The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant religious community in Russia and forms a kind of national church, linked to the cultural heritage. Its head is the patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia, assisted by the Holy Synod with seven members. Among the Christians there are still some “old believers” who are in conflict with the Orthodox Church since the 17th century. Siberia has just over 1 million Catholics, and Protestant communities have 1.5 million members around the country.
Islam is the second largest religion in Russia in terms of number of followers. Between 15 million and 20 million Russian citizens are expected to confess to Islam. Most of them are Sunni Muslims. Sufic sects have a strong influence (Sufism: Islamic mysticism), but fundamentalist forms of Islam (Wahhabism or Salafism) also have some attachment. In some places, sufists and salafists have come into conflict with each other and several imams have been murdered.
Buddhism in the form of Lamaism is most prevalent in Burjati. Buddhists are also found in Kalmuckia on the Caspian Sea and in Tuva as well as in some districts in the Irkutsk and Chita regions at the border with Mongolia. In recent years, the number of Buddhists in Russia has decreased to about half a million.
In Russia there are a number of Jewish congregations, mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In recent decades, several Russian Jews have emigrated to Israel and the United States. In 1959, there were 875,000 Jews in Russia. Estimates made in 2012 landed at between 170,000 and 200,000.
The communist regime in the Soviet Union was explicitly atheistic. About two-thirds of all churches were closed after the Revolution of 1917, and many others were destroyed or used for other purposes. In 1990, a law was passed that guarantees free religious practice and in 1993 freedom of religion was included in the constitution. A number of churches and monasteries were restored and there was a wave of religious revival across the country.
The Orthodox Church and the state have now developed close ties to each other, especially since Vladimir Putin became president in 2000. Putin has benefited the church in the hope that it will serve as a unifying force in society. The church’s highest leader, the patriarch Kirill, has been granted a residence in the Kremlin (the Moscow castle where the government sits), and Kirill gave Putin pronounced support in the presidential election in March 2012.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Russia, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Browder sentenced to prison camp
A Moscow court finds British citizen William Browder guilty of deliberate bankruptcy and sentenced him to nine years in prison camps and extensive fines. Browder, who is convicted in his absence, is the head of the investment company Hermitage Capital Management with a large business in Russia. It was for Browder’s company that the deceased lawyer Sergei Magnitsky worked when he disclosed extensive corruption deals that the Russian state and Russian officials were accused of having been involved in. After Magnitsky’s death in Russian prison in 2009, Browder initiated a campaign against the Russian leaders and got it US Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act 2012. The law allows penalties against people who were involved in the corruption deals that Magnitsky revealed or his death. This is the second judgment against Browder.
Bombs in supermarkets hurt thirteen
Thirteen people are injured when a homemade bomb explodes at a supermarket in St. Petersburg. A man suspected of placing the bomb is caught on a surveillance camera when he leaves a backpack in the department store, but he avoids being arrested by police. No organization claims to be behind the act.
Navalnyj’s candidacy is stopped
A unanimous election commission rejects opposition leader Aleksej Navalnyj’s nomination for candidate in the presidential election on March 18. The reason is that Navalnyj is convicted of embezzlement and a presidential candidate may not have any criminal history. Navalnyj believes that the charges against him are fabricated to prevent him from running for election. When the Election Commission decision becomes known, Navalnyj urges his supporters to show their dissatisfaction by boycotting the election.
Dispute on gas settled
Both Russia and Ukraine claim that they have won a dispute over gas supplies from Russia to Ukraine. The dispute is now settled by an arbitration tribunal in Stockholm, which lowers the price Russia may charge for gas deliveries to Ukraine, but at the same time maintains an obligation for Ukraine to buy gas from Russia.
US sanctions against Chechnya’s leaders
US faces sanctions against Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who according to US authorities has personally been involved in various forms of repression, torture and murder. The sanctions were adopted with the support of the Magnitsky Law of 2012, which gives the United States the opportunity to punish people who are considered to be involved in a major tax fraud case that was revealed by attorney Sergei Magnitsky in 2008. After the disclosure, Magnitsky was jailed. He died in custody a year later. According to the law, sanctions can also be directed at people who are held responsible for Magnitsky’s death.
Moldova calls it an ambassador
Moldova calls home its ambassador to Russia for the time being. The reason is, according to the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the harassment of Russian authorities has increased recently and that the Russian government has not responded to Moldova’s request for an explanation for this. The measure is aimed at preventing anything from happening that damages relations between the two countries, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the media. President Dodon, who has warm relations with Russia, says he is furious at the Foreign Ministry’s decision which he believes is yet another expression of how the country’s EU-friendly government is trying to undermine relations with Moscow.
