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31 Dec, 2010 06:52

Russia’s ups and downs in 2010: the final cut

Russia’s ups and downs in 2010: the final cut

2010 had its fair share of intense tragedy, as well as a few spy scandals. But it has definitely not been all bad, with the world's biggest nuclear powers making a New START and Russia netting the 2018 World Cup – a crowning moment.

2010 was a year filled with leaks and laughter, tears and tragedies.

Winter gives way to a spring of tragedy

It got off to a good start for Russia – signs of a steady economic recovery, no gas crisis with Ukraine or Belarus, as in previous years, and a relatively bearable winter.But that changed in March when terror struck.Twin blasts rocked Moscow’s Metro during morning rush hour, killing 40 and injuring over a hundred.Two women suicide bombers blew themselves up on a central line – one of them just meters from RT headquarters.“We will find all of those who are guilty and we will punish them,” was Russian President Medvedev’s reaction to the event.Doku Umarov from Chechnya, who is on the International Most Wanted List and has links to Al-Qaeda, is the suspected mastermind behind the attack.In a chain of special operations, several terrorist involved in the suicide bombings were taken out by Russian Special Forces.Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama signed the new START treaty in the spring, setting targets to slash both countries' strategic nuclear stockpiles by a third.“This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades,” President Obama said.Congress only approved the pact just before Christmas and the Russian Duma is expected to follow suit after months of waiting for their counterparts on Capitol Hill to get through their partisan wrangling.  There were fears the pact would be amended or blocked by Senate Republicans over unrelated domestic issues.Both the Kremlin and the White House see sealing the deal as a cornerstone in the much-hyped “reset” between Russia and the US.April 10 was a day which shocked the world with a tragedy that will echo in history.Polish President Lech Kaczynski and most of the country’s political elite were killed when their TU-154 crashed near Smolensk.The delegation was preparing to mark 70 years since 20,000 Polish officers were massacred at Katyn by Soviet Secret Police.Just days before the accident, a joint commemoration at Katyn was seen as a tremendous step forward in Russian-Polish relations.“Over the past few days we have held remembrance ceremonies mourning the victims of totalitarianism. Lech Kaczynski was coming to Russia to pay tribute to the killed Polish officers. All Russians share in your grief and sorrow,” President Medvedev said at the time.Russian-Polish ties continued to warm as the two nations mourned together.

And spring became the summer…

In 2010 Russia marked 65 years since defeating Nazi Germany in what is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.An elaborate Parade was held on Red Square as heads of state looked on to commemorate the some 27 million Soviet lives lost during WWII.It was the first time in history when countries that made up the allied forces took part in the tradition.2010 also saw the return of Cold War spy scandals, sending redheaded Russian bombshell Anna Chapman into the headlines for weeks.“Nothing inspires me more than the amount and quality of people I met in New York. It’s the strongest, largest and the most solid community in the world,” Anna Chapman said in a previously-recorded video.But she did not get to stay there for long. “Femme fatale” Anna Chapman was just one of ten alleged Russian spies exchanged in Vienna for four American spies serving sentences in Russia.The scandal, worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, broke just weeks after Obama and Medvedev had dished out politics over burgers in Virginia. The media frenzy was a lot hotter than tempers in the US, and Russia that ignored the hype with cool co-operation. Record heat wreaked havoc in Russia, with summer temperatures in 2010 lingering at around 40 degrees Celsius for over a month.Hundreds of wildfires ravaged the country, killing over 50 people and leaving thousands homeless.The flames left the capital covered in a blanket of toxic smog for weeks while Moscow’s mayor, Yury Luzhkov, stayed on vacation in the Alps.Luzhkov was sacked the following month, with President Medvedev saying he lacked confidence in the mayor. Sergey Sobyanin became Moscow’s top man soon afterwards. Officially a first in the Middle East, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant was launched and loaded, and is set to be connected to the country’s electricity grid within months, saving Iran 11 million barrels of oil a year.The plant is operated by specialists from Russia, which also provides the nuclear fuel and deals with the waste.Iran considers the launch a victory, and proof of their peaceful atomic program, despite criticism form the US and Israel.

The leaves changed color and fell…

He never made it off the shortlist as Time’s “Person of the Year”, but for many he is the man of 2010.WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange exposed hundreds of thousands of Iraq War documents and American diplomatic cables to name just a few.But the US accuses him of espionage, and in Sweden he faces allegations of rape.Assange was arrested in the UK, where he was seeking refuge.Later granted bail after a legal wrangle, Assange now has to wait to find out whether he will be extradited to Sweden.“Clearing my name is not the highest task I have. The highest task I have is to continue on with my work,” Julian Assange said.His whistleblower website continues to leak into the New Year.Fallen Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky was found guilty of laundering over US$25 billion worth of oil and sentenced to 13.5 years in Jail.He has nearly served out an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and fraud, and faces another six years behind bars.Russia has been criticized for politicizing the case, but Vladimir Putin says compared to Bernie Madoff’s 150 years, 14 years is nothing more than a slap on the wrist.And last but not least – the 2018 World Cup will be organized in Russia!It was a nail-biting wait for the announcement, with Russia and England going head to head till the very end. Little “Sasha” secured the bid with his big dreams of football and England secured headlines by dubbing Russia’s win “a fix”.Prime Minister Putin only went to the scene of the vote, Zurich, after the announcement, saying he had not wanted to pressure FIFA – while British PM David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William were not enough star power to bring the World Cup home to England.“From the bottom of my heart – thank you!” Vladimir Putin later said.Russia did not let the sore-losing rain on its parade. Winning the right to host the World Cup certainly goes down as one of the most enjoyable moments of an eventful year.