|DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage||6.55 100|
|DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score||1.39 7|
- Civil Society rating improved from 1.00 to 1.25 due to the ability of opposition leader and anticorruption activist Aleksey Navalny to organize nationwide protests despite government efforts to quash his movement, and due to the resilience of Russian civil society after years of repression.
- Local Democratic Governance rating declined from 1.75 to 1.50 due to the federal government’s decision not to renew a memorandum guaranteeing Tatarstan’s autonomy, and the continued practice of replacing regional governors outside of electoral cycles.
- Judicial Framework and Independence rating declined from 1.50 to 1.25 due to the complete absence of due process for members of the LGBT community in Chechnya who experienced brutal attacks endorsed by regional officials during the year, and due to the politicized use of the judicial system to disrupt Aleksey Navalny’s activism.
by Pavel Luzin
In 2017, Russia’s authorities prepared for the presidential election in March 2018. Although it is not their only purpose, authoritarian regimes like that in Russia rely on elections to show different elite groups that the leader and his inner circle retain control of the state and still have political and economic power.
However, years of economic mismanagement and stagnation, growing contradictions between formal and informal political practices, and conflicts within the leadership created uncertainty about the system’s domestic political prospects during 2017. The threat of growing international pressure in the form of new U.S. sanctions exacerbated the problem. As a result, the approach of the presidential election presented a challenge for the Russian authorities throughout the year.
The government engaged in new crackdowns on dissidents, the opposition, and the LGBT population despite their questionable results. For example, repression of opposition activists and even citizens who post political content on social media only enhanced the public’s appetite for protest. Similarly, purges aimed at incumbent governors and other representatives of Russia’s ruling class did not improve the regime’s situation given its ineffective economic and social policies.
It became increasingly clear during the year that the Kremlin lacked the economic resources to stabilize its authoritarian system: Key elite groups were still involved in grand corruption, spending on defense and security agencies topped out, the Reserve Fund was exhausted, the deficits of regional governments exceeded 1.5 trillion rubles ($26.5 billion),1 and the combined public debt of regions and municipalities was 2.14 trillion rubles ($37.8 billion).2 Political conflicts among elites derived from their clashing economic interests, and vice versa. For instance, the criminal case against former minister of economic development Aleksey Ulyukayev—initiated in 2016 by Igor Sechin, head of the state-owned oil company Rosneft—was evidently part of Sechin’s struggle against Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev’s government over power and resources. Nevertheless, the Kremlin tried to maintain a balance among the competing factions to prevent any one of them from becoming dominant.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Aleksey Navalny pressed ahead with his presidential campaign despite being barred from running due to politically motivated criminal convictions. Among the prospective candidates, his team alone had a clear agenda of liberal political and economic reforms for Russia, and only Navalny went to great lengths to create a sustainable regional network of volunteers and supporters, even in the face of increasing government pressure.
However, the gubernatorial elections in September showed that the Kremlin is not interested in real elections, even at the regional level. The process was used as a tool for consolidating the power of regional political elites, and there was no guarantee that the elected governors would keep their seats until the end of their terms, as the president can essentially dismiss them at will. The municipal council elections in Moscow that month were the only example of open political competition in Russia during the year, though the opposition’s relative success was not sufficient for it to nominate a candidate for the city’s mayoral election in 2018.
The Kremlin continued to use a “carrot and stick” approach to ensure its control over civil society, with an emphasis on the stick. The upcoming presidential vote and the country’s high levels of political and economic uncertainty stoked fears that this political pressure would increase even further, evolving from legal harassment into outright violence. Still, the civil society sector demonstrated resilience during the year, using crowd-funding tools and changing legal structures to avoid designation as “foreign agents.”
The authorities tried to increase their stranglehold on independent media, and to more tightly control online communications between Russian society and the rest of the world, though the Kremlin still lacks the capability to establish truly comprehensive control. For example, the so-called Yarovaya law, passed in 2016 in a bid to dramatically intensify online surveillance, was not implemented in 2017 for technical and economic reasons. There is also evidence that the System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM), which was implemented in 2000 and seeks to monitor all internet users’ voice traffic (through keywords) and certain users’ full internet traffic, does not work effectively.