Over 80 Crimean Tatars in court
Russian authorities in Crimea bring 86 Tatars to justice for protests against the takeover of Crimea. The Crimea are Turkish-speaking Muslims who were deported in large numbers under the Stalin dictatorship. Many returned after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine (with Crimea) became independent. Tatars who recently objected to the Russian annexation of Crimea have been fined, despite having carried out their manifestations one by one, which does not require permission under Russian law.
Opposition sites are blocked
Russian authorities block regime critic Michail Chodorkovsky’s site Open Russia and other sites linked to it. One of the sites that is blocked is “Instead of Putin”, a site that promotes opposition politicians, such as Aleksey Navalnyj.
Troops are taken home from Syria
When President Putin visits Syria and meets his Syrian colleague Bashar al-Assad, he orders a partial Russian retreat from the country. Russia joined the Syrian war in the fall of 2015 to help the Syrian government defeat the various rebel groups. Putin says that the Russians can now withdraw after the Russian forces crushed “the international terrorists” and completed their mission in a “brilliant way”. Barely two weeks later, on December 22, Defense Minister Sergei Shujgu announces that the retreat has been completed. However, Russia retains three battalions in Syria as well as the two Russian bases, the Khmeimim airbase and the Tartus naval base. Shujgu also points out that Russia will continue to have military vessels and submarines on site in the Mediterranean.
Putin is running for election
President Putin takes the leaf out of his mouth and announces that he intends to seek the job of president for a new term in office. At a meeting with workers at a car factory in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod, Putin delivers the message everyone has been waiting for: that he is running as a candidate in the March 2018 presidential election. If Putin is elected, he will have been in power for 24 years from 2008 to 2012 as head of government while Dimitrij Medvedev was president).
US media classified as “foreign agents”
The Ministry of Justice announces that the US media companies Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and seven sub-units to these are now referred to as “foreign agents”. This means that companies’ operations must undergo extensive scrutiny from the Russian authorities (see also November 25, 2017). The conflict between the United States and Russia over the respective national media continues when the US Congress soon bans journalists from the Russian Russian channel RT, which in the US is seen as a propaganda channel for the Russian government. Russia responds by portraying the American media classified as foreign agents by the Russian parliament.
Russia is excluded from the Olympics
The International Olympic Committee decides to ban Russia from the Olympics in South Korea, citing Russia’s “systematic manipulation of the system to prevent doping at Olympic Games”. Russian athletes who are considered free of doping by the Committee will, however, be allowed to stand under the Olympic flag and in neutral costumes. President Putin calls the decision politically motivated and denies that there would be a state doping program in Russia.
Navalny’s campaign manager imprisoned
Opposition leader Aleksej Navalnyj’s closest associate, Leonid Volkov, is arrested and sentenced to one month in prison. Volkov is held responsible for a demonstration organized without permission in the city of Nizhny Novgorod at the end of September 2017. Navalnyj says that the verdict against Volkov shows that the leaders of the Kremlin are concerned about the influence of the opposition.
Trump’s advisers lied about Russian contacts
The US investigation into possible Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential election takes a dramatic turn when Trump’s former security adviser Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russian government during the election campaign. Flynn’s recognition leads to him being prosecuted. Of the four people so far indicted during the investigation, Flynn is the one who has been highest ranking.
Risky criticizing power holders online
A court in Sankt Peterburg sentenced a 43-year-old man to two years in prison camp for being told in a post on social media the Russians to rise up against a “non-popular regime”. It is not uncommon for people in Russia to be sentenced for posting on social media, the AFP news agency writes, citing two cases: in December 2016, an Internet user was sentenced to two years of criminal work for criticizing Russia’s bombings in Syria. Six months earlier, a Russian engineer was sentenced to two years and three months’ imprisonment for disseminating texts that were positive to the government of Ukraine.
New law makes it difficult for foreign media
President Putin signs a new law that allows the authorities to classify foreign media companies as “foreign agents”, which means that they have to submit to a comprehensive review of their operations and financing. In the past, the law has been limited to voluntary organizations, and many of them have been forced to close after being elected as foreign agents. The new law was hastily adopted by the Duma and the Federation Council since the Russian news agency RT was classified as a foreign agent in the United States under a US law designed to identify lobbyists and lawyers working to promote foreign interests in Washington. RTs that reflect the Russian government’s view of world conditions have been depicted in the ongoing US investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 US presidential election.
New veto against nuclear weapons investigation
Russia reiterates its veto in the UN Security Council against a US proposal to extend an expert investigation into who bears responsibility for the use of nuclear weapons against the Syrian village of Khan Sheikhun in April. Two days later, by Russian veto, a similar proposal was tabled by Japan.
