Russia, with its vast land mass from the Baltic
to the Pacific, is the world's largest country, but it
is no longer a superpower. During the 1990s, a somewhat
painful and chaotic transition from communist
dictatorship to market economy and a freer social system
was underway. Most of the country's more than 140
million people received a higher standard of living,
even though large gaps existed. Under Vladimir Putin's
rule from 2000 onwards, a return has been made to a more
authoritarian regime with reduced room for opposition.
Brief profiles of Russia, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Russia (Russian Federation) is the world's
largest country and spans eleven time zones from the
Baltic to the Pacific. In the north, the country is
bounded by the Arctic Ocean and in the south Russia has
a coast on the Black Sea from the Kertj
Strait on the border with Ukraine to the border on
Georgia. Also on the Caspian Sea is a Russian coastal
strip between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. The Kaliningrad
region (formerly Königsberg) between Poland and
Lithuania on the southern Baltic Sea coast belongs to
Russia since 1945.
The Ural Mountains, which form an approximately 300
km long chain from north to south, are counted on
tradition as the boundary between the European and Asian
parts. In the northwest, Russia is geologically linked
to the Nordic countries through the Kola Peninsula and
Karelia, while the majority of European Russia is
occupied by the Eastern European lowlands. To the east
of the Ural Mountains takes the flat West Siberian
plain, which extends to the river Jenisej. Between the
Jenisej and Lena rivers lies the Central Siberian
Plateau. To the east, the landscape rises to the eastern
Siberian highlands. On the Kamchatka Peninsula at the
far east there are active volcanoes.
Between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the
southwest extends the mighty mountain range of the
Caucasus, whose northern part belongs to Russia. There
is Europe's highest mountain Elbrus.
Several large rivers flow from south to north and
flow into the Arctic Ocean, for example the European
Onega and Petjora and the Asian Ob, Jenisej, Lena and
Kolyma. Amur, which is a long stretch of the border with
China, flows into the Pacific. Europe's largest river,
Volga, flows into the Caspian Sea, while Don flows into
the Black Sea. Neva opens in the Baltic Sea. The
remarkable Lake Baikal in the southeast is Eurasia's
largest freshwater lake and the world's deepest lake.
In Siberia, south of the Arctic tundra of the Arctic
coast, a very coniferous forest area, the Taiga, is
spreading. In the east, the thaw also occupies areas
where the shark never leaves the soil (permafrost); the
trees therefore become small and grow very slowly.
Agriculture is found in the southernmost part of the
taiga belt. The steppe and forest steppe belt, which
runs south of the shark, is largely cultivated. There
are fertile soils, but the climate is unstable with
recurring dry periods.
In most of Russia there is a cold-tempered
continental climate with large temperature differences
between summer and winter. In the southwest, the climate
is warm or subtropical. The Arctic coast in the north
has a polar climate, while the Kola Peninsula, which is
close to the Gulf Stream, has a mild climate in relation
to the situation. In eastern Siberia, winters are dry
and very cold with temperatures of between 20 and 50
17 075 000 km2 (2018)
Swedish + 1-11 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland,
Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan,
China, Mongolia and North Korea
Capital with number of inhabitants
Moscow 10 224 000 (2008) 1
Other major cities
St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) 4 116,000,
Novosibirisk 1 425 500, Nizhny Novgorod (formerly Gorky)
1 311 000, Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk) 1 293
500, Samara (formerly Kujbyshev) 1 157 900, Omsk
1,134,000, Chelyabinsk 1 077 000, Kazan 1 105 300,
Rostov-on-Don 1 068 300 (2002) 2
Elbrus (5624 m), Dychtau (5024 m), Kljutjevskaya
sopka (4750 m), Belucha (4056 m)
Lena, Volga, Ob, Jenisej, Amur
The US expels Russians
Relations with the United States reach a new bottom level when Washington
expels 35 people suspected of being Russian agents at the Washington Embassy and
the Los Angeles Consulate, respectively. The expulsions are a reaction to data
from the US intelligence service that say that Russian hackers affected the
outcome of the election in the United States. Furthermore, the US authorities
are closing two Russian facilities, one in New York and one in Maryland. Moscow
initially responds angrily and promises revenge, but the day after, President
Putin says that Russia does not plan any retaliation for the moment without
waiting to see what happens after Donald Trump's entry.