The regime’s struggle for political survival and dwindling economic assets also affected local governance during the year. In July and August, the federal government used political turmoil in Tatarstan as a pretext for not renewing a 1994 memorandum guaranteeing the republic’s autonomy. The decision removed both the last vestiges of Tatarstan’s self-government and any illusion of regional autonomy in the Russian Federation as a whole.
Russia’s judicial framework remained inconsistent with its constitutional basis and the country’s international obligations. Russian officials threatened to ignore European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions if Russia’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) continued to be denied voting rights; cases originating in Russia account for a third of the ECtHR’s caseload.3 Russian courts remained dependent on powerful political and economic actors, and arbitrary rule in Chechnya continued to corrode the system of justice in the rest of Russia.
Corruption is still the main barrier to the democratization of Russia. The authorities did not make any sustainable efforts in this field during 2017. Moreover, new evidence emerged of corruption at the highest political level, and official anticorruption activity was nothing more than a tool of political struggle within the political and economic establishment.
Outlook for 2018: In 2018, Russia’s leadership will face a choice between limited economic liberalization and further policy tightening. Factors including foreign sanctions, the war against Ukraine, and the intervention in Syria will influence this decision. While the regime seems likely to remain stable in 2018, the struggle for power and assets among the political elite will continue to escalate, and economic and foreign policy challenges create long-term uncertainty. It is likely that more voices in favor of change will emerge. However, any democratic transition would have to overcome structural obstacles in Russia’s constitution, regional divisions, and economic arrangements that serve to fortify the authoritarian establishment.
- 1“Планируемый дефицит бюджетов регионов превысил прогнозы правительства в 5,5 раза” [Planned budget deficit in regions exceeded government’s calculation by 5.5 times], TASS, 18 October 2017, http://tass.ru/ekonomika/4656090
- 2“The volume and structure of sub-sovereign debt and municipal debt of the Russian Federation,” Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation, 20 December 2017, https://www.minfin.ru/ru/perfomance/public_debt/subdbt/2017/
- 3“Russia tests Council of Europe in push to regain vote,” Financial Times, 26 November 2017, https://amp.ft.com/content/3cccaf92-d12c-11e7-b781-794ce08b24dc
|Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches.||1.251 7.007|
- Russia is a consolidated authoritarian regime. The president, Vladimir Putin, plays the role of moderator of the formal and informal relations among various political elites. He relies on the Presidential Executive Office (PEO), security agencies, and different interests within the corrupt bureaucracy and state-owned companies. The constitutional system—which features a separation of powers among the government, the parliament, and the judiciary—is fully subjugated in practice by the president, the PEO, and Putin’s inner circle. The authoritarian regime also controls most of the national economy, with up to 70 percent of gross domestic product created in the state sector. In 2017, in the context of economic decline and confrontation with democratic powers, elite competition for limited resources grew and emerged into the open.
- During the year, Russia’s leadership was preparing for a presidential election scheduled for March 2018. Authoritarian rulers use elections to show internal stakeholders that they retain control and still have political and economic power. However, economic stagnation and mismanagement, growing contradictions between formal and informal political practices,1 and conflicts among the political elite have created uncertainty regarding the Russian regime’s domestic political prospects. International pressure has exacerbated the problem. In many aspects of everyday governance, the authorities are crippled, and some political experts have even spoken of political paralysis,2 or an incipient political crisis.3
- A key example of conflicts within the leadership was the ongoing case of former economic development minister Aleksey Ulyukayev. He was arrested in December 2016 and charged with receiving a bribe from Igor Sechin, head of the state-owned oil company Rosneft. General Oleg Feoktistov, an influential Federal Security Service (FSB) officer who had worked for Rosneft since 2016 and, according to media reports, played a crucial role in the investigation of Ulyukayev,4 returned to the FSB in March 2017. However, he was then fired from the service in August.5 His dismissal shed light on certain failings in Ulyukayev’s case, as well as power struggles within the FSB.
