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Concept of Countering Terrorism in the Russian Federation Approved
This document was approved on October 5, 2009. In order to ‘fight against terrorism’, law-enforcement authorities have been constantly monitoring mass media and social networks since then, looking for extremist content. However, this term may refer to any VKontakte post unfavorable to the authorities. Hiding behind the idea of countering terrorism, the Government tightens its control over the citizens and restricts our rights and freedoms.
Is terrorism defeated?
Amendments to the Law on Defense Adopted
On September 9, 2009, the State Duma approved amendments to the Law on Defense. Now, the President can use armed forces to solve problems on the territory of other countries without declaring war — to protect the army already present in another country, secure Russian citizens travelling abroad, prevent the aggression committed by another country, etc. The President can also dispatch forces without any approval from the Federation Council, as it used to be in the previous version of the law. These amendments are considered by many in the world as conflicting with the Charter of the United Nations.
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FSB Powers Expansion
On July 16, 2010, the State Duma expanded the powers of the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation). Now the officers of the Federal Security Service can issue a so-called warning — if one cannot be charged with a crime, theirs actions are said to be ‘intolerable’ and the person is punished. The new law prescribes a RUB 500–1000 fine or 15 days in detention for the disobedience to FSB’s orders. It is expected that in the future FSB officers will be allowed to shoot at a crowd, cancel flights, prosecute people, etc. Thus, the authority of the FSB will supersede the Constitution and they will exist by their own code.
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Police Reform
On February 7, 2011, a new Federal Law on Police came into effect. The Government of the Russian Federation decided that re-labeling ‘militia’ (the former Russian name for the police force) as ‘police’ would improve the professional skills of law enforcement officials. To eliminate inefficient workers, they had to take a specially designed competency test, which 20% of them failed. As a result, only their appearance changed with the new uniform and badges. The obligations and rights remained the same. It cost the Government RUB 1.5 billion to change the name ‘militia’ to ‘police’.
Healthcare Reform
Signed by Dmitry Medvedev in 2011, this law opened the way for an ambitious healthcare reform in Russia. As usual, the plan was to minimize costs by closing inefficient hospitals and improving advanced healthcare facilities. However, this initiative resulted in countrywide shutdown of hospitals, reduction of number of patient beds, mass firing of healthcare staff, and increase in prices for medical services with a notable decrease in their quality. Some regions have suffered from a total collapse of the free healthcare system.

Only four parties overcame a threshold of 7% to enter the Parliament. They were United Russia, CPRF, LDPR and A Just Russia. The ruling party gained the majority. The election indicated a large number of violations, such as ballot box stuffing, fraud, changing of results reports, etc. However, the Central Electoral Commission validated the results.
December 10, Moscow, Bolotnaya Square held a demonstration against the disputed election to the State Duma. It attracted 100,000 people becoming the largest protest in Putin’s Russia. The protesters stepped out to show their dissatisfaction with the fraud and violations reported during the State Duma elections. The demonstrators called for new elections, live videos from all voting stations, release of political prisoners, and the resignation of Vladimir Churov, the Electoral Commission Chief.
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Pussy Riot Case
On February 21, 2012, a Russian punk-rock band, Pussy Riot, performed a ‘punk prayer’ in Christ the Saviour church. In March, three of the musicians — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich — were arrested. The two former women were jailed, and the latter was given a suspended sentence. Amnesty International recognized the members of the band as ‘prisoners of conscience’. Pussy Riot attacks dictatorship, chauvinism, Putin, and the political environment in Russia, and defends freedom of art, freedom of expression, the individual, and gender equality. The case of the feminist punk band was covered in 86% of mass media outside Russia as an example of breached freedom of individual, speech, expression and art.

The election process was full of violations, such as obstacles for candidates' nomination and registration, and ballot box stuffing in favor of Putin in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The reported violations caused mass protests and demonstrations.
On May 6, 2012, 50,000 people took to the streets in Moscow in the ‘March of Millions’, demanding not to accept the election results, run a new election and introduce a political reform in Russia. It had been planned as a huge demonstration on Bolotnaya Square, but the protestors only managed to reach Kamenny Bridge where they were met by OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit). OMON officials were quite cruel, beating people with rubber hoses and using tear-gas. A peaceful demonstration ended up with mass arrests. More than 4,000 people were affected.
Putin's May Decrees
The May Decrees were signed by Vladimir Putin on May 7, 2012, the Inauguration Day for his third term. They consisted of 218 orders to the Government covering a vast number of challenges in the fields of economy, healthcare, education, demography, science, foreign policy, public administration system, armed forces, etc. Active members from the All-Russia People’s Front stated that the Government had executed only 24 orders by the beginning of May 2016. However, the Government itself reported on 154.
Increased Liability for Protesters
In early June, Putin signed the law increasing the liability for violations happening at demonstrations. For example, the law increases charges for violations happening at demonstrations by ten times (up to RUB 300,000); it presumes community service for the breakers, prohibits masks at protests and introduces penalties for unauthorized public demonstrations under the guise of public gatherings. Besides, local authorities are now allowed to set a minimum distance between picketers, and courts can recognize several pickets against a common issue as a mass protest.
Law on Election of Heads of Regions
Implemented in April 2012, the new law restores direct elections of heads of regions. However, the law stipulates that the candidates should go through ‘municipal filtration’ to get nominated. It means that the candidate must receive support from at least 5–10% of the delegates (deputies) from the municipal units and elected municipal heads of different levels. This municipal filter has become a convenient tool to select candidates favorable to authorities. Since then, many opposition politicians have failed to overcome this threshold.
Defamation Law
Signed on July 30, 2012, by President Putin, the new law provides a penalty for defamation, defined as communicating false statements about a person that injure the honor, dignity and reputation of the person in question. The defamation against such administrative officials as judges, jury members, prosecutors, investigators, inquiry officers, court enforcement officers, is covered by a separate article. The penalty for defamation against an ordinary person is either RUB 500,000 or 160 hours of community service. The penalty for defamation against an official from the above-mentioned category is RUB 1–5 million or 480 hours of community service.
Law on Blocked Websites
On July 11, the State Duma passed a law to compile a list of websites banned in Russia. The legislation covers websites posting prohibited content. The sites will be monitored by a special entity (operator) informing the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media about undesirable information found in the Internet. The undesirable information involves child porn, instructions on purchasing drugs and committing suicide, etc. If detected, the Federal Service gives a notice to the site owner. If the latter does not fulfill the requirements to improve the site content within the given deadlines, the site is included into the list. This legislation received criticism from the Presidential Council for Human Rights and the Russian Associations for Electronic Communications. Wikipedia, VKontakte social network, Yandex and other popular resources shut down in protest.
Blocked Websites' List
Foreign Agents Law
Passed in November 2012, the law prohibits non-profit organizations from receiving financial assistance from abroad. If an organization has ties with international financial entities and is involved in political activity, it is recognized as a ‘foreign agent’. This law initiated mass prosecutions of non-profit organizations in Russia. These measures have led to many entities to be taken down. The ‘foreign agents’ list consists of 84 organizations. During the checks, the law-enforcement officials constantly went beyond their authority and violated the law. However, largely this remained unnoticed.
‘Foreign agents’ list
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LGBT Propaganda Law
In 2013, the State Duma passed a law introducing administrative penalties for LGBT propaganda among children in the amount of RUB 50,000–1,000,000. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation defines ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ as dissemination of information that can be harmful for health and morality, as well as build a perverted view on social equality of traditional and non-traditional marital relations among youth. Generally, this means one can not refer to LGBT as ‘normal’, especially around an under-aged person. In June 2017, the European Court of Human Rights recognized this law as discriminative and emphasized that it contradicts Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) and Article 14 (Prohibition of Discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Law on Offending Religious Feelings
In 2013, amendments were introduced into Article 148 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. They refer to insulting religious feelings. Actions are recognized as criminal if they are aimed at offending the feelings of religious people or groups, or demonstrating disrespect to them and their religion. The Russian Law used to have an article covering cases of offending religious feelings; however, it was part of the Administrative Code and charged administrative penalties. Now this administrative offence has been turned into a crime. The Article itself gives no definition to such a ‘religious feelings offence’, which leads to prosecution for anything.
No Foreign Bank Accounts for Administrative Officials
Since August 19, 2013, Russian administrative officials cannot have foreign bank accounts abroad or assets in other countries. The law covers chiefs of the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Central Bank, government-owned corporations, executive agencies, RF regions, federal public services, the Government, as well as their wives and children. The officials had a chance to either close the accounts, or resign from service. Many top officials refused to close foreign funds. As a result, the Government stated that it could not trust such officials anymore and dismissed them. Meanwhile, some owners of foreign bank accounts remain in office.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of Yukos Oil Company, was released earlier than expected. Khodorkovsky, Putin’s main opponent, had been charged with fraud and tax evasion, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. During the investigation, one of his colleagues had been tortured to testify against Khodorkovsky. Amnesty International recognized him as a ‘prisoner of conscience’ suffering from political repressions. On December 20, following the criticism on the situation with human rights in Russia and shortly before the Sochi Olympics, Putin signed a decree granting pardon to Khodorkovsky.
