said.

But in an earlier interview, he characterized the protesters as “annoyed urbanites.”

Some protesters saw Mr. Surkov’s about-face as an attempt to co-opt the protest movement.

Nikolai Troitsky, a liberal commentator, told Kommersant FM radio that “Surkov is very principled in living by the precept of divide and rule.”

“He wants to separate the protesters into parts while they have no leaders,” Mr. Troitsky added.

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Russia wins approval to join WTO.

The WTO’s 153 members gave their second and final approval for Russia’s membership bid, ushering in the last major economy outside the trade club.

Reuters: Russia has won admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after 18 years of negotiations, finally gaining full integration into the global economy two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Published :  December 19, 2011, The Financial Times – two days later then in the business channels of the Arab Gulf!

The Russian parliament will have until June 15 to ratify the accord and bring it into force.
“This is clearly a historic moment for the Russian Federation and for the rule-based multilateral system after an 18-year marathon,” said WTO director-general Pascal Lamy.
Russia’s $1.9 trillion economy was the largest outside the WTO, and accession will help reduce the dependence on energy exports that left it badly exposed to the oil price collapse of 2008.
Accession by Russia, with the second-largest nuclear arsenal after that of the United States, into a rules-based club should limit the danger of any repeat of regional conflicts like its 2008 war with Georgia.
Trade conflicts have repeatedly exacerbated tensions between Moscow and the South Caucasus state and the WTO could offer a forum to address disputes before they escalate.
Describing the accession as a win-win for both the WTO and Russia, Lamy said it “accords the quality WTO label” on Russia and with the membership the trade body “will cover 97 per cent of world trade.”
“We are rapidly approaching universality in the coverage of global trade,” said the director-general.
Making a reference to the storm over Geneva, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov welcomed the accession saying: “The storm is a sign of a wind of change – change for the better.”
Russia applied to join the trade body in 1993 but talks dragged on and its brief war with Georgia in 2008 further delayed its application.
No other country has had to bargain so long before being granted entry. China was the previous record holder with 15 years of negotiations for membership. Moscow cleared its last hurdle for WTO accession when it finally clinched in November a deal with last hold-out Georgia.
In all, Russia sealed 30 bilateral agreements on market access for services and 57 on access for goods in order to secure the green light from other WTO states.
For the overall package, Moscow agreed to cut its tariff ceiling from the 2011 average of 10 per cent for all products to 7.8 per cent.
The average tariff ceiling for agricultural products is cut to 10.8 per cent from 13.2 per cent currently, with manufactured goods at 7.3 per cent, down from 9.5 per cent.
Russia also agreed to limit farm subsidies to $9 billion in 2012 and to gradually reduce them to $4.4 billion by 2018.

RUSSIA WINS FINAL APPROVAL TO JOIN WTO – Gulf Daily News

17 Dec 2011 – GENEVA: Russia yesterday secured the final approval to join the World  Describing the accession as a winwin for both the WTO and Russia

Russia wins approval for WTO membership – Middle East North 

17 Dec 2011 – menafn: Russia finally wonapprovaljoinWorld Trade Organization (WTO), after two decadestrying, AP reported.

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