Putin and Trump want to get more nuclear weapons
In a speech about the Russian military's efforts in 2016, Putin says it is
important to equip the country's nuclear weapons. According to Putin, Russia
will acquire missiles that can penetrate the existing and future missile defense
systems of foreign powers. US President Donald Trump replies with a twitter
message saying that the United States must greatly expand its nuclear arsenal
until "the world comes to mind when it comes to nuclear weapons".
Ambassador murdered in Turkey
Russia's ambassador to Turkey is shot to death at a speech at an exhibition
in Ankara. The perpetrator is a young policeman who is currently a civilian.
Before he fires his weapon he shouts: Don't forget Aleppo! The assassination
occurs at a sensitive time when Russia-Turkey relations have begun to improve
after a previous conflict (see November 2015). Both sides are
eager to hold on to the approach and say that the connections will not be
adversely affected by what has happened.
The arrest of Kasparov is criticized
13th of December
The European Court of Human Rights condemns Russia for arresting former World
Champion of chess, Gerry Kasparov, in 2007. Gasparov was taken by police while
on his way to a demonstration. He was accused of marching without permission and
was sentenced to five days in jail. It was the second time in two months that
the court raised a case concerning Kasparov. On October 11, the European Court
criticized the arrest of Kasparov at another demonstration in 2007. Kasparov,
who for some time became politically involved with the Russian government, now
lives in the United States.
Navalnyj candidate in the presidential election
13th of December
Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj announces his intention to run for office
in the 2018 presidential election. President Putin is expected to stand for
re-election but has not yet announced his candidacy.
"Russian hackers affected the US election"
The US intelligence service announces that Russia has influenced the US
election to Donald Trump's favor. Russian hackers allegedly infringed on the
Democrats and produced emails from Hillary Clinton that were passed on to the
Wikileaks site that published them. Russian hackers should also have released
internal material from a cyber attack against the Democrats to journalists and
bloggers in Florida. This material was disseminated and used in political
campaigns in crucial battles over congressional seats.
Security manager corruption accused
A general and head of the security services organization in the North
Caucasus is arrested. According to the Russian news service Interfax, the
general is accused of receiving many millions of dollars in bribes. The money
must have come from construction companies that were offered protection in
conjunction with receiving government contracts.
Swing strap budget adopted
Duman adopts a budget for 2017 that includes austerity in a wide range of
areas. Expenditure should be reduced by six percent overall. The military is
also suffering from cuts, though not as extensive as other sectors. Before
finalizing the budget, it must be adopted by the duma two more times. Then it
goes on to the Federation Council and is finally signed by President Putin.
Grim growth figures
Statistics Sweden reports that growth for the third quarter of 2016 will be
0.4 percent lower than growth for the same period in 2015. Thus, the economy has
grown 0.7 percent on average during January to September 2016 compared to
January to September 2015.
New trial awaits Navalnyj
The Supreme Court cancels the judgment against opposition politician Aleksej
Navalnyj which the European Court criticized in February, and orders that the
case be re-admitted.
Minister surprisingly arrested for corruption
Minister of Economy Aleksey Uljukaev is accused of receiving a bribe of more
than two million US dollars by the oil company Rosneft. In exchange, Uljukaev
must have given a clear sign for Rosneft's takeover of the majority stake in
another Russian oil company - Bashneft. Ulukajev is the first minister to be
charged with a crime since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The event
has sparked rumors of a power struggle between the liberals within the
government, to which Ulukajev was counted, and siloviki, the more arduous circle
of the elite consisting of former military and members of the the country's
Ulukajev is replaced by 34-year-old Maxim Oreshkin, who has a background in the
banking world and who has been Deputy Finance Minister since 2015. Oreshkin is
now tasked with reforming Russia's economy which has been in decline for two
years as a result of lower oil prices and world sanctions.
Russia leaves ICC
Russia is withdrawing its signing of the Treaty of Rome, which forms the
basis of the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Russian
Foreign Ministry states in a statement that the reason is that the court never
lived up to the hopes that existed at its founding and that its work was
unilateral and ineffective. Moscow refers to dissatisfaction with the Court's
investigation into Russia's actions during the short war with Georgia in 2008.