Article 282 of Criminal Code of the Russian Federation
August 24, 2013 saw the implementation of Article 282 on Incitement of Hatred or Enmity, as well as Violation of Human Dignity. The Article states that any violation of dignity of a person or a group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, etc. shall be punishable under criminal law. This Article followed the concerns of the Government about the growing extremist activity in the Internet. As nobody defined the term ‘extremist activity’, the law became a convenient way to fight against political opposition.
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Sochi Olympics
Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi from 7 to 23 February 2014. Preparation for the event included the construction of new facilities and creation of additional jobs. Official reports identified that the Winter Olympics cost a total of RUB 214 billion. In fact, it took RUB 1,500 billion to get ready for the Olympics. This amount came from government-owned corporations, such as Olympstroy, Russian Railways, Gazprom, Sberbank, FSK Development Group, Inter RAO, MRSK, etc.
Law on State Duma Deputy Elections
According to the new law, State Duma Deputy Elections are held on the basis of a mixed election system stipulating that 225 deputies are elected in single-mandate electoral districts (one deputy per district) while the other 225 are elected within the federal electoral district proportionally to the number of votes cast for federal candidate lists. Political experts stress that the new system and electoral district division are aimed at lowering the influence of the more liberal population living in big cities. Another crucial element is the change of the election month from December to September. It reduces the duration and efficiency of election campaigns run by opposition parties because of the summer period.
Arrests on Tverskaya
On February 24, the court of Zamoskvorechie district, Moscow, sentenced eight people named in the Bolotnaya Square case investigation to 2.5-4 years in standard regime penal colony. While the verdict was being pronounced, over 200 protesters were arrested by the court house. That evening, those who disagreed gathered in Tverskaya Street. By midnight, the number of the arrested exceeded 600.
In spring 2014, the Russian Federation annexed the peninsula of Crimea which had at the time the status of autonomous republic within the state of Ukraine. The annexation of the peninsula started in February, when pro-Russian activists staged several protests, leading to the overthrow of the Government of Sevastopol. A short period after, Crimea saw the presence of armed Russian militants only obeying orders from Russia. Then, Russian Special Forces occupied the building of the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers in Simferopol. The ‘public referendum’ on Crimea status was held on March 16 and failed to comply with the Constitutions of Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Most of the world did not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
Imposing Sanctions
In March 2014, the USA, the European Union, Australia, Canada and a number of other countries imposed sanctions on the Russian Federation. The reason was the annexation of Crimea by Russia and Russia’s participation in the conflict in Ukraine. The West’s sanctions included visa restrictions on a number of officials, and sanctions on cooperation with Russian companies. The EU restricted access to capital markets for Russian state-owned banks and rejected exports of oil products. The overall result was a fall in oil prices and plunge in the exchange rate of the Russian rouble against the dollar and the euro.
Arrest of Oleg Sentsov
In May 2014, FSB (Federal Security Service) arrested the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, claiming that Sentsov had participated in the Right Sector terrorist organization. The investigation reported that Oleg Sentsov and three other people had been preparing terrorist attacks in Simferopol, Yalta and Sevastopol. FSB also claimed that the Right Sector acted to undermine the political environment in Crimea and influence political authorities. In fact, Oleg Sentsov supported the Alliance For United Ukraine in Crimea in February–March 2014 and angered Russian Special Forces with this support. Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in a high-security penal colony. On September 7, 2019, he was released as a part of prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
Law on Organisers of Dissemination of Information on the Internet
On April 22, the State Duma adopted amendments to the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and the Protection of Information. These amendments concern organisers of dissemination of information and bloggers. According to the amended legislation, they must notify the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media of their activity, store the information about transmission of messages of users and information about these users for six months, and provide this information to the empowered state bodies. This law infringes upon the rights and freedoms of speech and information, and grants government agencies an easier access to citizens’ private information.
ECHR Awards Yukos EUR 1.86 Billion
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ordered the payment of EUR 1.86 billion in compensation based upon the Yukos complaint against Russian tax authorities. Later, the Russian Constitutional Court came to the conclusion that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the Yukos case violates the Russian Constitution and allowed the government authorities to reject the compensation payment. The CC stated that Russia could not pay EUR 1.86 billion because the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights provided by the ECHR contradicted the country’s Constitution.
Dadin's Article
Article 212.1 emerged in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation by the United Russia's behest. It stipulates criminal liability for repeated 'violation of the settled procedure of organization or holding a meeting, protest, parade, demonstration, and picketing' described in Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offences Code of the Russian Federation. Breaching this article may result in a million ruble fine, community and compulsory service or imprisonment for up to five years. Human rights activists and advocates insist that Article 212.5 criminalizes protests and contradicts Article 50 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The Article is titled after Ildar Dadin, the first convicted under it.
Imposing Counter Sanctions
After the USA and the EU imposed anti-Russian sanctions, the Russian Government decided to meet them with counter-sanctions. Russian sanctions on the USA and the EU mostly concerned imports from these countries. Meat, dairy products, fish, vegetables and fruits were prohibited to import and sell. Sanctions also included restrictions for certain officials and legislators from the US and Canada. The embargo initiated by Russia resulted in the drastic increase in prices for products and substitutes used in production, and the overall financial crisis in the country.
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Arrest of Ildar Dadin
In January 2015, Ildar Dadin, an opposition civic activist, was arrested and charged with repeated violations of the rules of organizing demonstrations and pickets. Dadin was the first person charged for violations during demonstrations described in Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code passed in 2014. Since 2011, Dadin had been an active participant in pickets and events organized by the opposition. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison. Amnesty International recognized Dadin as a ‘prisoner of conscience’.
Boris Nemtsov Assassination
On February 27, 2015, a prominent Russian politician Boris Nemtsov was killed crossing Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge in Moscow. He had continuously expressed his discontent with Putin’s policy and was one of the leaders of PARNAS Party (Party of People’s Freedom). Nemtsov was shot in the head, stomach, liver and heart. The assassin fled the scene in a white car. Anzor and Shadid Gubashevs, Zaur Dudaev, Khamzat Bakhaev, and Temrlan Eskerkhanov were arrested on a charge of murder. The contractor has not been found yet.
Other political assassinations
Undesirable Organizations Law
This law stipulates that any foreign or international organization declared ‘undesirable’ will be prohibited from working in Russia. ‘Undesirable’ organizations are those posing ‘a threat to the foundation of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country or the security of the State’. The decision is made solely by the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation without any charges or trial. In this case, affiliated companies are shut down, accounts are frozen, and their leadership, as well as employees, are threatened with criminal charges. Similar to the Law on Foreign Agents, this law has affected many non-profit organizations, including those criticizing Russian authorities, protecting human rights, monitoring elections, and engaging in educational activities.
History List of undesirable organizations
Sanctioned Products Liquidation
On July 29, President Putin signed the decree to dispose of sanctioned products, such as agricultural goods, raw materials, and food imported from the countries that imposed sanctions on a number of Russian individuals and companies. The products destroyed by such a barbaric method could have been donated to the poor and the hungry. However, the idea itself was considered to be more important.
ECHR Decisions Not Obligatory
The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation ruled that it was from now on appropriate to ignore the orders of the ECHR if they contradict the country’s Constitution. According to the decision of the CC, a special procedure will be administered for such cases. The Constitutional Court claims that the Constitution has a priority. It will lead to cancelation of all decisions made by the ECHR in any way or another contradicting the Constitution, including compensations awarded by the ECHR to illegally charged opposition members.
Military Intervention in Syria
On September 30, 2015, the Federation Council of Russia (Russia’s upper house of Parliament) authorized the Russian president to use armed forces outside the country. This decision allowed for the start of a military campaign in Syria on the same day. By September 2017, Russian Aerospace Forces had performed over 30 thousand combat flights and had administered over 90 thousand air strikes. According to the official Russian position, it fights against terrorists in Syria and supports Bashar al-Assad. The real aim of the Russian involvement in the conflict seems to be the desire to improve its position on the world stage and to use the Syrian issue when negotiating with other global powers. The achievement of this goal cost Russia billions of dollars and dozens of lives of its soldiers.
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Yarovaya Law Approved
In July 2016, the so-called package of ‘Yarovaya laws’ was adopted. It obliges telephone and Internet providers to store all Russians’ phone calls and messages for six months and all metadata for three years. Upon the inquiry of FSB (Federal Security Service), all telecoms firms shall decode any data, either monetary transactions, or private messages. Parcels will be scanned too. The Law was approved in spite of the fact that it infringes upon human rights and the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

The Communists of Russia and Yabloko failed to overcome a threshold of 5% and received no seats in the Parliament. Several candidates from other parties elected in single-mandate electoral districts won seats. Voting turnout was a record low — 47%. Thus, the State Duma consisted of the four previously present parties with a tiny difference in the proportion of seats. United Russia reached an absolute majority.