- These failings were exposed during court hearings in September, when recordings of conversations between Sechin and Ulyukayev pointed to both the informal workings of Russian governance and the weaknesses of the criminal charges themselves.6 According to some analysts, the episode ultimately damaged Sechin’s position in Putin’s inner circle,7 and his repeated refusal, despite subpoenas, to appear as a witness underscored high-ranking officials’ flagrant disregard for the rule of law.8
- Among other signs of political struggle among the elite, Rosneft in May initiated a multibillion-ruble lawsuit against the company AFK Sistema—controlled by Vladimir Yevtushenkov, an ally of Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev—over the Rosneft subsidiary Bashneft. The unit was previously owned by AFK Sistema before being nationalized and then sold to Rosneft, which now alleged that AFK Sistema had not acted in good faith while managing Bashneft.9 The case drew fresh attention to the absence of effective protection for property rights and a lack of legitimacy in Russia’s privatization process.10 In December, AFK Sistema and Rosneft reached an agreement only after Putin directly intervened. As part of the settlement, AFK Sistema was forced to pay Rosneft 100 billion rubles ($1.7 billion), although this figure was less than what Rosneft initially sought.11
- Also in May, Sechin blocked a dividend payout from Rosneft to the Russian federal budget.12 In September, the government decided to fund research and development in the aviation industry through the planned Rosneft dividend payouts.13 Some payments from Rosneft were eventually made in October.14 Because the state corporation Rostec controls the aviation industry, and Rostec is headed by close Putin ally Sergey Chemezov, this situation led some pundits to speculate that Sechin’s position had weakened in favor of Chemezov’s.15
- On June 14, the Federation Council, the upper house of the legislature, established a temporary committee on the protection of state sovereignty and prevention of foreign interference in Russia’s domestic affairs. The committee operated on the assumption that the West interferes with Russia’s domestic political sphere in order to bring about regime change.16 In effect, the decision was presented as a tit-for-tat response to the ongoing U.S. investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 general elections. Such moves have tended to increase Russia’s international isolation in recent years.
- On October 10, the temporary committee of the Federation Council presented its first report, recommending that the Russian authorities prepare new measures against nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), independent media, educational institutions, and even individual citizens that cooperate with partners from the United States and Europe.17
- In September and October, the Kremlin organized a training program in Sochi for a younger generation of Russian bureaucrats. A few of the alumni of such programs have become acting governors. This method of bureaucratic renewal was intended to prevent any repetition of the phenomenon in which authoritarian leadership was challenged by younger regional elites and careerists in the Soviet Union during the late 1980s.18 The Sochi training program was essentially an attempt by the Kremlin to improve internal management and avoid bottom-up pressure for democratization from within the regime.
- 1Konstantin Gaaze, “Двор вместо политбюро. Что происходит с окружением с окружением Путина” [Royal Household instead of Politbureau. What’s going on with Putin’s entourage], Carnegie Moscow Center, 25 August 2017, http://carnegie.ru/commentary/72910
- 2Nikolai Petrov, “Репрессии стали механизмом контроля элиты” [Repressions became a tool for control over elite], Vedomosti, 30 August 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2017/08/30/731537-repressii-k…
- 3“Валерий Соловей: Кризис проявится в 2017-м” [Valeriy Solovey: Crisis to appear in 2017], Fontanka.ru, 4 January 2017, http://www.fontanka.ru/2017/01/04/015/
- 4“Операция ‘Вертикаль’: Как генерал Олег Феоктистов помог Лубянке стать главным регулятором силового рынка России” [Operation “Vertical”: How Gen. Oleg Feoktistov has helped Lubyanka to become main moderator of siloviki market in Russia], Novaya Gazeta, 18 August 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/08/18/73519-operatsiya-vertik…