According to Moscow, the Court has ignored the aggression that Georgia then
targeted civilians in the South Ossetian outbreak region supported by Russia.
US sanctions against Crimean politicians
The US faces sanctions against six Crimean politicians elected to the Russian
parliament. They are financially punished for actively participating in Russia's
illegal annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Russia loses UN elections
Russia must not retain its place in the UN Human Rights Council. Hungary and
Croatia both receive more votes than Russia in the choice of two eastern
Russian long-range robots to the Baltic Sea
Izvestija newspaper reports that two Russian warships equipped with
long-range nuclear weapons capabilities have arrived as reinforcements to the
Austrian fleet. The Swedish Armed Forces confirm that the vessels have passed
through the Sound. At the same time, the Russian government is criticizing
Norway for agreeing that the United States station more than 300 naval troops in
the country. "It does not help to make Northern Europe safer," says a Russian
"Out with Russia from UN Council"
More than 80 human rights organizations are calling on UN member states to
exclude Russia from the UN Human Rights Council on the occasion of the Russian
war in Syria. Among the organizations are Human Rights Watch, Care International
and Refugees International. Russia has been a member of the Council since before
and is now competing with Hungary and Croatia for two places in the Eastern
The US is accused of war crimes in Iraq
The Russian Ministry of Defense accuses the US-led coalition in Iraq of
carrying out an airstrike that killed 15 women. The statement comes shortly
after the French president accused Russia of war crimes in Syria. The US-led
coalition in Iraq denies that it was behind the airstrike referred to by Russia.
The Iraqi government says the issue should be investigated.
Criticism of "anti-Russian USA"
The Russian government is accusing US authorities of anti-Russian behavior by
not allowing Russia to send its own observers to the US presidential election.
"If we are denied this for political reasons, we will draw our own conclusions,"
says a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, adding that "we will not forget
this". A US Foreign Ministry spokesman dismisses the complaint as a "PR jippo"
and denies that there would be any federal line to exclude Russian observers,
but points out that Russia has chosen not to try to join the OECD delegation,
which is a practice. The United States has recently accused the Russian
government of being behind cyberattacks against US political organizations with
the intention of influencing the electoral process in the US.
No EU sanctions other than for the Russian Syrian war
EU heads of state and government cannot agree to impose sanctions on Russian
citizens for Russia's bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo. The threat of
sanctions is cleared according to demands from the Italian Prime Minister. The
European Council "considers all possibilities" if violence continues. However,
EU leaders can agree that Russia has a strategy aimed at weakening the European
Union. They refer to, among other things, violations of European airspace,
propaganda campaigns, cyberattacks, involvement in the political processes in
Agreement with Turkey on gas pipeline
President Putin is visiting Turkey as part of the normalization of relations
between the countries. He says that Russia and Turkey are now ready to resume
cooperation in all areas. During the visit, he and Turkish President Erdoğan
sign an agreement to build a gas pipeline under the Black Sea, called
Nuclear weapons with capabilities to Kaliningrad
Russia is deploying more Iskander missiles in the Russian enclave on the
Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland. The Iskander missiles can carry nuclear
weapons and have a range of just over 40 km, which means that they can reach
targets in Sweden, for example southeastern Skåne, Öland and Gotland. Russia has
for many years threatened to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad unless the US writes
down its plans for a European nuclear missile defense. Now they are also used as
a means of pressure to counter NATO's troops reinforcement in Poland and the
Baltics, which became relevant after Russia's annexation of Crimea and
involvement in the civil war in Ukraine. The first Iskandermis missiles were
mounted in Kaliningrad in 2015, when relations between Russia and the Western
countries had deteriorated considerably.
Human rights organization is set up
Russian authorities classify the human rights organization Memorial as a
foreign agent, a term that must therefore be used in all public contexts and
which makes the organization's work more difficult. Previously, six local
branches of Memorial have been classified as foreign agents, including the
Moscow and St. Petersburg divisions. Now it applies to the entire national
organization. Authorities accuse Memorial, who is conducting research on human
rights crimes in the Soviet Union, for making political statements, including on
the war in Ukraine. According to the Foreign Agents Act of 2012, an organization
that receives foreign donations and who is engaged in politics must register as
a "foreign agent".