Tortures of Ildar Dadin
In November 2016, Mass Media published the letter by Ildar Dadin from IK-7 penal colony to his wife. The letter contained information about extremely brutal methods of tortures used against him by the warden and other officers. They took all his belongings away and put him into solitary confinement. Ildar responded with a hunger strike. To make him stop the strike, the ward and 10 other people beat him, shoved his head down a toilet, strung him up by his handcuffed wrists, and threatened him with rape. After this incident, he was transferred to a colony in Altay Region.
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Decriminalization of Domestic Violence
In February 2017, the State Duma adopted the Law on Decriminalization of Domestic Violence. Now injuries caused by a member of your family for the first time are considered as an administrative offence, but not a crime. Such violence is punishable by a fine of RUB 30,000, 15 days in prison, or community service. There is no exception for pregnant women. If their spouts beat them, it is still charged as an administrative offence. The statistics say that 93% of the victims of domestic violence are women abused by their husbands. The new law makes them wait for another beating to punish their offenders.
2017 saw the launch of a new renovation programme. Vladimir Putin and the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, approved the demolition of 5,173 rundown blocks of flats. The plan is to move 350 Moscow families to new apartments. The voting for demolition had been held before the law was drafted and the programme was adopted. Thus, Moscow citizens knew nothing about the rehousing order and were afraid of getting ‘a pig in a poke’. It initiated protests and quarrels between neighbors, to say nothing of the violation of the right to private property.
Law on Media Foreign Agents
In November 2017, a new Law on Media Foreign Agents was passed. Now media financed from abroad can be declared foreign agents. The adoption of this law followed the RT television network agreeing to the request from the US to register as a foreign agent. Russian authorities might think that Russia lacked the same law. The legislation of the US differs dramatically from the Russian legislation, though. The new law met criticism from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, international human rights organizations, and the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights.
Law on Anonymizers and VPN-services
Adopted on November 1, 2018, the new law obliged the owners of VPN-services and anonymizers to ban websites with prohibited content. This purpose requires all owners of anonymizers to connect to a specially designed federal information system. Then, they will have to block the access to all banned websites. Any refusal to do so will be followed by its shutdown. The law focuses on popular VPN-services showing their readiness to meet the legislation. The measures taken will ramp up Internet censorship and be harmful for Internet freedom in Russia.
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On March 18, 2018, the Presidential Election took place in Russia. According to the voting results, Vladimir Putin stole the victory again, with a 76.7% share of the vote, and would hold office as President for another term. Voting turnout was 67.54%. Putin was elected for the second term in a row. Considering his previous terms, by the end of this term the sum of the years he has spent as President will have been 18 years. By the way, there were frauds again witnessed during the election.
Skripal Poisoning
Former Russian spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter were attacked in Salisbury. They had been poisoned by a nerve agent ‘Newcomer’, contained in a perfume bottle and sprayed against the Skripals’ door. British Government reported that the operation was performed by Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two officers from Russia’s military intelligence service. The suspects were caught by surveillance cameras in London and Salisbury. British Prime Minister Theresa May stated in the Parliament that the Government was almost sure that ‘Russian leaders’ approved the attack. Russian authorities deny any involvement in the attack.
Winter Cherry on Fire
On March 25, 2018, a children’s zone in Winter Cherry shopping mall caught on fire. The exits of the cinema complex in the mall, reorganized from a confectionery factory, were all blocked from the outside, which caused the disastrous accident. The fire killed 60 people, with 37 children among the dead. The Winter Cherry tragedy triggered inspections in regional shopping centers and cinemas, while the rating of Aman Tuleev, one of the oldest governors, collapsed dramatically. He left the office in response to the protests. However, he was soon chosen a speaker in the Regional Council, and then designated as the Rector of Kuzbass Regional Institute of Advanced Training.
Telegram Ban
On April 16, 2018, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media blocked Telegram, a popular Russian messenger. It followed the refusal of the service owner to provide the encryption keys for the accounts, allegedly used to plan terrorist activities in Saint Petersburg. If the FSB (Federal Security Service) had received the ‘master encryption keys’, they would have been able to read all users’ messages. Telegram stated that this request contradicted Article 23 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guaranteeing the right to privacy of correspondence and telephone conversations. Despite the ban, Telegram still works in Russia.
Fines for Sanctioned Products
In May 2018, the State Duma introduced a bill creating fines for storing and selling sanctioned products. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media stiffened penalties, since some products prohibited to import from the US and EU still come to Russia through third countries. Sanctioned products lay on the shelves of small shops, in online stores, wrapped in packages with markings of the countries allowed to import from. The new bill punishes any manipulation of the banned products, such as import, storage, disposal, repacking and any kinds of deals. This bill increased the prices for domestic products, which had been already rather high.
Putin’s May Decrees 2.0
On May 7, while inaugurating, Vladimir Putin signed a new ‘May decree’. Its key goal is to improve living standards. For example, the poverty rate shall be cut in half by 2024. The spheres of education, healthcare, economy shall also change to the better. Many aims of the decrees are quite vague and the funding sources are uncertain. By the way, Putin signed almost identical decrees six years ago. They must have significantly changed the living standards for Russians. Although, it must have happened by 2018, not by 2024.
Tortures in Yaroslavl Colony
In the middle of June 2018, Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper, published a video showing tortures against Evgeny Makarov, one of the prisoners of Yaroslavl colony. The film recorded how 18 colony officers tortured him tied up with handcuffs. The incident took place on June 29, 2017. This post provoked strong public reaction. Makarov’s advocate Irina Biryukova, who released the video, moved from Russia applying for political asylum. The case is prosecuted by the Central Administration of the Investigative Committee of Russia.
3 Russian Journalists Murdered in CAR
Alexander Rastorguyev, Orkhan Dzhemal and Kirill Radchenko were killed on July 30, 2018, in the Central African Republic. They were investigating the activities of Wagner, a private military company headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the businessman having firm ties with Vladimir Putin. Documents received by an investigation center from various sources stated that the journalists were tracked from the moment they arrived in CAR, and the people from PMC Wagner took part in it. The investigation reported it was Prigozhin’s employees who started to dispatch the information that the journalists were merely the victims of a robbery.
Out-of-court Websites Shutdown
The Ministry of Communications suggested extending the Law on Information, adding a list of reasons to shut-down websites. Sites which ‘justify extremist activity’ shall be banned. To shut a site down, a few words will be enough, even without any incitements. It may lead to a ban of any resources posting content that is declared extremist by no clear criteria. At the same time, their owners will have no chance to assert their rights in court.
Retirement Age Reform
for the reform influencing the poverty rate among senior citizens are pessimistic. In 2018, 4.2% of seniors were below the poverty line; by 2028, that figure is projected to be 7.3%.
Tortures in Omsk IK-7 Colony
On September 30, opposition media Dozhd published a video cut, insisting that it shows tortures against the prisoners of Penal Colony 7 in Omsk (be careful, the video may be disturbing). Former prisoners of IK-7 tell that the officers not only made them dance naked, but also used other methods, such as electrocution, suffocation with a plastic bag, making them stay naked outside in winter and urinating on them. In August, the Head of the Federal Service for Execution of Punishment in Omsk region Sergey Koryuchin was dismissed. Human right defendant from Omsk, Irina Zaytseva, says that he was aware of the tortures in the colony.
Election in Primorye
The election of the governor in the Primorye region is said to be the weirdest election in 2018. The first round did not produce a winner, so two candidates went forward to the second round of voting. They were Andrey Tarasenko (46.6%) from United Russia and Andrey Ishchenko (24.6%) from the Communist Party. On September 16, with 95% of the votes counted, the Communist was 6% ahead of his opponent. After 97.87% of the votes were counted, the Communist candidate remained the leader, but with a 3.3% advantage. Upon counting 99.1% of the votes, the United Russia candidate shot ahead with a 1.49% lead. The results were changing by the minute, and everyone could only talk about a communist winning (oh, now losing) the election. Ishschenko claimed that the polling board blatantly rewrote the voting results protocols adding thousands of votes to the United Russia candidate. The Central Electoral Commission recommended annulling the September results. The rerun of the election let ‘unaffiliated candidate’ Oleg Kozhemyako win. Well, was it a win...
Protests in Ingushetia
On September 26, 2018, the leaders of Chechnya and Ingushetia sign a land swap deal on the border between the republics, leading to an exchange of territories in border areas. It sparked mass Ingush protests calling for the recognition of the deal as illegal and asking for a referendum. The demonstrations lasted for about a month. Finally, in December, the Constitutional Court of Russia invalidated this deal.
Magnitogorsk Tragedy
On the night of December 31, 2018, a large section of a high-rise building 164/2, Karla Marksa street in Magnitogorsk, collapsed. Officials say a gas leak caused the blast. 39 people were reported dead. By August 2019, the reasons for the explosion had not been announced.
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Anastasia Shevchenko Arrest
Anastasia Shevchenko, an activist with the Open Russia movement, was arrested on suspicion of participation in the activities of an undesirable organization in January 2019, and put under house arrest. The accusation against Shevchenko was triggered by her promoting cooperation with protest organizations and display of anti-Putin signs during demonstrations. Alexander Soloviev, the Chairman of the movement, said that the organizations recognized as undesirable in Russia had no links with Open Russia. While under arrest, Anastasia Shevchenko was raising three under-age children. Her eldest daughter suffered from a severe disease and died during her mother’s house arrest.
