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7 May, 2009 07:47

Medvedev: first year in office

What does Russian president Dmitry Medvedev have to celebrate a year after he got the top job at the Kremlin?

His journey to the top may have been short and smooth, but not his first year in office.

War, financial turmoil, and another gas row have left imprints on the president's twelve months in power.

It has been 9 months since Taisia Sytnik lost her son to war. Georgi had just finished medical school in Moscow, and rushed home to Tskhinval to help victims after the Georgian attack began last August – only to become one himself.

He was hit by shrapnel when running to get bandages. It has been almost a year, but the pain for his mother is still as sharp as it was in August.

She was stuck in a basement with her son’s corpse for days before fire stopped and the grief began.

“I’m not getting through this. I can’t understand why I wasn’t killed so I wouldn’t have to watch my son die in my arms – I just don’t understand,” Taisia confessed to RT.

But it's understood that war is never easy. It is a choice no leader wants to make, but it is one President Dmitry Medvedev made just months after his inauguration when Georgia launched an offensive on South Ossetia.

“It was barbaric aggression in which many Russian citizens died, as well as Russian peacekeepers who had been called to maintain peace and stability in the region,” Natalia Timakova, the President’s press secretary explained.

According to the president, he simply had to act.

“It’s not an easy choice, but it’s the only way to save peoples' lives,” Medvedev stated last August.

The war led to Russia’s recognition of the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which also put pressure on relations with the West.

Along with the gas crisis with Ukraine that blocked supplies to the EU, it's fair to say that Dmitry Medvedevs’s first year in office hit many bumps in the road.

But nothing quite as big as the C word: 'crisis.' Vladimir Ismailov from the Moscow Association of European Businesses in Russia explains the situation:

“Everyone was trying to call Russia an 'island of stability' but it’s not an island anymore. As the Russian economy integrates, the global crisis effects Russia, and I think that was the most important challenge for the current administration. They have to find a way to fight the crisis as fiercely as other countries”

The crisis will continue to be a challenge in Medvedev’s second year. But for him, the most important part starts with the basic fact that he holds ultimate responsibility for protecting Russia’s interests.

“You may take advice and consult with all kinds of respectable and smart people, but at the end of the day when you sign a document or a decree, the responsibility is yours and yours alone! For him, this is a much more important part of the job than the number of hours spent on a plane, or the number of days spent in different time zones,”
Natalia Timakova stated.

Learning not to sleep or pay much attention to what the time is in Moscow came easy – but it’s those documents and decisions that will shape the Presidency of Dmitry Medvedev.

History has taught us…you can’t judge a leader from the first year alone. Even though it has been a tough one for President Medvedev, his term is far from over, and with a war and a financial crisis already on his watch, it is still unclear if those events will define his full term as the Russian President.