Agreements with the US are canceled
The already tough relationship with the US is deteriorating further. On
October 3, President Putin stops an agreement with the United States that
regulates how excess plutonium that was intended to be used for nuclear weapons
should be destroyed. The agreement signed in 2000 was part of the ongoing
disarmament of nuclear weapons on both sides. According to Putin, the agreement
is termed revenge for the US "unfriendly actions", that is, the sanctions
against Russia imposed by the United States on account of the conflict in
Ukraine and "the strengthening of NATO's resources near Russia's borders".
According to a bill sent to Parliament, Russia may amend its decision if the
United States withdraws US forces from countries that became NATO members after
the year 2000 and repeals the sanctions and reimburses Russia for the losses
caused by the sanctions. On the same day, the US terminates the dialogue with
Russia on a revival of the ceasefire in Syria. The reason is that Russia has
refused to cancel its bombing campaign against the city of Aleppo (see also
Syria: Calendar). Two days later, on October 5, Putin announces that Russia will
also stop a joint nuclear research project that started in 2013.
The trial started in the Nemtsovfallet
Court hearings begin with the five men charged with planning and carrying out
the assassination of regime critic Boris Nemtsov in Moscow in February 2015. The
defendants are all Chechens and the man alleged to have held the weapon is the
commander of the Chechen Ministry of the Interior. Chechnya is ruled by Ramzan
Kadyrov with whom Nemtsov had a conflict. Relatives of Nemtsov say in connection
with the trial and that the person who ordered the murder is not in the
courtroom but stands to find higher up in the community apparatus.
Ukrainian journalist spy accused
A Ukrainian state-employed journalist based in Moscow is arrested by the
Russian security service. According to the security service, the journalist has
been caught collecting Russian state secrets. The Ukrainian government dismisses
the allegations and believes that the journalist is being used as a playing
board in the conflict that has been going on between the countries since 2014.
The shooting down of MH17 investigated
The international panel investigating the shooting down of a Malaysian
airliner over Ukraine in the summer of 2014 states that the plane was hit by a
Russian-made missile fired from a village controlled by Pro-Russian separatists
at the time. According to the investigators, it is unclear if anyone has given
an order for the shooting, and if so, who, or if local separatists have fired on
their own initiative. The Russian government again dismisses the allegations and
cites new information on radar images that would prove that if the plane was
shot down, it has happened from Ukrainian controlled territory.
Putin continues to re-furnish
Putin appoints Parliament's Speaker Sergei Naryzhkin as Head of Foreign
Espionage SVR and nominates his Deputy Chief of Staff Vjatjeslav Volodin as new
Speaker. According to analysts, Putin is in the process of being surrounded by a
new generation of loyal employees, which seems to preclude his candidacy for
re-election as president in 2018. Volodin was secretary general of the United
Russia and has received the honor for the party's victory in the last election.
Naryzhkin, who is believed to have worked with Putin in the KGB office in St.
Petersburg in the 1990s, is included in the US and EU sanctions list for crimes
related to the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine.
"Alternative Nobel Prize" to Russian activist
Human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina is awarded one of the "Alternative
Nobel Prize", The Right Livelihood Award, for her work in providing legal
assistance and education for migrants and refugees. She heads the Moscow
Citizens' Support Committee.
Prosecutions from the United States are rejected
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejects with resentment accusations from the
United States that Russia would be directly or indirectly responsible for an air
strike against an auxiliary column in Syria, when at least 18 trucks were
destroyed and a large number of relief workers were killed. According to Russian
Foreign Ministry, "those who protect terrorists and bandits are trying to make
unfounded and hasty accusations against Russia in order to draw the attention of
coalition pilots' remarkable mistakes". The latter refers to how flights from
the US-led coalition killed dozens of Syrian soldiers in an air strike.
