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October
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 the 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, and 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 disagreement with the Charter of the United Nations.
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July
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 functionality of FSB will supersede the Constitution and they will exist by their own code.
See statistics
February
Police Reform
On February 7, 2011, a new Federal Law on Police came into effect. The Government of the Russian Federation decided that relabeling ‘militia’ (former Russian name for police force) to ‘police’ would improve 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 rename ‘militia’ to ‘police’.
November
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 free healthcare system.
December
STATE DUMA ELECTION


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 procedure 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.
BOLOTNAYA SQUARE PROTESTS
December 10, Moscow, Bolotnaya Square held a demonstration against the disputed election to the State Duma. It attracted 100,000 people becoming the greatest in Putin’s Russia. The protesters stepped out to show their dissatisfaction with the fraud and violations reported during the elections to the State Duma. 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.
History
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February
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, 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.
March
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION


The election process was full of violations, such as obstacles for candidates nomination and registration, ballot box stuffing in favor of Putin in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The reported violations caused mass protests and demonstrations.The election process was full of violations, such as obstacles for candidates nomination and registration, ballot box stuffing in favor of Putin in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The reported violations caused mass protests and demonstrations.
May
MARCH OF THE MILLIONS
On May 6, 2012, 50,000 people took to the streets in Moscow in ‘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.
History
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.
June
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 common issue as a mass protest.
History
Law on Election of Heads of Regions
Implemented in April 2012, the new law brings direct elections of heads of regions back. 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.
July
Defamation Law
Signed on July 30, 2012, by President Putin, the new law provides 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
November
Foreign Agents Law
Passed in November 2012, the law prohibits non-profit organizations to receive 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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June
LGBT Propaganda Law
In 2013, the State Duma passed a law pr 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. Largely 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 before. Although, it was part of the Administrative Code and charged with administrative penalties. Now this administrative offence has turned into a crime. The Article itself gives no definition to such a ‘religious feelings offence’, which leads to prosecution for anything.
History
August
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.
December
MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY’S RELEASE
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, 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 soon as nobody defined the term ‘extremist activity’, the law became convenient to fight against opposition.
See statistics
February
Sochi Olympics
Sochi hosted the Winter Olympics 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 total 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 more liberal population living in big cities. Another crucial element is the change of the election month from December to September. It cuts down the duration and the efficiency of election campaigns run by opposition parties because of the summer period.
March
CRIMEA IS OURS!
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 and leading to the overthrow of the Government in Sevostopol. A short period after, Crimea saw 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.
History
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 Ukrain. The West’s sanctions included visa restrictions on a number of officials, and 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 the fall in oil prices and the plunge in the exchange rate of the Russian rouble against the dollar and the euro.
History
May
Arrest of Oleg Sentsov
In May 2014, FSB (Federal Security Service) arrested the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov claiming that Sentsov 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 political environment in Crimea and influence the 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 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.
History
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 the citizens’ private information.
History
July
ECHR Awards Yukos EUR 1.86 Billion
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg ordered the payment of EUR 1.86 billion in compensation upon the Yukos complaint against Russian tax authorities. Later, Russian Constitutional Court came to the conclusion that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights on 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.
History
August
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 use in production and the overall financial crisis in the country.
History
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January
Arrest of Ildar Dadin
In January 2015, Ildar Dadin, an opposition civic activist, was arrested and charged with of 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 of pickets and events organized by the opposition. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison. Amnesty International recognized Dadin as a ‘prisoner of conscience’.
History
February
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 with in the head, stomach, liver and heart. The assassin fled the scene in a white car. Anzor and Shadid Gubashevs, Zaur Dudaev, Khamzat Bakhaev, Temrlan Eskerkhanov were arrested on a charge of murder. The contractor has not been found yet.
Other political assassinations
May
Undesirable Organizations Law
This law stipulates that any foreign or international organization declared ‘undesirable’ may be prohibited to work 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
July
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.
History
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.
History
September
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 contracting with other global powers. The achievement of this goal cost Russia billions of dollars and dozens of lives of its soldiers.
History
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July
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.
History
September
STATE DUMA DEPUTY ELECTIONS


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 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 absolute majority.
History
October
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 into a solitary confinement. Ildar responded with a hunger strike. To make him cancel 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 with rape. After this incident, he was transferred to a colony in Altay Region.
History
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February
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 says 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.
