+7 is the dialing code for Russia.
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.
- Abbreviationfinder: 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.
|Cultivated land||13.1 %|
|Land area||17098242 km 2|
Population and health
|Population development||-0.04 ‰|
|Urban population (Urbanization)||74 %|
|Death rate||13.69 per 1000 residents|
|Life expectancy: Women||76.57 years|
|Life expectancy: Men||64.7 years|
|Birth rate||11.6 births per 1000 residents|
|Infant mortality||6.97 deaths / 1000 births|
Population Graph Source: Countryaah.com
|Electricity, production||1064000 million kWh|
|Energy consumption per resident||5283.4 kg. oil per resident|
|Natural gas, production||578700 million cubic meters|
|Crude oil, production||541 million tons|
|Internet users||59.3 per 100 residents|
|Mobile subscriptions||155 per 100 residents|
|Passenger cars||293 per 1000 residents|
Business and economics
|Unemployment||5.4% of the workforce|
|GDP||25400 per resident|
|Primary occupations||7.9 %|
|Secondary profession||27.4 %|
|Tertiary professions||64.7 %|
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 degrees Celsius.
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 residents
Moscow 10 224 000
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 security services.
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 European countries.
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 spokesman.
“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 European group.
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 Europe.
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 TurkStream.
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 party-bound.
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 movement.
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 Defense reports.
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 elections.
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 spokesman said.
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 II.
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 President Yanukovych.
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 “baseless propaganda”.
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.