Putin meets Trump
President Putin meets his American colleague Donald Trump in connection with a summit in Asia. Presidents say in a joint statement that “there is no military solution” in Syria, but they emphasize that IS should be fought. All combatants are urged to participate in the UN negotiations on Syria, which will begin in Geneva on November 28.
Tranquil revolutionary celebration
The centenary of the Russian Revolution passes without much attention. The major military parades that marked the commemoration of the revolution during the communist era are now abolished and the day is no longer a public holiday. The authorities would like to downplay the solemnity of the revolution that became the starting point for seven decades of repressive one-party rule. However, the Communist Party and a leftist group hold limited manifestations in Moscow, while President Putin, among other things, spends the day dedicating a church.
At least 260 are arrested in connection with the protest against Putin
At least 260 people have been arrested in Moscow in connection with a protest against Vladimir Putin. The protesters are believed to be linked to opposition politician Vjatjeslav Maltsev and his nationalist movement.
Russian criticism of UN investigators
Russia claims that the UN and OPCW investigators who give the Syrian government responsibility for using the Syrian against a Syrian village in April are making the wrong conclusions. The fact that sarin was released in the village is confirmed, but Russia believes that the poison was already there and that responsibility should be sought on the rebel side.
Putin visits Tehran
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Tehran for a state visit, most recently in 2015. With President Hassan Rohani, he is discussing Syria, where both countries support Bashar al-Assad’s regime and, in parallel with UN efforts, are trying to implement its own peace initiative. They also discuss Iran’s disputed nuclear program and bilateral issues. Representatives of the huge Russian oil company Rosneft and the state-owned Iranian oil company also meet. They pave the way for a multimillion collaboration on both oil and gas.
“There is not a single small piece of evidence”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov maintains Russia’s refusal to interfere in the US election campaign in a way that was in favor of Donald Trump. “There is not a single little evidence for this,” says Lavrov. He states that three former members of Trump’s campaign staff have been indicted in the United States in the context of the ongoing investigation into allegations of Russia’s involvement in the election (see United States: Calendar).
Putin honors Stalin’s sacrifice
A national monument commemorating the victims of Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s terror is unveiled in Moscow by President Putin. Attempts to create such a monument have been ongoing for over sixty years. The process was initiated in the 1950s by Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev. In his speech, Putin says it is important to remember this tragic period in the history of Russia. He is criticized for cynicism and hypocrisy by 40 former political prisoners. They write in an open letter in connection with the ceremony that the rulers tend to describe oppression as something of the past but that political repression in Russia continues and increases under Putin.
Strengthened military cooperation with the Philippines
Defense Minister Sergei Shujgu visits the Philippines and signs two agreements on military cooperation between Russia and the Philippines. Russia is also handing over Army vehicles and rifles to President Rodrigo Duterte, who is in the process of strengthening ties with Russia and China after distancing himself from the country’s longtime ally the United States.
Crimean Tatars are released
Imprisoned Crimean Tatar leaders Ilmi Umerov and AchtemTijijgoz are unexpectedly released following a settlement between Russia and Turkey. In September 2017, Umerov was sentenced to two years in prison for separatism when he criticized Russia’s occupation of Crimea. That same month, Tjijgoz was sentenced to eight years in prison for organizing an illegal demonstration.
Russian veto against scrutiny of nuclear weapons attack
Russia vetoes UN Security Council against extending an expert investigation into who bears responsibility for the use of nuclear weapons against the Syrian village of Khan Sheikhun in April. It is reported to be the ninth time Russia vetoes a UN action that could have negative consequences for the regime in Syria.
Vulnerable journalists are armed
The managers of the critically-criticized Novaja Gazeta newspaper announce that employees should receive weapons training and be provided with non-lethal weapons to guard against assault. Attacks on journalists and oppositionists have become increasingly common. The latest attack took place on October 23, when a female radio journalist was stabbed in the neck by an attack inside the editorial office of the liberal radio station Echo of Moscow.
Media celebrity “challenges” Putin
TV celebrity Ksenija Sobtjak announces that she is running for the next presidential election. 35-year-old Sobtjak has tried to profile himself as a liberal journalist but is best known for leading a documentary opera that involves the contributors falling in love with each other and forming couples. She is the daughter of former St. Petersburg mayor, Anatoly Sobtjak, who was Putin’s political mentor in the 1990s. Initiated judges are convinced that Ksenija Sobtjak’s candidacy would not have been possible without the Kremlin’s blessing. Her participation is supposed to be intended to give a little luster to the election and make it appear more democratic. Otherwise, the election risks appearing as decided in advance if Putin is running, which he is expected to do.