VAT and Prices Increase
On January 1, a new decree of the Government was enacted. It raised the VAT from 18% to 20%. The increase in VAT rate will bring the Federal Budget an average ₽620 billion of extra profit annually. The money will finance the national projects specified in the May Presidential decree. Their realization will cost RUB 8,000 billion within six years. The increase in VAT means an increase in expenses of each solvent citizen by average RUB 5,000 a year.
Increase in Utility Prices
January 1 was the beginning of a gradual growth of utilities tariffs — from 1.7% to 2.4% by July. This is the first time when tariffs are adjusted according to an index twice a year. Earlier, it was done in July only. Utilities receipt obtained a separate line on ‘trash pickup’.
Arrest of Lawmaker Arashukov
Russian politician Rauf Arashukov was arrested in the Federation Council of Russia (Russia’s upper house of Parliament) in the morning of January 30. The council meeting was closed to the media, and the exits were blocked by the Federal Protective Service officers. RBK channel reported that Yury Chaika, the Prosecutor General, and Alexander Bastrykin, the Head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, entered the upper house of Parliament. After the arrest, the Investigative Committee said that the lawmaker was charged with participation in a criminal organization, compulsion of a witness and murder — all three were articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Pskov Journalist Case
Journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva was charged with publicly justifying terrorism following her radio commentary about the explosion executed by 17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky at the Arkhangelsk FSB (Federal Security Service) office. On February 6, local law-enforcement authorities came to raid the house of the woman. The journalist stated that it was the Government itself that provoked radicalization among the youth, as it had already happened in Russian history. Prokopyeva may spend 7 years in prison.
No Gadgets for Military Men
The State Duma passed a law providing that gadgets and social networks were prohibited for military men. The law prohibits military men to have any devices, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, and other electrical devices able to connect the Internet and store information. The law does not only cover professional servicemen, but also conscripts. It’s not clear how they will manage to keep in touch with their families and friends.
Trash Reform
On January 1, 2019, a so-called ‘Trash Reform’ was introduced. It changed the rules for disposal and the charging procedure. After some preparation, the reform began but it was implemented in a curious way. The majority have already decided on the integrated operators and increased the tariffs, while only several regions could recycle. The reformers failed to build enough solid domestic waste recycling facilities, sorting and incineration plants. In the regions already covered by the reform, people are complaining about the increased tariffs and calling for their cancelation.
March of Maternal Anger
Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Yaroslavl, Kazan and a number of other Russian cities saw demonstrations called the March of Maternal Anger. People took to the streets showing their protest against political repressions. The event was provoked by the death of the daughter of the activist Anastasia Shevchenko. The girl died in a hospital while her mother stayed under house arrest. The symbol of the march was a black heart.
Law on Disrespect of Government and Fake-news
On March 29, a weird law on disrespecting the Government was enacted. According to the passed amendments, punishable will be ‘insulting information’ that expresses a ‘disrespect for society’ and ‘the State or the organs of State power’. Meanwhile, it is still unclear what ‘insulting’ and ‘disrespect’ are. In short, the new law places limits on freedom and increases the chances to go to jail for a like or a share.
Protest in Magas
In October 2018, mass demonstrations of thousands burst out in Ingushetia after the land deal on borders change concluded with Chechnya. A new phase of protest started in Ingushetia in the end of March 2019 and was triggered by the revision of a republican law on referendum. The new version eliminated the paragraph providing that the national referendum should decide upon the changes of the republic’s borders. The demonstration on March 26 gathered 10,000 participants. The protest in Magas was marked by disruptions in internet service. Part of the demonstrators stayed at the square overnight, where Rosgvardiya (National Guard of Russia) tried to break them up three times.
Trial of Oyub Titiev
On January 9, 2018, the head of the Grozno office of Memorial Human Rights Center Oub Titiev was arrested in Chechnya. He was charged with drug possession and sentenced to 4 years in a colony. On June 21, 2019, he won parole.
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First Fine for Disrespecting Government
The first person to be fined for disrespecting the authorities was Yuri Kartyzhev, a
34-year-old citizen in the Novgorod region. The court fined him RUB 30,000 for a post on the social media site VKontakte that ‘Putin is a fantastic *******’. Kartyzhev broadcasted the court session on his Vkontakte page, which consisted almost entirely of shared articles, videos, and memes criticizing the authorities.
Law on Autonomous Internet
On November 1, 2019, a Law on autonomous Internet, introduced by Andrey Klishas, will be enacted. The official version is that the aim of this law is to ‘ensure the safe and sustainable functioning of the Russian Internet in case Russia’s global Internet access is shut off from abroad’. Moreover, it was developed considering the ‘aggressive character of the US strategy on national cybersecurity adopted in September 2018’. This law provides that any website, service or content may be recognized as ‘illegal’ and banned. First of all, it will affect the websites and services hosted on foreign servers. The budget for the law realization is RUB 30 billion.
Protests in Ekaterinburg
The protest started on May 13, 2019, after the installation of a fence around the Drama Theater, where the authorities wanted to erect a church. Hundreds of people took to the streets. They called for the governor to move to another city and began putting up tents to stay there overnight. After a while, people wearing sport suits came down on the demonstrators shouting, ‘For church!’ The anti-church protest resulted in 26 arrests and 3 participants injured and sent to the hospital. The authorities of Ekaterinburg abandoned the idea of building a church.
Sukhoi Superjet-100 Tragedy
A burning Sukhoi Superjet-100 intended to fly from Moscow to Murmansk made an emergency landing in Sheremetyevo airport. 41 people died in the accident. The Sukhoi Superjet-100 is one of the key image-building projects for Russia. It is the first aircraft designed from scratch after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This plane used to be very promising, and was seen as a symbol of the Russian aviation industry's revival. However, the SSJ-100 hasn’t become commercially successful yet, because it has proven to be defective from technical point of view. Within the last 8 years, it has gotten into minor accidents at least 25 times.
Shiyes Protests
The June 2 demonstration against the construction of a landfill for Moscow waste near Shiyes station was the largest within the last 10 years in Syktyvkar. Different reports count the number of participants from 5,000 to 8,000 people. Since July 26, 2018, the border between Komi Republic and Arkhangelsk region is a construction site for the biggest landfill for Moscow waste. The population of the regions protested against the project, which hadn’t been approved by them, local authorities or experts. The response has been brutality, arrests, fines and criminal cases.
Ivan Golunov Case
On June 6, Ivan Golunov, a journalist of an opposition media Meduza, was arrested for attempting to sell drugs. The law-enforcement officers referred to the photos of a drug lab said to be found in the journalist’s apartment. Later, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) admitted that the apartment was not his. Meduza associated the arrest of Ivan Golunov with his professional activity. This case provoked strong public reaction. On June 11, the Head of MIA Vladimir Kolokoltsev closed Ivan Golunov case for a lack of evidentiary support. On June 13, two heads of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were dismissed.
The forest fires in Siberia started in July 2019 in remote areas of Krasnoyarsk region, Irkutsk region, Buryatia, Yakutia and beyond Lake Baikal. By the end of the month, they had covered 3 billion hectares all together. Authorities introduced a state of emergency in 5 regions of the Russian Federation. The coverage of the forest fires in Siberia in 2019 has been vast. Millions of tons of CO2 were emitted to the Earth’s atmosphere, which accelerated global warming. The fires were widely covered by social networks. The users actively promoted posts with the relevant hashtags and demanded for immediate fire-fighting operations.
Unaffiliated Candidates to Moscow State Duma Failed to Register
District election committees denied unaffiliated candidates the right to register for the election to the Moscow State Duma. Among them were Lyubov Sobol, Ilia Yashin, Dmitry Gudkov, Alexander Soloviev, Yulia Galyamina and other opposition politicians. Almost all of them were refused because they exceeded the maximum allowable share of invalid voters’ signatures (10%). Neither independent handwriting analysis, nor voters’ applications managed to convince the election committee. Lyubov Sobol announced a hunger strike, and Moscow saw demonstrations calling for the registration of the candidates.
Protests in Moscow
On July 27 and August 3, Moscow experienced the largest demonstrations as a part of a series of protests. The reason for the discontentment was the refusal of the election committee to register opposition candidates for the election to the Moscow State Duma. The July 27 demonstration broke the record for the number of the arrested — more than 1,000 people. During the August 3 demonstration, officials reported about 600 people, while human rights defenders counted 1,000. Almost all unaffiliated candidates were arrested, some of them several times. For example, Ilia Yashin was taken into custody five times. He spent total 50 days in a row in prison. The protest on July 27 was followed by several criminal cases regarding civil disobedients.
Moscow Case
This is the name for the case regarding ‘civil disobedients’ initiated by the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation after the July 27 demonstration in support of the unregistered candidates. At first there were 15 accused in the case, but then the majority was charged only with violence against the policemen, and disobedients were charged only with two persons involved. The first sentences were pronounced a month after the rally: some of the defendants received from 2 to 3.5 years in prison, some were given suspended sentences and fines. The persecution of the five defendants in the case ceased. One of them is still under investigation.