- 5“Генерал сошел с карьеры: Олег Феоктистов готовится выйти на военную пенсию” [General fades away: Oleg Feoktistov is ready to retire], Kommersant, 30 August 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3397099
- 6“‘Корзиночку забирай.’ Разговор Игоря Сечина с Алексеем Улюкаевым” [“Take this basket.” Dialogue between Igor Sechin and Aleksey Ulyukayev], Mediazona, 5 September 2017, https://zona.media/article/2017/09/05/korzinochka
- 7“Политбюро 2.0: Реновация вместо демонтажа” [Politbureau 2.0: Renovation instead of dismantling], Minchenko Consulting, 23 August 2017, http://www.minchenko.ru/netcat_files/userfiles/2/Dokumenty/Yubileynyy_d…
- 8“Rosneft chief Igor Sechin refuses to appear at corruption trial,” Financial Times, 22 November 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/08135784-cf7d-11e7-9dbb-291a884dd8c6
- 9“АФК ‘Система’ оспорила решение суда о выплате ‘Роснефти’ 136 млрд рублей” [AFK Sistema challenged court decision on payment of 136 bln rubles to Rosneft], Vedomosti, 19 September 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/business/articles/2017/09/19/734501-afk-sistema
- 10“Минное поле приватизации” [Minefield of privatization], Vedomosti, 24 September 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2017/09/25/735101-minnoe-pole…
- 11“‘Роснефть’ и АФК ‘Система’ заключили мировое соглашение” [Rosneft and AFK Sistema enter into settlement], TASS, 22 December 2017, http://tass.ru/ekonomika/4836907
- 12“Силуанов: Дивиденды ‘Роснефтегаза’ могут быть выплачены из его нераспределенной прибыли” [Siluanov: Rosneftegaz can pay dividends from its undistributed profits], Vedomosti, 18 May 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/business/articles/2017/05/18/690440-siluanov-d…
- 13“Треть дивидендов ‘Роснефтегаза’ пойдет на проекты самолетов и двигателей” [One third of Rosneftegaz’s dividends will be spent on planes and aircraft engines design], RBC, 27 September 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/economics/27/09/2017/59ca8bc39a79479d47999e01
- 14“‘Роснефтегаз’ перевел в бюджет дивиденды ‘Роснефти’ за полугодие” [Rosneftegaz paid Rosneft dividends for six months to Russia’s budget], Interfax, 18 October 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/business/583690
- 15Aleksey Venediktov, “Кто стоит в зоне поддержки Улюкаева?” [Who supports Ulyukayev?], Ekho Moskvy, 17 August 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/blog/aav/2038658-echo/
- 16“В Совете Федерации создана комиссия по защите госсуверенита России” [Commission on protection of Russia’s sovereignty was established in the Federation Council], TASS, 14 June 2017, http://tass.ru/politika/4334855
- 17“Предварительный доклад временной комиссии Совета Федерации по защите государственного суверенитета и предотвращению вмешательства во внутренние дела Российской Федерации” [Preliminary report of the temporary commission of the Federation Council on protection of sovereignty and prevention of intervention in internal affairs of the Russian Federation], Federation Council. 14 October 2017, http://www.council.gov.ru/media/files/f8SAIXEeNH3T8krO2G1fHZA2W2hTRuMJ…
- 18Konstantin Gaaze, “Прыгнуть со скалы. Как формируют новый управленческий класс в России” [Jump from cliff. How new administrative class is being formed in Russia], Carnegie Moscow Center, 17 October 2017, http://carnegie.ru/commentary/73434; Ivan Davydov, “Конкурс ‘Лидеры России.’ Как теперь выглядит социальный лифт” [“Leaders of Russia” contest. What social mobility looks like], Republic, 12 October 2017, https://republic.ru/posts/86964
|Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process.||1.251 7.007|
- Although Russia continued to hold multiparty elections in 2017, the electoral process is ultimately under the Kremlin’s control. Even at the municipal level, real competition is possible only when regional authorities or large—and often state-owned—companies with facilities in the area decide not to engage in electoral politics. There were three prominent developments related to elections during the year. The first pertained to the upcoming presidential election scheduled for March 2018: Opposition leader Aleksey Navalny pressed ahead with his campaign despite being barred from running as an official candidate. Moreover, he was the only putative contender who conducted campaign activities before October 2017. The second development was the election of governors in 16 regions in September. The third was the municipal elections in Moscow, also in September. All three developments illustrated the deadlock affecting Russia’s authoritarian electoral system.