Young arrested for terrorist plans
The security service FSB is making the first arrest in what will develop into a terrorist target against a number of young men accused of being members of a terrorist organization called the Network (Set). Altogether, eleven people are charged with weapons possession and for having planned a bomb attack during the presidential election and the World Cup. Those arrested state that they have been tortured by the FSB for admitting the alleged crimes. If convicted, they risk up to ten years in prison.
Harsh criticism of Navalnyj verdict
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) states that the judgment against Aleksey Navalnyj for fraud and money laundering (see December 2014) was “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable”. The court orders the Russian state to pay damages to him and his brother Oleg, who were sentenced at the same time. In February 2017, Navalnyj was sentenced to five years in prison, conditional on embezzlement. He claims that both judges were intended to prevent him from running in the 2018 presidential election.
Protests on Putin’s birthday
In some eighty Russian cities, thousands of people are demonstrating against President Putin on his 65th birthday and demanding he step down. The demonstrations are carried out on the initiative of the imprisoned opposition leader Navalnyj. Most people attend Putin’s hometown of Saint Petersburg, where about 3,000 gather. In Moscow, one thousand people take part in the protest. According to the organization OVD-Info, which examines political arrests, more than 270 people are arrested across the country, more than 60 in Saint Petersburg. Police say 136 were arrested and all quickly released, but prosecution will be brought against 71 of them. In St. Petersburg, police are reported to have stopped the demonstration train using Russian methods.
Navalnyj receives 20 days in prison
The regime critic Aleksey Navalnyj is sentenced to 20 days in prison. According to the court, Navalnyj has repeatedly violated the laws governing public gatherings. Navalnyj’s supporters see the verdict as a way for the authorities to stop his impromptu election campaign, writes AFP news agency. Over the past month, Navalnyj has traveled around the country and held meetings to gather support for his candidacy. Through the prison country, Navalnyj is prevented from leading a meeting this weekend in President Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.
Tighter sanctions against banks and energy companies
The US is imposing additional restrictions on loans to Russian financial institutions and energy companies, which is increasing the pressure on several major banks as well as oil and gas companies such as Rosneft, Gazprom and Lukoil.
Russian nuclear weapons on the dump
President Putin announces that Russia has destroyed the country’s last chemical weapons and calls on the United States to do the same.
Another Crimean Tatar leader imprisoned
Ilmi Umerov, former vice-president of the now dissolved unofficial parliaments of the Crimean Tatars, is sentenced to two years in prison for separatism. According to prosecutors, Umerov has made statements that undermined Russia’s cohesion by demanding in an interview that Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula be stopped.
The UN criticizes the Crimea
The UN Human Rights Commission accuses Russia of committing serious abuses on the Crimean peninsula occupied from Ukraine in 2014. In a report, Russian soldiers and their local support troops are indicted for arbitrary imprisonment, disappearances, torture and at least one extrajudicial execution. According to the commission, Ukrainian laws are replaced by Russian and it seems that the residents of Crimea are forced to adopt Russian citizenship. Those who are not counted as Russians are deprived of fundamental rights. The Commission also claims that the judicial system is biased and that those who report abuse have little chance of having their case tried.
Journalist in Crimea convicted of separatism
A journalist on the occupied Crimean penal is sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment and given a professional ban for three years for “encouraging separatism”. The journalist, Nikolaj Semena, who worked for a US-funded radio station in Crimea, was arrested in April 2016 after the radio sent a message in which Semena called for a civilian blockade of Crimea.
Crimean Tatar leader is imprisoned
A court in Crimea sentenced one of the most prominent Crimean Tatar leaders to prison for eight years. Achtem Tjijgoz, who was vice-chairman of the Tatars’ decisive political assembly, Mejlis, is convicted of organizing an illegal demonstration in February 2014. Civil rights movements describe the trial as part of an ongoing Russian campaign against Crimean residents who opposed the Russian takeover.
Opposition takes place in local elections in Moscow
Regional and local elections are held all over Russia. New governors are appointed in 16 regions. All entries are won by candidates representing President Putin’s United Russia support party with 64 to 89 percent of the vote. However, voter turnout is significantly lower than in previous elections, only between 30 and 50 percent of eligible voters care about voting. In Moscow, opposition to Putin is emerging. About 15 percent of the mandates in the city’s 14 municipal councils are for candidates belonging to the opposition. In Moscow, turnout is lower than elsewhere, just under 15 percent.
Moscow is forced to close consulate in the United States
The diplomatic quarrel between Washington and Moscow is escalating as the United States orders the Russians to close the country’s consulate in San Francisco as well as two other buildings outside Washington and New York, respectively. The measure is condemned by Moscow, which also criticizes the US FBI’s plans to evacuate the buildings and scan them.