Ukraine refuses the election
Parliament in Ukraine adopts a resolution not to recognize the outcome of the
Russian parliamentary elections, as the vote was also held on the annexed
Crimean peninsula. Calls on the outside world to follow its example;
Three odd parliamentarians
Three people who do not represent any of the four dominant parties are
elected to Parliament from one-man constituencies. One belongs to the right-wing
nationalist party Rodina, one is from the Citizens' Platform and one is
Election supervisors from the European Security and Cooperation Organization
OSCE say that some improvements have been made since the last election,
including better transparency in the electoral administration, but that this
year there have also been limited opportunities to debate and difficult for
citizens to get involved in the election. The power apparatus has had a firm
grip on the media and strict control of society. There has not been a social
climate that has promoted democracy, says the delegation's head Ilkka Kanerva.
Grand victory for Putin's party
When just over 98 percent of the votes were counted, Enade Russia, supported
by Putin, received 54.2 percent and secured at least 343 of the 450 seats, an
increase of more than 100 seats and the highest number of seats so far. The
Communists and Nationalist Liberal Democrats have 13.4 and 13.2 percent
respectively, while Fair Russia has 6.2 percent. All these parties end up to
varying degrees on the part of the rulers. No real opposition party can handle
the five percent barrier. However, voter turnout is the lowest in modern times,
only 47.8 percent, compared to 60 percent in the last election in 2011, which
shows that the judgments made about voter apathy were correct. In principle, it
is the core voters of the power parties, those who support Putin, who bothered
to vote, while the regime critics did not find it worthwhile. From all over the
country come reports of cheating, Among other things, a surveillance camera in a
polling station captures how one of the officials stops a thick stack of ballots
in a polling station. In the Chechnya sub-republic, the hard-headed,
Moscow-friendly leader Ramzan Kadyrov is about to get more 98 percent of the
vote in the local presidential election. Human rights groups say that every
attempt to criticize him has been ruthlessly silenced during the electoral
Russian-Turkish military summit
Army Chief of Staff General Valerij Gerasimov meets with his Turkish
counterpart General Hulusi Akar for a "very productive" conversation about
cooperation in Syria. The meeting is another sign of how the Russian-Turkish
relations have been thawed.
Putin appeals: Go and vote
Three days before the election of the Russian Duma, Putin urges the people to
use their vote. The electoral movement has been rejected, in large part because
the election is considered to be decided in advance. The regime's control of the
media and the public debate mean that no challengers are expected to threaten
the power of the united Russia majority. The other parties expected to be
represented in Parliament are in principle loyal to the Kremlin. In practice,
the power holders are believed to prefer a low turnout, as it is primarily the
faithful who are expected to participate in the elections. For the first time, a
mixed voting system is applied, where half of the 450 mandates are distributed
proportionally by party lists, the other half is added by direct elections in
one-man election circles. The direct elections could theoretically favor
independent candidates with strong local support, but in reality it is believed
to strengthen the United Russia as the power party generally has full control
over the local authorities. However, there are more genuinely opposition than
usual, including about twenty candidates who have had their election campaigns
funded by the volatile oligarch Michail Chodorkovsky.
Russian-American plan for Syria
Russian and US foreign ministers agree on a ceasefire plan in Syria. If all
Syrian groups can really be put down to the weapons, the two major powers will
for the first time make joint action against the terrorist movement IS. Under
the agreement, they will set up a joint coordination group to organize air
strikes against IS. Foreign Minister Lavrov says they already agree in which
areas each country will carry out the raids.
Opinion Institute "foreign agent"
The independent opinion institute Levada Center is classified by the Justice
Department as "foreign agent". The message is given less than two weeks before
the election to the Russian parliament. Levada's boss Lev Gudkov describes the
decision as "political censorship" and says it will make it impossible to
continue work. In the past, the independent election monitoring organization
Golos has been given the same stamp. Levada will appeal the decision with Gudkov
saying that the chances of getting the decision changed are very small.
Continued conversation about the Kurilas
President Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Abe have agreed to continue talks
on the disputed island group Kuriles. According to Foreign Minister Lavrov, the
results of the talks should be reported during Putin's visit to Japan before the
end of the year.
US sanctions against Russia are being expanded
The United States extends its sanctions against Russia for supporting the
separatists in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Among other things,
Bank Rossija and several of Russia's largest construction companies are
affected. Sanctions are also directed at 17 Ukrainian separatists, 11 of which
are part of the local government in Crimea that Russia has appointed. According
to the sanctions, a large number of Russian companies operating in the Crimea
are to be excluded from the international financial networks.