Anti-Corruption Foundation Case
The Investigative Committee brought a criminal case regarding laundering of 1 billion (or 75 million) rubles by Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. According to the investigation, from January 2016 to December 2018, Anti-Corruption Foundation members and those ’involved in its operations’ received a large amount of money generated from criminal activity, deposited them into their bank accounts and transferred to the Anti-Corruption Foundation. Since then, Navalny’s offices have been regularly subjected to house-checks, while the accounts of members, volunteers and random activists are blocked.
Election in Saint Petersburg
On September 8, Saint Petersburg held elections for the governor and deputies to municipal councils. This election day is called the most scandalous in Russia, with splashes of zelyonka (bright green solution), stolen ballots, raids, bought votes, assaults at voting stations, box stuffing, pierced tires, fantastic home voting, and OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit). With a record low turnout, the ex-acting governor was finally put into office. The results of the municipal election haven’t been counted yet. Candidates had to guard ballots from election committees 24/7, while the election committees tried to quickly rewrite the protocols in favor of United Russia, who failed at this election.
Demonstration for ‘Release!’ of Political Prisoners
A demonstration for the ‘Release!’ of political prisoners took place in Sakharov avenue, Moscow. ‘White Counter’ reported about 25.200 participants. The demonstrators demanded the closing of the criminal case regarding money laundering by Anti-Corruption Foundation and to support ‘those who were persecuted for their civil and political activities’.
Rostov Case
The court of Rostov-on-Don sentenced 23-year-old Vladislav Mordasov and 20-year-old Yan Sidorov to 6.7 and 6.5 years of strict regimen, respectively. They were found guilty of attempting to organize ’civil unrest’. Sidorov and Mordasov were apprehended on November 5, 2017, near the Rostov regional Government building, where they demonstrated with ’Return land to fire victims’ and ’Dismiss Government’ banners.
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Anti-Corruption Foundation as a ‘Foreign Agent’
The Ministry of Justice put Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation on the list of non-profit organizations acting as ‘foreign agents’. The Ministry of Justice states that the Foundation received RUB 140,000 from Spain and the USA. Political activity + money from foreign sources = foreign agent status.
Renewed Human Rights Council
Putin appointed Valery Fadeev, former state TV host, as the new Chairman of Russia’s Human Rights Council. At the same time, the most contradictory members were forced to retire. Among them were political expert Ekaterina Shulman, Head of the Agora International Human Rights Group Pavel Chikov, Ilia Shablinsky, a professor in the Higher School of Economics, Evgeny Bobrov, the head of the Sunrise Human Rights Group, and the former Chairman of the Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov. Experts expect this institution to become another propaganda outlet.
Murder in Zabaikalsky Region
In the Zabaikalsky region, Ramil Shamsutdinov, a 20-year-old conscript, killed eight fellow soldiers. Both he and his father stated that the reason for the massacre was the bullying by other soldiers and officers, i.e. the humiliating treatment of juniors. During the inquiry, partly published by the Baza, Ramil said that the officers threatened to rape him after the guard duty was over. The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation denies his explanation. Shamsutdinov pleaded guilty and is awaiting a psychological examination.
Human Rights Movement Liquidation
The Supreme Court banned human right activist Lev Ponomarev’s movement For Human Rights. The Ministry of Justice believes that this human rights group violated the Constitution of the Russian Federation and a number of Russian laws, including the Law on Foreign Agents. Lev Ponomarev stated that the organization would continue working regardless of the court’s decision.
Kadyrov about 'Injuring Dignity' in the Internet
Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov demanded to punish Internet users who might ’injure someone’s dignity’ and ’ruin good relations between people, by spreading rumors around’. According to the translations by BBC and one of the Russian TV programmes, he called to ’kill, arrest and threaten’ such people. The leader of Chechnya emphasized that he was ready to persecute everyone injuring dignity even ’if it would violate all world’s laws’. The Kremlin refused to check Kadyrov’s speech.
Oleg Sokolov's Case in St. Petersburg
On November 9, Sokolv, Associate Professor at the History Department of SPbU, was found in Moika River with a backpack containing woman’s limbs. Later, Sokolov was found to have killed his 24-year-old student Anastasiia Eshchenko, who he had lived with and supposedly wanted to marry. The scholar’s colleagues said that the university knew about his affairs with female students but did not fire him the lack of official complaints. More than 90 thousand people signed the petition demanding to punish the executive staff of the university. Putin responded by extending the term of SPbU rector Kropychev’s office ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯.
Law on Recognition of Individuals as 'Foreign Agents'
After the second reading, the State Duma adopted the amendment allowing recognition of individuals as ’foreign agents’. To get this status, a person must 1) distribute ’foreign agent’ media content or take part in its creation; 2) receive money or property from abroad or from Russian legal units financed from foreign sources. In fact, the Ministry of Justice can declare any person a ’foreign agent’ only writing anything online and getting money from abroad. Human rights activists, artists and scientists have already called this document ’ridiculous from the legal point of view and obviously anti-constitutional’.
Law on Obligatory Installation of Russian Software
The State Duma passed a law prohibiting the sale of ’any kinds of technically complex goods’ (smartphones, computers and smart-TV) without Russian software. It means that all new gadgets should have a number of particular apps defined by the Government. For example, those will include ’State Services’ app, Yandex package and others managed by the State. The bill is said to come to the Parliament from the Presidential Administration and its aim is to provide a ’sovereign Internet’.
Lack of Medications against Cystic Fibrosis
Four thousand Russian patients suffering from cystic fibrosis found themselves without lifesaving medications. The ban of public procurement and import substitution policy led to most Russian hospitals buying cheaper equivalents of the expensive medicine. Producers from other countries found it unprofitable to sell certain medications in Russia and left the Russian market. The situation is the same with other drugs, for example, insulin. The Ministry of Health promises to find the solution and offers various options but cannot provide the most important thing — the high quality of foreign medications.
Domestic Violence Law
The Federation Council posted a draft of the bill regarding the prevention of domestic violence. It sounds rather strange, for example it states that beatings are not considered violence; it also only covers officially married couples with a common child. It will be the police who decide whether it is violence, or not. Regions will decide how to help victims on their own. The authors of the project called its final version ’a courtesy towards fundamentalists’. А wave of strikes occurred in the country.
German Nuclear Waste
At the end of January, Saint Petersburg welcomed Mikhail Dudin cargo vessel from Amsterdam. It brought 80 containers with nuclear waste, a by-product of natural uranium enrichment. The legislation prohibits the import of nuclear waste to Russia for its burial and deactivation. Thus, State Atomiс Energy Corporation Rosatom states that these ’nuclear tails’ are transferred from Gronau to Russia for treatment and enrichment. Experts have doubts about the relevance and feasibility of the corporation’s plans. Many Russian and European cities are flooded with protests against ’nuclear tails’ transportation. The parties to the deal deny the charge and talk about innovations and caring for the climate.
Multimillion Penalties against Internet Companies
Vladimir Putin signed the law providing for 2-6 million rouble penalties against Internet companies for repeated denial to give FSB the keys to encode users’ chats. If a legal unit denies transferring Russian users’ data to Russia, it may be obliged to pay from 1 to 18 million rubles. In April 2019, Twitter and Facebook each received a 3,000 roubles fine.
Minsk Protests against Russia-Belarus Union
The reason behind the protests involving over 100 people is the probable union of the two countries. The demonstrations took place during the meeting of Lukashenko and Putin in Sochi, where they discussed Russian-Belarus integration, including ‘road maps’ expected to be approved soon.
Russia Banned from International Sport
The World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from all international sports for four years, including the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Russian athletes can participate in the competitions if they prove to be ’clear’ and agree to perform under the neutral flag (for example, at the World Cup 2022 in Qatar). Besides, Russia will pay a USD 5 million fine, will not be able to host major championships or apply to do so, and Russian government officials will be prohibited from attend them.
Multimillion Penalties against 'Foreign Agent' Media
Vladimir Putin signed amendments to the Administrative Offences Code of the Russian Federation. They provide that a legal unit violating the permitted procedure for ’foreign agent’ media performance twice within one year gets a penalty up to RUB 5 million. To avoid violating the law, such published works should be indicated as written and (or) distributed by ’foreign agent’ media. According to the law on ’foreign agent’ individuals, all people may be concerned. Citizens accused of this violation may become subject to a fine up to RUB 1,000 or sentenced to 15 days of arrest.
Waste Incineration Law
After the second reading, the State Duma adopted the law providing that the incineration of waste at special plants is equal to disposal. It happened exactly at the same time that numerous Russian cities held protests against new cases of waste dumping and incineration plants. Greenpeace considers the adoption of these amendments as promoting the construction of expensive incineration plants and aetting back waste treatment in Russia.