Journalist sentenced to prison
A journalist is sentenced to three and a half years in prison for extremism. The journalist has built a website for a group that is running a campaign to allow politicians and officials to be held accountable for their actions, but which according to the authorities is only a cover for another banned organization which aims to overthrow the government. The journalist says that he did no wrong and that he is punished for writing an investigative report on suspected corruption in connection with a construction project in the space industry. The Reporters Without Borders organization condemns the process and says in a comment that the prosecution has no basis.
Four years in prison camp for violence against police
9th of August
Another demonstrator is sentenced to a multi-year prison sentence for having taken violence during the major anti-corruption demonstrations in March. At a Moscow court, Andrei Kosych admits to kicking and targeting two policemen in connection with the demonstration. For this, he is sentenced to four years in prison camps. In a comment, opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj says the verdict is “monstrous” and he calls the members of the court a criminal. (see also July 2017)
New EU sanctions are condemned
Russia is furiously responding to a decision by the EU to impose new sanctions on three companies and three people as a penalty for moving gas turbines from southern Russia to Crimea. The gas turbines come from the German company Siemens who opposed the move. The three people, including the country’s Deputy Minister of Energy, have their assets in the EU frozen and covered with travel bans within the Union. In total, more than 150 people and 40 companies are now subject to EU sanctions.
Trouble with Moldova escalates
The western friendly government of Moldova declares Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin undesirable in Moldova for “gross interference with the country’s affairs”. At the end of July, Rogozin’s aircraft was stopped while on his way to Moldova to visit the Russian separatists in the Transnistrian breakaway republic. Since Rogozin has been banned from entering the EU since 2014 because of his support for the Russian annexation of Ukrainian Crimea, his aircraft were not allowed to enter either Hungarian or Romanian airspace at the same time as the Moldovan aviation authorities said that Rogozin would not be allowed to land where. Rogozin’s plan was instead to go down in Minsk, Belarus. The Russian Foreign Ministry lodges a vigorous protest against the “irresponsible conduct” of the Moldovan government,
Navalnyj sentenced to a fine
A Moscow court sentenced opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj and two of his associates to fines for violating the rules of public events when they asked their supporters to go out on the streets and hand out leaflets in support of Navalnyj (see July 2017). Navalnyj gets the equivalent of SEK 50,000 in fines, while the other two are sentenced to pay lower sums.
The United States is being punished for new sanctions
Russia orders the US to lose its staff of diplomats and local staff in Russia with over 700 people. In the future, US missions in Russia may only include 455 people, as many as Russia has in the United States. The Russians are also ordering the United States to house a summer house outside Moscow as well as a warehouse inside the city. Russian action is a response to the US Congress voting to impose new sanctions on Russia. The sanctions are aimed at high-ranking Russian targets because of the alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 election and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. President Putin first awaited the threat of new sanctions but now says that Russia must do something to answer the “rude” sanctions. ”
Several years in prison for protesters
A supporter of opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj is sentenced on July 21 to two and a half years in prison for violence in connection with the large demonstrations against corruption among the power holders held at the end of March 2017. The man is convicted of throwing a brick at a policeman. The day before, two other protesters had been sentenced to one and a half years and eight months in prison for violence against police officers. Hundreds of those who participated in the demonstrations have previously been sentenced but received significantly lesser penalties such as fines or up to ten days in prison. Navalnyj himself was first sentenced to 30 days in prison, but the sentence was later changed to 25 days.
Putin is looking for charming young people
President Putin is participating in a live TV show aimed at young people. The intention is that Putin wants to try to increase his support among young people. Recently, many young people have become involved in opposition protests. Putin takes on a casual style with a revamped shirt but avoids answering sensitive questions, for example if he intends to run in the next presidential election. Putin also says that the opposition should not devote itself to “speculating” on issues such as corruption.
Sharpened monitoring of the internet
The Russian lower house votes for a proposal that prohibits Russian citizens from using services that give them access to sites that have been banned by the authorities. The internet is an important forum for opposition to the government and the bill has been criticized by groups that are active on the internet who call it both vaguely worded and overly restrictive. The proposal now goes wiser for treatment in the upper house.
Russia is liable for damages to the Netherlands
The International Arbitration Court in The Hague orders Russia to pay EUR 5.4 million to the Netherlands as compensation for Russia seizing a ship from the Greenpeace environmental movement in 2013 that sailed under the Dutch flag. The 30 people who were aboard were arrested and held for months. The ship was returned after nine months and some equipment had been destroyed, according to Greenpeace. Russia rejects the court’s ruling and believes that it has no right to adjudicate on the issue. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman points out that the court did not take into account that Greenpeace, which conducted a protest against a Russian oil platform, thereby compromised the security of the oil platform.