- Navalny’s political activity in 2017 reflected his publicly declared presidential ambitions. He was the only opposition leader capable of organizing a network comprising dozens of campaign offices and more than a hundred thousand volunteers across the country, and he used the upcoming election as an opportunity to increase his public support. His anticorruption activity in previous years became a major campaign issue. On March 26, Navalny organized protests in 99 cities,1 challenging the Kremlin’s conception of the election as a referendum on trust in Vladimir Putin.2
- After mobilizing his supporters through such protests, Navalny opened 84 campaign headquarters and engaged up to 200,000 volunteers.3 From spring through the end of 2017, he gathered signatures supporting his nomination,4 developed an electoral program,5 and conducted a tour of large Russian cities.6 The authorities’ resistance to Navalny’s activities was consistent at all levels. In cities like Rostov-on-Don,7 Vladivostok,8 Omsk,9 and Krasnodar,10 local authorities tried to prevent Navalny from campaigning. On June 12, the Russia Day holiday, Navalny was given a 30-day sentence of administrative detention for organizing an anticorruption protest in Moscow as a part of his campaign.11 On October 2, Navalny and his chief of staff Leonid Volkov were detained for 20 days in Moscow several hours before a planned protest in Nizhniy Novgorod.12 Meanwhile, activists and the heads of regional campaign offices faced growing pressure,13 including violence.14 The authorities began to prohibit demonstrations supporting Navalny in Russia’s regions.15
- On October 18, well-known Russian media personality Kseniya Sobchak announced her intention to run for the presidency.16 Observers suggested that the Kremlin intended to use Sobchak as a liberal spoiler candidate against Navalny and his supporters.17
- On September 10, gubernatorial elections were held in 16 regions. All of the incumbent and acting governors kept their posts.18 The elections aimed to legitimize Putin’s reshuffling of governors in 2016 and early 2017. Although the Kremlin’s chosen candidates faced no real competition, the electoral procedures also served to mobilize regional elites and reinforce the regime’s control over them. Voter turnout during the elections ranged from 25 percent in Tomsk to nearly 82 percent in the Republic of Mordovia.19 The average turnout was 35–40 percent, indicating citizens’ low interest and disappointment with regional governments.
- During the elections, the independent election monitoring movement Golos reported approximately 709 procedural violations.20 The mayor of Saratov resigned due to significant violations,21 and voting was canceled in two districts in Mordovia.22 Significant violations in the Belgorod region even attracted the attention of the Central Electoral Commission.23 Such violations are an inherent part of the electoral process in Russia’s authoritarian system, and the final results were nowhere in doubt. However, by meting out a limited number of punishments after the elections, the central authorities bolster their dominance over regional elites.
- The only real political competition on September 10 was in the municipal council elections in Moscow. However, voter turnout was below 15 percent.24 The opposition movement United Democrats, led by Dmitriy Gudkov, challenged the ruling United Russia party. It was a coalition of independent candidates in cooperation with the liberal Yabloko party and the Solidarnost (Solidarity) movement headed by Ilya Yashin. Overall, the United Democrats took more than 270 of 1,502 municipal mandates, winning seats in 63 districts and a majority in 17 districts.25 However, despite these successes, the so-called “municipal filter”—requiring opposition candidates to be nominated by 110 municipal deputies in 110 districts26 —ensured that the opposition was still too weak to challenge Sergey Sobyanin, a member of Putin’s inner circle and mayor of Moscow since 2010.
- In December, the Russian authorities formally announced that the presidential election would be held on March 18, 2018. On December 25, Navalny was officially prohibited from contesting the presidency due to a previous criminal conviction,27 just a day after his supporters from across Russia nominated him as a contender.28
- 1“Митинги 26 марта” [Public rallies of 26 March], Navalny 2018, 28 March 2017, https://2018.navalny.com/post/26/
- 2“В Кремле заявляют о необходимости высокой явки на президентских выборах” [Kremlin officials declare the necessity of high voting turnout during presidential elections of 2018], Kommersant, 21 February 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3225152; “Кремль на развилке: каковы последствия протестных акций по всей России” [Kremlin at fork: consequences of public protests around Russia], RBC, 26 March 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/politics/26/03/2017/58d7c6f39a7947448a1a3f45
- 3“Год кампании в цифрах и событиях” [The year of campaign in numbers and events], Navalny 2018, 9 January 2018, https://2018.navalny.com/post/502/
- 5Plan Peremen [Plan of Changes], http://planperemen.org
- 6“Один выходной—Один город” [One weekend day—One city], Meduza, 18 September 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/09/18/odin-vyhodnoy-odin-gorod