Ruslan Shaveddinov Kidnapped
On December 23, the house of Ruslan Sheveddinov, a member of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, was searched. He was detained and taken for interrogation. On December 24, Shaveddinov was conscripted to serve at a military base in the Arctic. Nobody can contact him. The lawyers filed complaints against the illegality of the conscription, but Moscow Army Recruiting Office claims that everything is in order.
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Putin Had Not Stepped Down…
A miracle did not happen, Putin did not announce his retirement in his New Year’s appeal to the people. So sorry... But two weeks later in his appeal to the Federation Assembly he proposed a number of changes to the Russian Constitution: limit the supremacy of international law; exclude the clause limiting presidents to two consecutive terms; turn the Council of State into a constitutional body; grant the Federation Council the right to remove judges from the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, etc. А workgroup charged with turning the proposals into a State Duma bill included 75 people: author of multiple controversial Internet censorship bills senator Andrey Klishas, chief ataman of the Russian Federation Nikolay Doluda, athletes, musicians, astronauts, writers and only 11 lawyers. On January 15, 2020 the transition of power began in Russia (from Putin to Putin).
…But Medvedev Had Resigned
Two hours after Putin’s state-of-the-nation speech, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia’s entire ministerial cabinet will formally resign. In a public statement, he said the resignation was necessary to ‘provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all necessary decisions in these (Author’s note: adoption of amendments to the Constitution) conditions’. After dissolution of the Government, Medvedev was offered a non-existent position as the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council which is led by the President himself. The new Chairman of the Government has become the former head of the Federal Tax Service, Mikhail Mishustin.
‘Network’ Case Verdicts in Penza
On February 10, the military court in Penza handed down the sentences to seven anarchists and anti-fascist activists. FSB associate them with a group known as ‘Set’ (meaning Network), officially banned in Russia. Those men were found guilty and sentenced to 6-18 years in penal colonies. The prosecution relied solely on the admissions of guilt signed under tortures. At the trail, all the accused recanted their statements. The investigation provided no other evidence. It did not prevent the court from passing the verdict of guilty.
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First Conviction under Undesirable Organization Law
The court in Yekatirenburg sentenced Maxim Vernikov to 300 hours of community service. He was the editor of Ural.MBK Media publishing house and former moderator of Open Russia Civic Movement in the Sverdlovsk region. Following his membership in the Open Russia and his broadcast featuring Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he was found guilty under the Undesirable Organizations Law. He became the first person convicted under this law.
Facebook and Twitter First Fined for Storing Data outside Russia
The Moscow court fined Twitter and Facebook for they had refused transferring Russian user data to Russia. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media first demanded Twitter and Facebook to move Russian user data in 2018. Bureaucratic replies to the Service costed both companies three thousand roubles each. Following the new amendments in the Code of Administrative Offences, the same violation may now result in a fine of up to 6 million roubles. Thus, the Russian Government forces the enterprises to give it the access to the users’ private information.
Hague Court Orders Russia to Pay $50 Billion to YUKOS
The Permanent Court of Arbitration reinstates over $50 billion award for Yukos shareholders claiming that Moscow had expropriated the company’s assets. With the current exchange rate, it accounts to more than 3,000 billion roubles. The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation stated to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. This judgement may deliver no effect, though. It will depend on the expected amendments in the Constitution allowing the Government to ignore any decisions of international authorities.
March in Memory of Boris Nemtsov
On February 29, thousands gathered in Moscow to honour Boris Nemtsov. The demonstrators started at Strastnoy Boulevard and marched to Sakharov Avenue. Independent protest monitor White Counter reported 22.3 thousand people took part in the meeting, which was twice as much as previous year. 200 participants were stopped at metal detectors for they were ‘late’.
Came from China, the new coronavirus was first detected in Russia in Chinese citizens at the end of January. Russian patient zero was the man arrived from Milano late in February. By mid-April, the growth rate of the diseased surged to several thousands a day, while the total number of the infected amounted to tens of thousands. The spread of the virus across the world has resulted into boarders closed and air communication limited. Restrictive measures have been introduced throughout the country. Violation of these restrictions provides for civil and criminal penalties. At the same time, the Government refuses to declare the state of emergency.
Coronavirus chronicles History
OPEC and Russia (Dis)Agree
Early in March, Russia rejected OPEC’s suggestions to reduce oil production following the coronavirus -caused decreasing demand. It has led to a record for recent 11 years collapse in oil price. Prices for the rouble and Russian stock markets plunged down, too. Leonid Fedun, a co-owner of Russia's second-largest oil producer Lukoil, has estimated losses from Russian refusal of the deal between 100 and 150 million USD per day.
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Vladimir Putin decided that he wanted to stay President till he died. Therefore, Valentina Tereshkova, a deputy of the State Duma, suggested zeroing out Putin’s term limits. She passed an amendment to the Constitution allowing the current President (solely) to be nominated for this position again. Mr. Putin did not reject this proposal and received a standing ovation from the deputies. Thus, his fifth term turned into his first.
Federal Assembly and Regions Support Constitutional Amendments
On March 11, the State Duma approved Constitutional Amendments in the third reading. 383 deputies voted for the amendments, 0 was against, and 43 parliamentarians abstained. A couple of hours later, the Federal Assembly supported the amendments too. 160 members voted for the bill, one was against and three people abstained. The next day, 2/3 of the regional parliaments approved the amendments. Only 67 votes from the total 3980 were against.
Constitutional Court Recognizes Constitutional Amendments and Zeroing Out Putin’s Term Limits Legal
To consider the amendments, the Constitutional Court gathered for the emergency session on the weekend. Last time when such happened was in 2014, when the Constitutional Court discussed the annexation of the Crimea. The Court sat behind closed doors for two days and finally decided that zeroing out term limits did not contradict the Constitution. Sure!
We Only Have a Mask
With the pandemic spreading across Russia, doctors from numerous regions started to report on the lack of drugs and personal protective equipment (PPE) for dealing with coronavirus patients. There are no masks, uniform, shoe covers and gloves. Doctors are not provided with disposable surgical coats, which they must disinfect and use again. Some hospitals are not supplied with PPEs because they are not supposed to. Authorities claim that such hospitals only cures pneumonia, rather than COVID-19. Sooner or later, the doctors from such medical centers get infected with coronavirus. The independent trade union, charity and noncommercial organizations help health workers. Everyone does, but not the government.
Help Doctors History
Week Off, or Picnics During Quarantine
In his first coronavirus speech, Vladimir Putin declared a week from March 30 to April 5 to be non-work. He promised to remain the salary at the same level, although by means of employers. No other measures were taken, and people went for picnics. It caused a significant surge in coronavirus. Mr. Putin promised all kinds of goodies, but they turned out to be nothing. The vote on amendments was delayed for an indefinite period. It should have occurred on April 22.
Conscription Never Canceled
Mr. Putin signed the decree on spring conscription starting on April 1 despite the coronavirus. Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that the call-up was not delayed, but all the conscripts will be checked for COVID-19. Nobody speculated that the enlistment offices themselves might become a breeding ground for the virus. 135 thousand people will be delivered into army before July 15.
Anti-Extremism Strategy Amendments
Late in March, the Federal legal internet portal posted a draft presidential decree significantly changing the Strategy Against Extremism. To put it short, almost all political or civil protests may be considered ‘extremism’, while any non-governmental organization and union may be called ‘extremist’. At the same time, the principle given to the law enforcement authorities provides for the more citizens they punish and the more sources they ban, the better.
No Quarantine But Self-Isolation
In his second coronavirus speech, Vladimir Putin extended the period of non-work, so-called ‘self-isolation’ regime, until April 30. Employers still have to maintain the salaries at the same level. It has displeased and angered small and medium-sized enterprise owners. They suffer terrible losses because of the coronavirus and receive no governmental support. Many businesses have to shut down and fire employees. From the beginning of self-isolation, unemployment has rocketed by 45% in Moscow.
We Beat Pechenegs Once, We Beat Coronovirus Too
In his third speech either to the heads of regions, or to the citizens, Vladimir Putin remembered about the Cumans and Pechenegs, peoples attacking and invading Russia in the 11th-12th centuries. We have already beat them ones, we can beat the coronavirus, too. Mr. Putin enumerated the measures to support the citizens and business suffering from the extended vacation. They are not effective enough, though. The state of emergency was never introduced, the government refuses to make any commitments and help people. President acts like a helpless kitten.
History LOL
25 Thousand Russians Unable to Come Home
On the night of 3/4 April, Russia stopped all international passenger flights, including those returning Russian citizens captured by the pandemic abroad. At that time, 25 thousand Russians stayed in other countries. Within a couple of days the authorities resumed the evacuation. However, the emergency operations center approved an algorithm causing half-empty airliners and crowded foreign airports.
Riot in Angarsk Penal Colony
The riot in penal colony No.15 in the Irkutsk region was sparked after one of the convicts had been mauled. Human rights ombudsmen told that some prisoners slit their wrists. The Federal Penitentiary Service claimed that a guard was attacked, but the reinforcement took the situation under control. Next day, fire engulfed several buildings of the colony. Human rights activists and families of the prisoners say that they could hear shots and explosions, convicts asked for help. After the fire was extinguished, a dead person was found under the ruins. The Investigative Committee initiated cases concerning disorders in the colony.