July
Renovation
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 citizen knew nothing about the order of rehousing and was 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.
November
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 agreed 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.
History
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.
History
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March
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
On March 18, 2018, 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 eldest 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.
April
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 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.
History
May
Fines for Sanctioned Products
In May 2018, the State Duma introduced a bill on 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 with 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.
History
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, poverty rate shall be twice lower 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.
History
July
Tortues 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 proceeded 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. The documents, received by an investigation center from various sources, stated that the journalists were tracked from the moment they arrived in CAR. 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.
August
Out-of-court Websites Shutdown
Ministry of Communications suggested to extend the Law on Information, adding a list of reasons for shut-down of 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.
History
September
Retirement Age Reform
On September 27, 2018, the State Duma enacted the law on an increase of the retirement age in Russia from 2019. The so-called Retirement Reform provides that the retirement age for women will rise from 55 to 66 and from 60 to 65 for men. The aim of the reform was to increase monthly pensions by RUB 1,000 annually through diverting money of the Pension Fund. The reform will enhance unemployment rate among young people and guarantee the fall of GDP. The prospects on the influence of the reform on the poverty rate among senior citizens are pessimistic. In 2018, 4.2% of the senior were below poverty line, by 2028, there will have been 7.3% of them.
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 did not only made them dance naked, but also used other methods, such as electrocution, suffocation with a plastic bag, staying naked outside in winter and being pissed on. 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.
History
Election in Primorye
The election of the governor in Primorye region is said to be the weirdest election in 2018. The first round did not bring out the 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 Communist Party. On September 16, 95% of the vote counting protocols evidenced that the Communist was 6% ahead from his opponent. After 97.87% of the protocols were examined, the Communist candidate remained the leader, but with a 3.3% advantage. Upon counting 99.1% of the protocols, United Russia candidate shot ahead with a 1.49% breakdown. The results were changing by the minute, and everyone could only talk about a communist winning (oh, now loosing) 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 to annul the September results. The rerun of the election let ‘unaffiliated candidate’ Oleg Kozhemyako win. Well, was it a win...
October
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.
December
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 of the explosion had not been announced.
See statistics
January
Anastasia Shevchenko Arrest
Anastasia Shevchenko, an activist of 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 upbringing three under-age children. Eldest daughter suffered from a sever disease and died during her mother’s house arrest.
History
VAT and Prices Increase
On January 1, a new decree of the Government was enacted. It provided that VAT would raise, with a 20% rate of value added tax instead of 18%. The increase in VAT rate will bring the Federal Budged average ₽620 billion of extra profit annually. The money will finance the national projects specified in the Presidential May 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.
History
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 for media, 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.
February
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 in 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.
History
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.
History
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 leapt tariffs and call 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 Black Heart.
History
March
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. Shortly, the new law places limits on freedom and increases the chances to go to jail for a like or a share.
History
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 missed 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 accompanied by failures of Internet performance. Part of the demonstrators stayed at the square overnight, where Rosgvardiya (National Guard of Russia) tried to break them up three times.
History
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 colony. On June 21, 2019, he won a parole.
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April
First Fine for Disrespecting Government
The first person to be fined for disrespecting the Power was
34-year-old citizen on Novgorod region Yuri Kartyzhev. 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 mems criticizing the power.
History
May
Law on Autonomous Internet
On November 1, 2019, a Law on autonomous Internet, introduced by Andrey Klishas, will be enacted. 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 moving to another city and began putting 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 into 26 people arrested and 3 participants injured and sent to the hospital. The authorities of Ekaterinburg abandoned the idea of building a church.
Sukhoi Superjet-100 Tragedy
Burning Sukhoi Superjet-100 intended to fly from Moscow to Murmansk made an emergency landing in Sheremetyevo airport. 41 people died in the accident. 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, it was seen as a symbol of Russian aviation industry revival. However, SSJ-100 hasn’t become commercially successful yet, because it has proved to be defective from technical point of view. Within recent 8 years, it has got into minor accidents at least 25 times.
June
Shiyes Protests
The June 2 demonstration against the construction of a landfill for Moscow waste near Shiyes station was the largest within last 10 years in Syktyvkar. Different reports count the number of participants from 5 to 8 thousand people. Since July 26, 2018, the border between Komi Republic and Arkhangelsk region is a construction site of the European biggest landfill for Moscow waste. The population of the regions protest against the project, which hadn’t been approved by them, local authorities and experts. The response is brutality, arrests, fines and criminal cases.