Long punishment for Nemtsov’s murderer
Five Chechen men found guilty of the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in February 2015 are sentenced to imprisonment for between 11 and 20 years. The longest penalty is given to Zaur Dadaev, who was convicted of firing the deadly shot. The prosecutor had pleaded for longer sentences for all defendants. Nemtsov’s family and his political allies claim that those who have really been behind the murder go free. The suspicions are directed at the Republic of Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov.
Police close Navalnyj’s office in Moscow
The police shut down the regime critic and blogger Aleksej Navalnyj’s headquarters in Moscow and in several cities seized leaflets and promotional materials from Navalnyj’s office. He is released from prison after serving 25 days of his month-long sentence, but the day after the police’s intervention against his activities continues. Hundreds of his assistants in Moscow and St. Petersburg are arrested for distributing promotional material.
Putin extends the import ban
President Putin extends, via decree, the Russian import ban on certain goods from the EU and the US until December 31, 2018. The embargo is a result of the Western countries’ sanctions on Russia, which were introduced after the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Prosecuted for the Nemtsov murder guilty
The five who were charged with the murder of Boris Nemtsov in 2015 are declared guilty by a jury in a Russian court (see also March 2015). However, it is not yet clear who ordered the murder.
The United States tightens the sanctions
US introduces new trade sanctions against Russia and Ukrainian separatists. The sanctions target 38 individuals and organizations with links to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. According to the US Treasury, the sanctions will apply until Russia lives up to the commitments stipulated in the peace agreements of 2014 and 2015 (see Foreign Policy and Defense). Among the individuals and organizations targeted by the sanctions are two Russian government officials and eleven persons active in the annexed Crimea. They are also prevented from using US-based assets. The sanctions also mean that Americans will not be allowed to offer new loans for more than 90 days to 20 subcontractors to the Russian energy company Transneft, which has already been subject to US sanctions.
The EU extends sanctions
The EU extends sanctions against Russia for one year to June 23, 2018. The sanctions were introduced following the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine in 2014, imposing restrictions on exports and imports and prohibiting EU-based companies from engaging in investment or tourism in Russia.
Navalnyj is imprisoned
Opposition politician Aleksey Navalnyj is arrested by police and quickly sentenced to 30 days in prison in connection with protest demonstrations in several Russian cities against the regime. A few hundred protesters are arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Court wants to stop the movie about Medvedev
A court orders opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj to remove the video footage from Youtube in which Prime Minister Medvedev is accused of embezzling big values in the form of a number of luxury houses and boats. Navalnyj says he is not a bad surprise and intends to appeal the verdict.
New spy ideas with Estonia
Estonia’s consultant in St. Petersburg and another Estonian diplomat is ordered to leave Russia within five days. It is the latest incident in a series of spy accusations between the countries. Earlier this month, Estonia sentenced a Russian to five years in prison for espionage, while the Russian security service announced that a man from Estonia received eleven years in prison for providing ethnic authorities with Russian state secrets.
Diplomats from Moldova are expelled
Russia expels five Moldovan diplomats in response to the fact that Moldova has expelled five Russians two days earlier. The Western-friendly government of Moldova, which is in conflict with the country’s Russian-friendly president, gives no reason why the Russian diplomats are expelled and the president is furious with the decision. In March, there were reports that a former member of the Moldovan parliament had provided secret information to an employee of the Russian Embassy. There have also been allegations against the Russian security service for trying to sabotage a Moldovan investigation into money laundering with suspected Russian interference.
Russian contact with Trump’s campaign is being investigated
The US Department of Justice appoints former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate the details of Russia’s involvement in the electoral movement and possibly coincide with Trump’s election campaign. US intelligence services have stated that Russia tried to influence the exit (see January 5, 2017), but Moscow denies any involvement.
Protest against demolition plans
Thousands of Moscow Labor gather to protest the planned demolition of a number of multi-family houses from the Soviet era. The protesters accuse Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobjanin of favoring the construction companies, while at the same time those living in the houses are forced to move to housing in areas where the apartments are less worthwhile. According to the mayor’s plans, the old houses on five to six floors will be replaced by much taller buildings and the entire project is expected to go loose at the equivalent of EUR 56 billion. In order for the plans to be implemented, legislative changes are required, but that process has stalled because of the protests. The protesters are supported by Aleksey Navalnyj and other opposition leaders.
The police intervened to read aloud from the Constitution
Eleven activists are arrested by police after holding an unauthorized manifestation on Moscow’s Red Square, the organization reports OVD-Info, which specializes in monitoring the arrests of oppositionists. The activists are arrested when they read aloud from the Russian Constitution. Among those arrested is Ildar Dadin, who was released in February after being jailed for participating in other unlicensed demonstrations.