Digital GULAG in Moscow
System of coronavirus lockdown passes was imposed in Moscow on April 15. Moscow citizens need a QR-pass to go outside or reach their offices. They can be checked by the police, the National Guard, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations. On the very first day, such checks caused crowds in metro and traffic jams. All methods to obtain the pass failed, the authorities canceled numerous codes, frauds appeared. Agora International Human Rights Group calls this system illegal because freedom of movement is ensured by the Constitution.
Protests in North Osetia
On April 20, more than 2,000 residents of Vladikavkaz gathered on Freedom Square to protest against self-isolation and injustice. The demonstrators called for the resignation of Viacheslav Bitarov, the Head of the Republic. He had demanded to shut down all enterprises of the city, but for Bavaria Beer Company owned by his family. People are left unemployed, unsupported by the government and unable to pay for the living. Law enforcement officers tried to kick the protesters away from the square. Some demonstrators responded with throwing stones. The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case concerning acts of violence against public officials.
Cyberprotest in Yandex.Navigator
On April 20, following Rostov-on-Don, users from numerous Russian regions started to use chat of Yandex.Navigator for online demonstrations. Indicating their location near town halls, they wrote messages criticizing the government and the self-isolation. Yandex rushed to delete such messages. Then, the company settled a minimum distance between location marks, prevented unauthorized users from using the chat, and banned the messages posted from fake location marks.
Konstantin Kotov Trial
In September 2019, Konstantin Kotov was sentenced to four years in colony under the case considering repeated violation of demonstration rules. He was the second person in Russia to be put in jail under ‘Dadin’s article’ (Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code). In April 2020, the Court of Moscow eased the term to one year and six months. MEMORIAL Human Rights Center recognize Kotov as a prisoner of conscience.
Another Rouble Fall
The exchange-value of rouble on the Moscow market dropped again following the falling of oil prices. It is the first time the dollar has exceeded 77 roubles, while the euro has risen over 83 roubles. Oil price decreased to new low and now it costs minus 38 dollars a barrel. The plunge in the prices has occurred despite OPEC+ member-states had agreed on reducing oil production by 9.7 million barrels a day. Analysts say that there is no room for oil storage as soon as no one needs it now. The future of the Russian economy is unclear.
Vedomosty Newspaper Sold
In March 2020, Vedomosty Newpaper owners decided to sell the newspaper to avoid bankruptcy. Next owners promised to retain the editing policy of the publishing house. However, Andrey Shmarov, the new Chief Editor, immediately introduced censorship (eg. he prohibited to publish Levada polls and criticize the zeroing out term limits for the President). The editorial staff issued statements strongly condemning Shmarov's actions, which undermined trust in the newspaper. The new owner of Vedomosty Newspaper is Federalpress that is reported to actively cooperate with authorities and particular governmental bodies. The editorial staff told that after the newspaper was sold it was closed ‘for a private party’.
Second World War Extension
Vladimir Putin postponed the anniversary of the End of World War II from September 2 to September 3. This is the Remembrance Day for the victims of the Beslan school attack. We have nothing else to add.
Moscow State University Administrative Reform
Late in April, Victor Sadovnichy, Rector in Moscow State University, announced a major administrative reform in the University. The existing 42 departments will be joint into larger administrative structures, which are higher schools (14-16). Chairpersons assigned by the rector will head the schools. Meanwhile, the importance of the deans elected by the teachers will decrease. Although Sadovnichy promises to retain departments' self-sufficiency, it will obviously lead to the reduced independence of the university vital for its performance.
Investigation against Police Ombudsman
The persecution of Vladimir Vorontsov, establisher of a social media community named Police Ombudsman, started with a check for a criminal case concerning coronavirus fake news, where he had been reported a witness. Later, he was accused of extorting 300 thousand rubles from a former police officer to avoid disclosure of his personal photos. Late in May, the court brought a criminal case against Vorontsov claiming that he distributed pornographic content illegally and extorted money (30 thousand by now). In July, they added two other accusations concerning insult of representative of authority (Article 319 of the Criminal Code). Investigation was initiated on 7 cases in total. The Police Ombudsman call them a revenge for his public activity.
New Police Powers
The Government introduced a bill to the State Duma extending powers of police officers. The new Law will let the police break into vehicles, fire at the unarmed during arrests, close off buildings upon the relevant decision of an executive authority, and cordon off mass gatherings. Moreover, the amendments include stipulation that police officers will not be punished for the actions performed while serving. Absolutely no punishment.
Putin Banned the Convicted under Dadin's Article from Election
Vladimir Putin signed the Law banning the previously convicted for some medium-gravity crimes from standing in elections within five years. Particularly, under Dadin's Article for repeated violation of protest holding procedure. The blacklist also involves Article 280, Part 2, of the Criminal Code (public incitement to extremist activities via the Internet and mass media). Egor Zhukov, named in the Moscow Case investigation, was sentenced under this very article. The Human Rights Council announced this ban unconstitutional.
Arkhangelsk Region and Nenets Autonomous Area Union
On May 13, the authorities of the Arkhangelsk Region and the Nenets Autonomous Area signed memorandum on the expected union of the regions and thereby started the procedure. The relative referendum on the union could have been hold on the single voting day (September 13), but the regions saw mass protests. Even some representatives of the United Russia stood against and the referendum was delayed.
Election Law Amendments
Using the coronavirus pandemic as a cover, since the early May the State Duma has adopted a couple of laws concerning voting procedure. First, the Central Electoral Commission was entitled to introduce e-mail and online voting for any election. It is disappointing as soon as e-mail voting is unlikely to be anonymous and the voters can be easily bribed. Plus, it isn't that hard to break into a computer and change the results. Furthermore, the State Services website will allow collecting signatures for a candidate run in local elections (only). However, it will be only possible if the parliament of a subordinate entity of the Federation approves and it will represent up to 50% of the required number.
Unified Database on All Russians
The State Duma adopted the Law for development of a unified federal information registry containing data on Russians. It will include full name, date and place of birth and death, Insurance Number of Individual Ledger Account, TIN, and other information about the citizens of the country. Marital status and family ties can be added and changed. Each person will be given an ID. Security services will obtain full access to the base.
Freedom for Vladimir Vorontsov
On May 26, activist Victor Nemytov and journalist Ilya Azar were arrested near the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Both of them were one-person picket protesters supporting Vladimir Vorontsov, the establisher of the social media community Police Ombudsmen. On May 28, the court sentenced Azar to 15 days in prison. At that moment, Moscow and St. Petersburg saw solidarity protests, but their participants were soon arrested. Among them were Sergey Smirnov, Chief Editor of Mediazona, Tatyana Felgengauer and Alexander Plyushchev, Echo of Moscow journalists, and others.
Putin Sets the Amendments to Constitution Voting Date for July 1
Vladimir Putin set the voting date for the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation for July 1, Wednesday. This day is announced a day-off and the authorities allowed to vote within six days before the voting date, that is on June 25-30. All participants of the voting and mass media representatives will be provided with safety masks, gloves, and disposable pens. Russians can also vote from home, while the citizens of Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod can do so via the Internet.
Accident at Norilsk CHP Plants
On May 29, an accident took place at Plant 3 belonging to the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company. Depressurization of the reservoir led to 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into the rivers and the ground. At the accident scene, experts registered that the permissible concentration exceeded by tens of thousands times. Oil products filled almost all tributaries of the river. The authorities responded two day later, only after post in social media emerged. Specialists estimated the damage at 148 billion rubles. Greenpeace called the accident one of the most severe in the history of the Arctic Region.
Unified Genetic Database on All Russians
Vladimir Putin ordered to develop Russian National Genetic Database. Its operation will be funded from the federal budget. Moreover, Rosneft Company will act as a partner of the program for establishing three genomic research centers in Russia. One of the project will be supervised by Maria Vorontsova. She is rumored to be Putin's elder daughter.
Yulia Tsvetkova Case
Yulia Tsvetkova, an LGBT activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, was accused of distribution of pornographic content on the Internet. She posted an image of vagina in social media community called Vagina's Monologues, which addressed the issue of female body stigmatization. According to the Criminal Code, the punishment shall be two to six years' imprisonment.
Telegram Unblocked
On June 18, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media unblocked Telegram App in Russia. The Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation approved this decision. The reason was that the app would be always accessible and civil servants employed it as their main information online resource. Besides, the Ministry of Communications reported that the Telegram team collaborated with them to fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.
‘Network’ Case Verdicts in St. Petersburg
Military court No. 2 of the western district in St. Petersburg sentenced 25-year-old software developer Victor Filinkov and 28-year-old industrial climber Yuly Boiarshinov to 7 and 5,5 years respectively in standard regime penal colony. Both of them were named in the 'Network' Case investigation. They were found guilty of participation in a terrorist association. Boiarshinov was also convicted of illicit possession of explosives.