Military exercises in sensitive border areas
Major military exercises begin in areas close to the borders with Ukraine and
the Baltic countries, as well as in Crimea and western Siberia, the Ministry of
Putin kicks his chief of staff
12th of August
President Putin surprisingly dismisses his Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov, who
has long been one of his closest associates and who was previously Minister of
Defense in 2001-2007. The dismissal is considered to be the most important
redevelopment at the top of the Kremlin administration for many years. As new
tasks, Ivanov gets to work on environmental and transport issues, an obvious
sharp downgrade. He is replaced by 44-year-old former Deputy Chief of Staff
Anton Vaino. Political analysts see the dismissal of Ivanov as part of Putin's
ambition to bring new fresh forces into the administration.
Increased tension around Crimea
The situation around Crimea annexed by Russia is becoming increasingly tense
since Russia accused Ukraine of trying to send in military on the peninsula.
According to the Russian government, a soldier and a security officer were
killed in fighting with Ukrainian "sabotage and terrorist groups". The Ukrainian
government dismisses the data as a sweeping reason for Russia to increase the
military threat to Ukraine. President Poroshenko orders the highest readiness
for all troops along the border with Crimea and the entire front in the east.
According to Ukraine, Russia has strengthened its troops presence in Crimea,
brought forward greater forces to the Ukrainian border and provided them with
better equipment. Russia confirms that advanced air defense robots of the S-400
model have been stationed in Crimea. President Putin also says that a planned
Russian-Ukrainian-French-German summit in conjunction with aThe G20 meeting in
China in September is meaningless. A German government source comments that this
shows that Russia is less and less interested in a political solution to the
crisis. The Russian navy announces that it will carry out a war exercise in the
Black Sea and, according to the Moscow government, an exercise to counter an
attack of weapons of mass destruction will be held in Crimea.
9th of August
President Putin meets his Turkish colleague Erdoğan in St. Petersburg. Since
Erdoğan apologized at the end of June for the firing of a Russian war plan,
relations between the countries have improved rapidly, not least since Russia
fared away from a coup attempt in Turkey in July, much faster than the EU or the
US. Unlike the leaders in the West, Putin has also raised no objections to the
extensive purges of military, lawyers, teachers and journalists conducted in
Turkey after the coup attempt. They both agree to try to breathe new life into
the relationships. A rapprochement between Turkey and Russia is expected to
benefit both countries, both economically and politically, but is seen with some
concern in the West, which fears the emergence of a new anti-Western alliance.
Election observer closes
A court orders the independent election observer Golos to close. The
organization is accused of receiving foreign financial aid without registering
as a "foreign agent". In April, Golos was convicted of fining the equivalent of
just over SEK 150,000 for the same reason. In September, general elections are
held in Russia, Golos has revealed a number of irregularities in previous
Tighter anti-terror laws come into force
President Putin signs a series of new laws to strengthen the state's fight
against terrorism. They were adopted by Parliament in late June and have been
described by critics as "big brother's laws". Among other things, internet
providers and mobile operators are forced to store data on calls, sms, pictures
and videos for up to six months and metadata for up to three years. They must
give the security service access to all information on request and, if
necessary, decrypt messages. The penalty for a series of crimes related to the
internet is sharpened and in some cases the criminal age is reduced to 14 years.
Internet companies fear that the measures will cost them billions.
The EU extends sanctions
The EU extends financial sanctions against Russia by a further six months to
January 31, 2017. The sanctions were imposed following the shooting down of a
Malaysian airplane over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, for which the
Russian-backed separatists are suspected. In the first place, the sanctions are
directed at the Russian oil and finance sectors and the military.
Erdoğan apologizes to Russia
According to a spokesman for the Russian government, Turkish President
Erdoğan has written to Vladimir Putin apologizing for the launch of a Russian
fighter aircraft in the Syria-Turkey border area in November 2015. Erdoğan
promises to work for relations between countries to normalize after more than
one half year deep crisis. Two days later, the two presidents talk to each other
on the phone and agree to resume normal relations and cooperate in, among other
things, the fight against terrorism. Putin orders that travel restrictions to
Turkey be lifted and trade resumed to a normal extent.