- 7“Казаки попытались сорвать открытие штаба Навального в Ростове-на-Дону” [Cossacks attempted to break opening of Navalny’s campaign office in Rostov-on-Don], BBC Russia, 8 April 2017, http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-39538706
- 8“Леонид Волков: Об открытии штаба Алексея Навального во Владивостоке” [Leonid Volkov: The opening of Aleksey Navalny’s campaign office in Vladivostok], Ekho Moskvy, 15 May 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/programs/beseda/1981144-echo/
- 9“Место открытия штаба Навального в Омске изменили в последний момент” [Address of opening Navalny’s campaign office in Omsk has been changed on short notice], Om1.ru, 17 June 2017, https://www.om1.ru/news/politic/114035/
- 10“В Краснодаре напали на штаб Алексея Навального” [Strangers attacked Aleksey Navalny’s campaign office in Krasnodar], Novaya Gazeta, 4 July 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/2017/07/04/133129-v-krasnodare-neizves…
- 11“Навального арестовали на 30 суток за организацию протеста в Москве” [Navalny got 30 days’ arrest for protest action in Moscow], RBC, 13 June 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/politics/13/06/2017/593f03a39a79476d2479352d
- 12“Навального арестовали на 20 суток” [Navalny got 20 days’ arrest], Lenta.ru, 2 October 2017, https://lenta.ru/news/2017/10/02/navalny/; “Суд вновь арестовал главу штаба Навального на 20 суток” [Head of Navalny’s campaign is arrested for 20 days again], RBC, 6 October 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/59d67e4a9a79474bfd4dccc1
- 13“Главу штаба Навального в Смоленске арестовали на восемь суток” [Head of Navalny’s campaign office in Smolensk is arrested for eight days], Interfax, 7 October 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/582214; “В Чебоксарах задержан координатор штаба Навального” [Coordinator of Navalny’s campaign office in Cheboksary detained], Rosbalt, 10 October 2017, http://www.rosbalt.ru/russia/2017/10/10/1652122.html; “Координатор штаба Навального в Сочи арестован на 10 суток” [Coordinator of Navalny’s campaign office in Sochi arrested for 10 days], Radio Svoboda, 6 October 2017, https://www.svoboda.org/a/28777793.html
- 14“Координатора московского штаба Навального ударили железной трубой по голове” [Coordinator of Navalny’s campaign office in Moscow was hit over the head with iron pipe], Novaya Gazeta, 15 September 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/2017/09/15/135313-koordinatora-moskovs…; “Во Владивостоке одиннадцатиклассника хотят исключить из школы за значок Навального” [Eleventh-grader with badge of Navalny’s campaign is threatened with exclusion from school], Znak.com, 21 September 2017, https://www.znak.com/2017-09-21/vo_vladivostoke_odinnadcatiklassnika_ho…
- 15“В нескольких городах России запретили акции в поддержку Навального” [Public rallies in support of Navalny were prohibited in several cities], Radio Svoboda, 4 October 2017, https://www.svoboda.org/a/28774058.html
- 16“Ксения Собчак объявила об участии в выборах президента РФ” [Kseniya Sobchak announced she decided to run for Russia’s presidency], Interfax, 18 October 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/583784
- 17“Кандидат ‘против всех’: Политологи—о выдвижении Собчак в президенты России” [Candidate “against all”: Political experts on Sobchak’s nomination for Russia’s presidency], Novaya Gazeta, 18 October 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/10/18/74247-kandidat-protiv-v…
- 18“Выборы в России: все избранные 16 губернаторов—от ‘Единой России,’ прорыв ‘Объединенных демократов’ в Москве” [Elections in Russia: All the 16 elected governors represent “United Russia” party, breakthrough of “United Democrats” movement in Moscow], Meduza, 11 September 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/09/11/vybory-v-rossii-vse-izbrannye-16-g…
- 19“Выборы, референдумы и иные формы прямого волеизъявления” [Elections, referendums and other forms of direct expression of will], Central Electoral Commission of Russia, 10 September 2017, http://www.vybory.izbirkom.ru/region/izbirkom; “Election campaigning for the single voting day, September 10, 2017,” Golos Movement, 25 September 2017, https://www.golosinfo.org/en/articles/142227
- 20“Третий экспресс-обзор общественного наблюдения за днем голосования” [Third express survey of public supervision over the election day], Golos Movement, 11 September 2017, https://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/142179
- 21“На выборах в Саратове было так много нарушений, что глава города решил уйти в отставку” [There were so many violations during the elections in Saratov, that the city mayor resigned], NEWSru.com, 11 September 2017, https://www.newsru.com/russia/11sep2017/saratov_glava.html
- 22“В Саранске завели уголовное дело по нарушениям на выборах и отменили результаты на двух участках” [Criminal case initiated in Saransk after the electoral violations, results on two voting stations canceled], NEWSru.com, 11 September 2017, https://www.newsru.com/russia/11sep2017/saransk.html
- 23“ЦИК заметила нарушения на двух участках в Белгородской области” [Central Electoral Commission observed violations on two voting stations in Belgorod region], NEWSru.com, 11 September 2017, https://www.newsru.com/russia/11sep2017/belgor200.html