Protesters arrested on anniversary
On the fifth anniversary of the big Bolotnaja demonstration, some minor events are being held against the government. In Moscow, seven people are arrested. After the 2012 demonstration, around a dozen people were prosecuted and several of them were sentenced to several years in prison. (6/5)
Appeal of Navalnyj rejected
The court in the city of Kirov, which issued a five-year conditional jail sentence against opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj, dismisses an appeal against the sentence, which is thus fixed.
Gay activists are arrested
The police seize 17 activists who, in connection with the first May train, protest against the persecution of gay men in Chechnya where homosexuality is taboo. A few months earlier, the newspaper Novaja Gazeta had published a report according to which the Chechen authorities seize and torture homosexuals.
The police are taking action against new protests
Protests against President Putin take place in a number of cities under the slogan “We are sick of him”. The events were organized by the Open Russia movement founded by Michail Chodorkovsky, one of Putin’s foremost critics. The demonstration in Saint Petersburg attracts up to 200 activists. According to observers on site, police removed at least 110 of the protesters.
Organizations near Chodorkovsky are hurt
26th of April
Three organizations affiliated with Putin critic Michail Chodorkovsky are classified as “unwanted” by the authorities. This means that they are not allowed to publish any publications in Russia and that they risk getting assets in Russian bank accounts frozen. People who cooperate with them may be fined, imprisoned or barred. This is the first time that the authorities have applied the law on undesirable organizations against purely Russian organizations. They justify the decision that the three organizations devote themselves to inspiring protests and destabilizing the political situation.
Reduced Russian presence in Syria
26th of April
Russia halves the number of aircraft stationed at the Russian base in Syria, it states the military in a statement. According to Commander Sergei Rudsko, the decision is based on the fact that the conflict in Syria has begun to stabilize.
Toughened tone during US visit
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with his Russian colleague Lavrov in Moscow and says he wants to try to curb “sharp contradictions”. The tone between the countries has hardened after the US robotic attack on a Syrian military base. Putin says in Russian TV that relations with the United States have deteriorated, “especially military”, following the attack on.
British mark against Moscow
Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson cancels a scheduled visit to Russia and Defense Minister Michael Fallon accuses Russia of being guilty “via agent” of the deadly gas attack in Syria. Britain advocates for increased sanctions against Russia at a G7 meeting, but cannot be heard.
US attack in Syria condemned
The government condemns the “aggression against a sovereign state” since the United States first attacked a regime position in Syria, and cancels a bilateral agreement with the United States to avoid clashes in the air over the war-torn country. US President Trump ordered the robotic attack on a military base in response to a nerve gas attack that claimed over 80 lives. The US accuses the Syrian regime of being behind the gas attack, but Moscow maintains that the nerve gas was with rebels on the ground.
Subway bomb kills travelers
Fifteen people are killed and over 40 injured in what appears to be a suicide bombing on a subway train in St. Petersburg. The explosion is caused by a bomb placed in a briefcase on the train. An explosive charge is also detected at another station in the city, but disarmed. The suspected suicide bomber is a 20-year-old with roots in Central Asia.
Big protests against corruption
Demonstrations against corruption are held in Moscow and a number of other cities. The demonstrations are the most extensive since 2011–2012. In Moscow, between 500 and 1,000 people are arrested by special police. The manifestation organized by the regime critic and blogger Aleksey Navalnyj is not authorized. The criticism is directed at Prime Minister Medvedev, who, in a report on Youtube compiled by Navalnyj, is accused of seizing vast wealth in the form of large villas, luxury hunts and vineyards. According to police, the demonstration in Moscow gathers between 7,000 and 8,000 people, while organizers speak of far more people. An unusual feature is that many of the protesters are young. Like many journalists from independent media, Navalnyj is arrested. Most detainees are released within a day but around 120 are detained. Navalnyj is sentenced to fines and 15 days imprisonment.
Putin critics murdered in Ukraine
A Russian government-critical former MP who has been granted asylum in Ukraine is shot dead in Kiev. Ukraine accuses Russian authorities of being behind the murder, describing it as “state terrorism”. The Russian government dismisses the allegations as “absurd”. The murdered politician had criticized the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Legal process against Russia
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague initiates legal proceedings against Russia. The process is initiated by Ukraine, which asks the court to ban Russia from sending money, weapons and personnel to the East rebels and to discriminate against ethnic minorities in Crimea.
March for Nemtsov
Demonstrations are held in Moscow and St. Petersburg in memory of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead near the Kremlin on February 27, 2015. In Moscow, it is estimated that 15,000 people have participated in the demonstration.