History
Ivan Golunov Case
On June 6, Ivan Golunov, a journalist of an opposition media Meduza, was arrested over a try 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, 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.
July
#siberiaonfire
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 subjects (regions) of the Russian Federation. The coverage of the forest fires in Siberia in 2019 is record vast regarding last years. Millions of tons of CO2 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 registration for the election to the Moscow Sate Duma. Among them were Lyubov Sobol, Ilia Yashin, Dmitry Gudkov, Alexander Soloviev, Yulia Galyamina and other opposition politicians. Almost all of them were refused for they exceeded the maximum allowable share of invalid voters’ signatures (10%). Neither independent handwriting expertise, nor voters’ applications managed to convince the election committee. It was when Lyubov Sobol announced hunger strike, and Moscow saw demonstrations calling for the registration of the candidates.
July-August
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 disorders.
History
Moscow Case
It is the name for the case regarding ‘civil disorders’ 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 ‘disorders’ 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.
History
August
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 are regularly subject to house-checks, while the members, volunteers’ and random activists’ accounts are blocked.
September
Election in Saint Petersburg
On September 8, Saint Petersburg held elections of the governor and the 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, OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit). With a record low turnout, the ex-acting governor was finally put into the 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 failed at this election.
Demonstration for ‘Release!’ of Political Prisoners
In Sakharov avenue, Moscow, happened a demonstration for the ‘Release!’ of political prisoners. ‘White Counter’ reported about 25.2 thousand participants. The demonstrators demanded to close the criminal case regarding money laundering by Anti-Corruption Foundation and to support ‘those who were persecuted for their civil and political activities’.
History
October
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.
Read more
Anti-Corruption Foundation as a ‘Foreign Agent’
Ministry of Justice put Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation in the list of non-profit organizations acting as ‘foreign agents’. 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.
History
Renewed Human Rights Council
Putin appointed Valery Fadeev, former state TV host, the new Chairman of Russia’s Human Rights Council. At the same time, the most contradictory members forced to retired. Among them were politic 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.
History
Murder in Zabaikalsky Region
In 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. humiliating treatment of juniors. During the inquiry, partly published by the Baza, Ramil said that the officers threatened to turn him out (to rape) after the guard duty was over. Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation denies his explanation. Shamsutdinov pleaded guilty and is awaiting for a psychological expertise.
November
Human Rights Movement Liquidation
The Supreme Court banned human right activist Lev Ponomarev’s movement For Human Rights. 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.
History
Kadyrov about 'Injuring Dignity' in the Internet
Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov demanded to punish Internet users who might ’injury someone’s dignity’ and ’ruin good relations between people, rumoring around’. According to the translations by BBC and one of 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’. Kremlin refused to check this Kadyrov’s speech.
History
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 kill his 24-year-old student Anastasiia Eshchenko, who he had lived with and supposedly wanted to marry. The scholar’s colleagues told that the university knew about his affairs with female students but did not fire him for the lack of official complaints. More than 90 thousand people signed the petition demanding to punish the executive staff of the university. Putin responded with 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 to recognize 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 for the fact that they write anything in the Internet and get 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’.
History
Law on Obligatory Installation of Russian Software
The State Duma passed a law prohibiting to sell ’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 ’sovereign Internet’.
History
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. 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.
History
Domestic Violence Law
The Federation Council posted a draft of the bill regarding 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 either 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.
History
German Nuclear Waste
At the end of January, Saint Petersburg welcomed Mikhail Dudin cargo vessel from Amsterdam. It brought 80 containers with nuclear waste, i.e. 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 of the deal deny the charge and talks about innovations and caring for climate.
December
Multimillion Penalties against Internet Companies
Vladimir Putin signed the law providing for 2-6 million ruble 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 rubles.
History
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 sport for four years, including the Olympic Games and World Cup championship. Russian sportsmen 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, while Russian government officials will be prohibited to 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 the contravention, 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.
History
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 happens exactly at the same time with numerous Russian cities hold protests against new cases of waste dumping and incineration plants. Greenpeace considers the adoption of amendments to promote construction of expensive incineration plants and puts significant brakes on waste treatment in Russia.
History
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.
History
What's next
January
Putin Had Not Stepped Down…
A miracle did not happen, Putin did not announce his retirement in 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 has 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 an inexistent 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.
History
January
Something is coming…
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