EU Criminal sanctions are being extended
17th of June
The EU extends sanctions against Russia for the annexation of Crimea and
Sevastopol by another year to June 23, 2017. The sanctions prohibit certain
trade with Crimea, as well as a ban on investment and tourism activities of
EU-registered companies operating in Crimea.
Military bet on disputed Kurils
The Russian Ministry of Defense announces that "never before seen" efforts
will be made to strengthen the military infrastructure of the island group
Kuriles in the Far East. Among other things, a new military base will be
constructed on an uninhabited island. Japan's claim to four islands in the
Kuriles has meant that the two countries never signed any formal peace agreement
after the Second World War. The Soviet Union occupied those islands in
connection with the Japanese surrender.
Prison exchange with Ukraine
Ukrainian combat pilot Nadija Savchenko who was sentenced to 22 years in
prison in Russia (see March 2016) is exchanged against two
Russian soldiers arrested on Ukrainian soil.
"Russian forces remain in Syria"
A spokesman for the US Defense Pentagon headquarters says Russia has barely
reduced its military presence in Syria since President Putin announced in March
that most of the Russian forces would be taken home. According to the spokesman,
the situation is almost identical to before. "They (the Russians) still have
aircraft, ground troops and artillery as well as special forces in Syria," the
The head of the Russian domestic intelligence service, Alexander Bastrykin,
calls for more powerful measures to counter what he calls the US destructive
influence in Russia. The measures proposed by Bastrykin include restrictions on
internet use and a ban on criticizing Russia's annexation of Crimea from
Ukraine. "It's time we stop pretending to be a pseudo-democracy that applies
pseudo-liberal values," writes the police chief in Kommersant Vlast magazine.
Crimean Tatars under increased pressure
The authorities of the annexed Crimean peninsula banish the Crimean Tatars'
governing body, the e-mail, citing that the e-mail should have been devoted to
extremism. This prevents meelis from carrying out any activities at all. Mejlis
was founded in 1991 and has since represented the interests of the Crimean
warriors. The Crimean Tartars originated in Crimea but were banished to Central
Asia during the Soviet era. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991,
they began to return to Crimea. The decision to ban illuminated mail is
confirmed later this month by the Crimean Supreme Court.
Special force against terrorism
President Putin announces that a new security force, the National Guard, will
be established to fight terrorism and organized crime. The National Guard will
be built around the police units that are usually deployed during riots. The new
force will be under Putin's direct command. Political analysts commenting on the
establishment of the force say it is a sign that Putin is preparing for any
unrest in the parliamentary elections to be held in September.
New head of the Election Commission
President Putin appoints the country's former human rights ombudsman, Ella
Pamfilova, as the new head of the electoral commission. The appointment is seen
as an attempt to strengthen citizens' confidence in the parliamentary elections
to be held in September. The former head of the Election Commission, Vladimir
Tyurov, was called the "magician" by the opposition who accused him of allowing
widespread voting in favor of the Kremlin rulers.
Pressure on Syria
US Secretary of State John Kerry visits President Putin and they agree to put
pressure on the parties at the Geneva peace talks and try to persuade them to
speak directly to one another. Putin and Kerry also demand that a plan for
transitional governance and a draft new constitution be ready in August.
Renovation in the east
Defense Minister Sergei Shujgu announces that Russia will install missiles on
the Kuril Islands archipelago in Asia. In recent years, Russia has equipped its
military installations on the islands, which are the subject of prolonged
conflict with Japan. The Tokyo government claims that the four southernmost
islands belong to Japan. They were occupied by the Soviet Union during World War
Long penalty for Ukrainian pilot
Ukrainian combat pilot Nadija Savchenko, who has been held captive in Russia
since 2014, is sentenced to 22 years in prison for artillery killing two Russian
journalists at the beginning of the uprising in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Savchenko claims she is innocent and that she was kidnapped and taken to Russia
before the journalists lost their lives. Her lawyer says she will not appeal
because of a lack of confidence in the Russian justice system and that they will
seek other ways to get her free. Ukraine offers itself the following day to
conduct a prison exchange.
Anniversary in Crimea
President Putin visits Crimea on the two-year anniversary of the annexation.