Judgment against regime critics argued
The Supreme Court cancels a verdict against a regime-critical activist who has been imprisoned since 2015. The activist Ildar Dadin is the first to be imprisoned under a law passed in 2014 and which allows the imprisonment of people who participate twice or more in demonstrations without a permit.. However, the Supreme Court considers that Dadin’s sentence – two and a half years in prison – is disproportionate to his crimes and orders that he be released.
Russia supports new ceasefire in Ukraine
Foreign Minister Lavrov and his colleagues from Ukraine, Germany and France support an agreement to announce a new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, President Putin orders Russian authorities to approve passports issued by the breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine. The rule should apply “temporarily” until there is a “political solution” to the conflict.
Russia is accused of computer attacks
The head of the Ukrainian security service accuses Russian hackers of virus attacks against the country’s power grid, financial systems and other infrastructure. He claims that the Russian security service is behind the attacks. Ukraine has on several occasions previously accused Russia of waging a “cyber war” against Ukraine. Russia has dismissed all charges.
Contacts with Russia trap Trump’s advisers
When it is clear that US national security adviser Michael Flynn has held discussions with Russia’s ambassador before the White House power shift, he is forced to resign. Under US law, it is forbidden for individuals to interfere in foreign policy. The scandal is growing as media reports that call transcripts and intercepted phone calls show that several people in Trump’s vicinity had repeated contacts with the Russian intelligence service already during the election campaign.
Navalnyj convicted again
The court in the city of Kirov, who has been backed by the Supreme Court and forced to conduct a new trial against opposition politician Aleksey Navalnyj, comes to the same message as in the first trial which began in April 2013. Navalnyj is found guilty of embezzlement and sentenced to five years’ conditional bail. According to the electoral law, a candidate may not be convicted, but Navalnyj says in a comment that he will appeal the verdict and that it will not be able to prevent him from running in the 2018 presidential election as planned.
Punishment is reduced for domestic violence
President Putin signs a controversial law that lowers the scale of domestic violence. According to the law, acts of violence performed by a person for the first time and which do not result in serious injuries are classified as wrongdoing. The penalty shall be a fine of up to 30,000 rubles (corresponding to 4,500 wives). Previously, such crimes were classified as abusive and could give up to two years in prison. The law has sparked protests and its critics say it will exacerbate the already widespread problem of violence against women. Law advocates say that parents should not be able to go to jail for raising their children.
Boundary rupture with Belarus
Belarus President Viktor Lukashenko criticizes Russia’s decision to tighten surveillance along the common border where border controls have been missing since the 1990s. Russia has now decided to set up a security zone on the Russian side. The reason is that Belarus has decided to abolish the visa requirement for visitors from 80 countries, which Russia sees as a security threat. Russian authorities say that it is not really about regular border checks but just about “monitoring the flow of people” across the border. However, President Lukashenko describes the situation as Russia trying to “take strikes on Belarus”. Lukashenko also accuses Russia of halting oil deliveries to Belarus since the country raised transit charges.
The United States adheres to the sanctions policy
The United States will not abolish the US sanctions despite President Trump having previously signaled in that direction. It is clear when the US’s new UN ambassador gives speeches to the Security Council. The ambassador states that Crimea belongs to Ukraine and says that the US will not abolish the sanctions until Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine.
Phone call with Trump
US newly elected President Donald Trump and President President Putin are talking on the phone for the first time since Trump took office. According to the Kremlin, Putin and Trump had a “positive” exchange of views and agreed to develop their relationship as equals and to cooperate in the fight against the Islamic State terror group. Nothing was said about the US sanctions against Russia. Even before the call, Trump had toned down earlier questions about the sanctions.
Laws against adoptions are condemned
The European Court of Human Rights condemns the law of 2013 that prohibits Americans from adopting Russian children. The Court is of the opinion that the law violates the European Convention on Human Rights and orders Russia to pay damages to a number of US couples who were involved in adoption processes that were stopped when the law was passed.
Russia is notified to the ICJ
Ukraine submits a complaint against Russia to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Russia is accused of supporting terrorism, and Ukraine demands damages for the civilians who were shot down and the Malaysian airliner shot down in 2014. Ukraine wants the ICJ to hold Russia accountable for the “terrorist acts” committed by the Russian-backed militia in the eastern part of country.
Russia is accused of electoral influence in the United States
James Clapper, the chief of US intelligence services, said in a statement to Congress that it was clear that Russia had acted with a view to influencing the US presidential election through hacking, propaganda, fake news and disinformation. All 17 federal intelligence agencies have designated Russia. Earlier, one of President Obama’s top advisers has said that he cannot imagine that Russia can implement such measures without President Putin being directly involved.