Protest against ‘Network’ Case Verdicts
After sentencing the people involved in the 'Network' Case in St. Petersburg, one-person picket protests emerged near FSB building in Moscow. The police immediately arrested some of the protesters. Journalists reported that over 130 people were delivered to police stations in Moscow. Approximately 30 people were arrested near the court house in St. Petersburg.
Victory Day Parade
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Vladimir Putin decided to carry out the 75th Anniversary of the End of Second World War on June 24. It was one week before the voting day for the amendments to the Constitution. 14 thousand military men participated without earing any protective equipment. Although guests were seated apart to keep distance, they soon sat side by side and many took their masks off. The President greeted high-level guests with handshake. He didn't wear gloves, though. He watched the parade sitting side by side with the veterans who had been quarantined for two weeks. Thousands watched the military hardware in the streets of Moscow. The same happened in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities that couldn't cancel this insanity.
'Seventh Studio' Case Verdict
On June 26, the court of Meshchansky district, Moscow, announced the 'Seventh Studio' sentences to Sophia Apfelbaum, Alexey Malobrodsky, Yury Itin, and Kirill Serebrennikov. They were accused of theft of public funds allocated for the Platform project. They didn't admit their guilt. Serebrennikov, Itin, and Malobrodsky were put on probation, while Apfelbaum was fined but it was later lifted because the statute of limitation had expired.
Dmitriev's Case
Yury Dmitriev, a historian, researcher of Stalin's terror and the Karelian Memorial, was accused of sexual assault on his minor adopted daughter. The prosecution's case consists of the talks to grandmother, psychologist, and the girl herself. Dmitriev's advocate states that the psychologist is linked to the prosecutor and influences the kid. The prosecution demanded 15 years' imprisonment for the historian. Earlier, in 2017, Dmitriev was accused of child pornographic material production, but in 2018 he was declared not guilty.

On July 1, Russia's constitutional vote ended up. The Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation reported that 77.92% of the voters supported the changes to the main law of the country. 21.27% voted against. Voter turnout was 67.97%. In Chechnya, Tuva, and Crimea, 90% of the voters agreed with the amendments. Thus, they showed the greatest support. The only protesting region was the Nenets Autonomous Area, where more than 50% of voters disagreed with the changes. Experts analyzing the statistics report that this all-Russian voting had been the most fraudulent since 2000. Almost 40% of the votes were stuffed.
After the arrest of governor Sergey Furgal (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) on July 11, protests in Khabarovsk have become an everyday routine. Being a spoiler, he won over a candidate from the United Russia in gubernatorial elections in September 2018. When Furgal became the governor, he prohibited the civil servants from flying business class, sold governmental yacht, cut his salary down from 1.4 million to 400 thousand rubles, reduced the number of civil officials and inappropriate expenses, returned voting procedure for the heads of municipal districts, introduced discounted airfare, provided free food in schools, etc. On July 9, Furgal was arrested regarding a 15-year-old case under the articles concerning organized murders. The trial was closed to the public. The spontaneous rally on July 11 gathered from 10 to 40 thousand people supporting their governor.
SAY NO to All-Time Putin!
On July 15, in Moscow and St. Petersburg activists collected signatures to cancel the results of the constitutional voting. In St. Petersburg the line of people wishing to sign the claim was 600 m long. Total 3,000 and 2,000 signatures were obtained in St. Petersburg and Moscow respectively. The meeting was peaceful in St. Petersburg, while in Moscow Special Police Force detained many participants of the following spontaneous walk. OVD-Info reported about 103 arrested people.
Ivan Safronov Case
On July 7, the police arrested Ivan Safronov. He is the adviser of the CEO of Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, as well as a war industry journalist in The Kommersant, The Vedomosty, and other newspapers. The Federal Security Service states that in 2017 the Check Republic recruited the journalist who should provide them with confidential information. Many Safronov's colleagues and human rights activists supported the writer and demanded that the trial should be public. Nevertheless, the case is still considered an official secret and held in closed sessions.
Anti-Corruption Foundation Shut Down
Alexey Navalny announced the shut-down of the Anti-Corruption Foundation established in 2011. This decision was forced by the 29 million fine that the Anti-Corruption Foundation must pay to Yevgeny Prigozhin's Moscow Pupil company following the respective court order. The Foundation does not have enough money for that. Instead of the shut down Anti-Corruption Foundation Navalny is going to build up another organization.
Three-Day Vote in September
On July 24, the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation approved the three-day voting procedure. The main voting day will be September 13, while September 11-12 will be the period for early voting. A couple of days after Vladimir Putin signed the law allowing to hold such three-day votes in future.
Wagner PMC Captured in Belarus
Belarusian law enforcement captured soldiers belonging to ChVK Wagner, a PMC group associated with 'Putin's Chef' Yevgeny Prigozhin. Belarus initiated proceedings against them accusing of planned terrorist attacks. In August, 32 soldiers of 33 returned to Russia. It was 'a goodwill gesture regarding the bilateral cooperation and friendship instruments'.
Yulia Galyamina Case
The Investigative Committee brought a criminal case against Moscow Municipal Deputy Yulia Galyamina under Dadin's Article. She is accused of repeated violation of the settled procedure for organizing protests. The case is based on the fines for joining protests in summer 2019, one-person picket protest supporting Ilya Azar, and the protests against the results of the constitutional voting in July 2020. Galyamina called the criminal case 'politically driven'.
Baikal Deforestation
It is a story about how Putin promised to save Russia's natural resources and soon allowed clear-cutting to build railways. The signed law permits to cut forests while constructing or repairing the facilities of the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian Railways. Russian Railways claimed hat they would only cut down small forest areas along the existing railroads. They also promised to plant five young trees instead of one cut. Numerous environmental groups have spoken against such plans of Russian Railways. They are worried with the canceled state environment impact assessment and public hearing. Environmental experts state that nothing will stop Russian Railways from building fuel oil storages on the shore of Baikal if they want to. WWF Russia office said that the law is a threat for specially protected nature areas and the habitats for rare species, including ones listed in the Red Book.
'New Greatness' Case Verdicts
After almost six months of hearing, Moscow’s Lublinsky Court announced the verdict in the 'New Greatness' case. All seven defendants were found guilty of organizing an extremist group plotting to overthrow Russia’s constitutional order. The prosecution was only based on the evidence provided by an intelligencer or a part-time officer Ruslan D. Three defendants received prison terms: from 6.5 to 7 years in colonies. The other four were sentenced to 4-6 years probation. None of them pleaded guilty. Some of them told that they had been tortured and beaten by the officers of internal affairs agencies.
On August 9, Belarus was voting for a new president. After the polling stations were closed, protests broke out all around the country. People stood up against the frauds. The whole nation believed that it was Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who was elected the new president of Belarus. The protesters were met with tear gas, sound bombs, and plastic bullets. They were arrested, beaten, and tortured by the officers. The Committee for State Security forced Tikhanovskaya to leave the country. Remaining in exile, she initiated the establishment of a Coordinating Council for the transfer of power. Now three members of its executive office are arrested, two are kicked away from Belarus, Svetlana Alexievich, a Nobel Laureate, has been called in for an interview. Maria Kolesnikova was kidnapped in Minsk on September 7. After the authorities failed to banish her to Ukraine (she tore her passport in the airport), she was put into detention facility No.1. She was accused of attempting to stage a coup d'eta. MEPs refused to recognize Alexander Lukashenko as the newly elected president. Now he is considered persona non grata in the EU. President Putin congratulated him on his victory.
Protests in Kushtau
In June 2020, Bashkir Soda Company (BSC) took a plot on Kushtau mountain on lease from the Bashkir Ministry of Forestry to run exploration. In August, active deforestation started there, even though local activists stood against it. During two weeks a number of conflicts occurred between the protectors of Kushtau, the police, private security companies, and gangsters. Tens of protesters were arrested, but the citizens won. Kushtau monadnock was recognized a natural monument.
On August 20, Alexey Navalny was found unconscious and taken into hospital in Omsk with poisoning symptoms. After emergency landing he was immediately driven from the airport. Now he is in a coma and on a ventilator. Doctors did not diagnose him for two days and refused to transport him to Germany. On August 22, in the morning, a plane with Alexey on board took off to Berlin's Charité hospital. Within another two days doctors confirmed the initial diagnosis -- he was tested positive for cholinesterase inhibitors. On September 2, the government of Germany reported that Alexey Navalny had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, which was included in the list of prohibited chemicals in 2019. After 5 days, Navalny was pulled out of the induced coma. The Investigative Committee is still refusing to initiate criminal proceedings regarding the attempted murder of the opposition activist. It's no wonder, given that the primary suspect in this case sits in Kremlin.
Pre-Election Searches
Four days before the election, security officials got activists' apartments searched in a number of regions. The checked were members of the United Democrats Project, the Moscow office of the Open Russia, and the editorial office of MBKh Media. Investigation actions were carried out in the frame of the YUKOS case, though it was an obvious attempt to frustrate the work of the headquarters just before the voting day. During these searches the police stole the precious time of the candidates, their laptops, smart phones, and money. Activists estimated the damage from the security officials at 1,040,000 rubles.
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