Putin stops on the island of Tuzla in Kertjsundet, where a bridge construction
is underway to link the eastern part of Crimea with the Russian mainland. The
bridge is scheduled to be completed in 2018, Putin says. The President also
announces that an underwater cable to supply Crimea with electricity from Russia
will be commissioned in May
Troop retreat from Syria
14th of March
President Putin announces that the country will withdraw most of the Russian
troops from Syria. According to Putin, the goals of the Russian effort have been
achieved. With Russian support, the Syrian government troops have regained the
initiative in the fighting and regained some territory while at the same time
the Russian involvement in the war has re-established Russia's position as an
important party in the international arena. When Russian air raids began in
September, relations with the West were abysmal and Putin was isolated due to
the war in Ukraine. Economic reasons also speak for taking home the troops. The
Russian effort has cost an estimated 2.5 million US dollars per day. Russia
starts withdrawing its troops the day after the message. The retreat does not
affect the Russian fleet base in Tartus and a Russian air base in the country.
EU sanctions for another six months
The EU extends by six months the sanctions imposed by the Union against
Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Lost defense budget
The Ministry of Defense announces that the country's defense spending will be
cut by 5 percent in 2016. The decision reflects the problems in the Russian
economy as a result of falling oil prices and the world sanctions. In 2015, the
country's GDP shrank by 3.7 percent.
Extended US sanctions
US President Obama decides that sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of
the conflict in Ukraine will remain in effect until March 6, 2017.
No quiet minute for Nemtsov
The Russian parliament, the duma, says no to a proposal to keep a silent
minute for opposition politician Boris Nemtsov on the anniversary of his murder
in Moscow. However, commemorations are held in a number of Russian cities.
Warning for Kadyrov
The opposition party Parnas presents an investigation in which Chechen leader
Ramzan Kadyrov is identified as a threat to the nation's security. According to
the investigation, Kadyrov has transformed his sub-republic into an Islamic
caliphate that carries out terrorist attacks against his opponents in Russia and
abroad. Kadyrov, who is closely associated with President Putin, receives
billions of rubles in support from the Russian state, but according to Parnas
only follows his own laws.
Court shuts down Russian state
The European Court of Human Rights states that opposition politician Aleksey
Navalnyj did not receive a fair trial when he was sentenced for embezzlement in
2013 (see July, October 2013). The court orders the Russian
state to pay him EUR 56,000 for court costs and damages. In 2015, the Russian
Parliament passed a law that gives the state the right to ignore the ruling of
the European Court of Justice if they are considered to be in violation of
Russian constitution. Court shuts down Russian state
Ukraine is required at EUR 3 billion
Russia sues the Ukrainian state at US $ 3 billion in a court in London. The
lawsuit has been filed after the two governments failed to agree on the terms of
repayment of the loan Russia paid out in 2013 when Ukraine was headed by
New Turkish threat
30th of January
Turkey accuses Russian fighter jet of having again violated Turkish airspace
at the Syrian border. Russia's ambassador is called to the Turkish Foreign
Ministry to receive a sharp protest. Turkey warns Russia of the consequences of
continued violations. The Russian Ministry of Defense dismisses the protest as
Billion investment against the financial crisis
Minister of Finance Aleksey Uljukaev says that in 2016, the state will spend
approximately SEK 85 billion on efforts to combat the financial crisis, followed
by falling oil prices. More than 40 percent of the sum will be used for loans
to the regional authorities. The state should also support particularly
vulnerable sectors such as agriculture and the automotive industry, increase
social efforts and implement structural reforms, Russian newspapers write.
GDP is falling
Russia's GDP fell by 3.7 percent in 2015, mainly as a result of low oil
prices, states the Central Statistical Office.
Litvinenko investigation is dismissed
The Foreign Ministry dismisses the outcome of a British investigation which
concluded that the 2006 London assassination of former KGB agent Aleksandr
Litvinenko "is likely to be approved" directly by President Putin and Security
Chief Nikolaj Patrusjev. A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry says that
a pure crime case has been politicized in a way that "has darkened bilateral
relations" between Russia and the United Kingdom.
Government spending is being cut
Prime Minister Medvedev says the state will cut its spending by 10 percent
during the year, mainly because of falling oil prices. "We have to live on the
assets we have," he says, also referring to the Western countries' sanctions on
Russia for its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.