- 24“Явка на муниципальных выборах в Москве составила около 14,8%” [Voting turnout on municipal elections in Moscow is about 14.8%], Interfax, 11 September 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/moscow/578590
- 25“Смерть коммунистов” [The death of communists], Gazeta.ru, 11 September 2017, https://www.gazeta.ru/comments/2017/09/11_e_10883630.shtml
- 26Andrey Pertsev, “Две стороны явки. Что показали выборы в Москве и регионах” [Two sides of voting turnout. What elections in Moscow and regions show], Carnegie Moscow Center, 11 September 2017, http://carnegie.ru/commentary/73061
- 27“ЦИК отказал Навальному в участии в выборах президента” [Central Electoral Commission refused Navalny as candidate for presidency], Vedomosti, 25 December 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2017/12/25/746411-navalnomu-…
- 28“Алексея Навального выдвинули в президенты” [Aleksey Navalny was nominated for the presidency], Vedomosti, 24 December 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2017/12/24/746302-navalnogo-…
|Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups.||1.752 7.007|
- Civil society organizations continue to exist in Russia despite many formal and informal restrictions created by the authoritarian regime. However, the Kremlin tried to dominate civil society during 2017 through a “carrot and stick” approach, with the “stick” being wielded more often. This matched a trend that has persisted for several years, adding to fears that political pressure on civil society may increase further.1 At the same time, civil society demonstrated resilience and attempted to resist the pressure, including with the widespread civic protests tied to the election campaign.
- The case of Yuriy Dmitriyev, a historian at the human rights group Memorial’s office in Karelia, continued in 2017. In March, in addition to charges of possession of child pornography, Dmitriyev was charged with sexually abusing his foster daughter and illegally keeping a weapon.2 Human rights defenders argued that he was arrested because of his research into Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s repressions, and that the case was motivated by a desire for personal revenge among some regional security officials.3
- The Ministry of Justice designated 14 Russian NGOs working in the fields of human rights, ecology, and social issues—including Memorial’s Krasnodar office and Bellona, one of the oldest ecological NGOs in Russia4 —as foreign agents in 2017.5 All were all based in the regions and not in Moscow. The Ministry of Justice also designated four foreign organizations as undesirable; three of them—a pair of British-based entities associated with Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) and the U.S.-based Institute of Modern Russia—were founded by exiled businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky.6 On March 28, all undesirable foreign entities were prohibited from establishing new organizations in Russia.7
- In September, the public prosecutor’s office launched administrative cases against the SOVA Center, an organization specializing in research on racism, xenophobia, and misuses of antiextremism tactics.8 The cases were launched because the SOVA Center website featured hyperlinks to the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Foundations, both undesirable foreign entities.
- Russian authorities employed the “carrot” approach toward civil society in August, when 970 NGOs from all over Russia received presidential grants. Three NGOs recognized as foreign agents, including the Levada-Center, were among the recipients. The grants totaled almost 2.25 billion rubles ($37 million), and a further 7 billion rubles ($80 million) was earmarked for distribution in grants through the end of the year.9 However, according the official data provided by the Ministry of Justice, Russian NGOs received more than $1 billion from foreign donors in 2017, indicating that the government’s “carrot” approach did not create sufficient opportunities for Russian civil society in the face of politically created risks and redlines.10
- In November, Olga Romanova—head of the charity Rus Sidyashchaya (Jailed Russia), which specialized in aid for prisoners and their families—was forced to leave the country due to a conflict with the deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service.11
- The number of local civic protests grew during 2017. Unlike in previous years, when groups of citizens protested about specific grievances, as with the truck drivers’ protests in 2016, civic protests in 2017 became more broadly politicized.12 One possible reason for this development is a connection between civic protests in different places with different agendas and the protest activity of the political opposition.13
- In February, April, and September, citizens and activists in Yekaterinburg protested the proposed construction of an Orthodox church on an artificial island in the city’s central pond, one of Yekaterinburg’s main public spaces.14 However, the Sverdlovsk regional governor, Yevgeniy Kuyvashev, in coalition with the head of the Russian Copper Company, Igor Altushkin, and Andrey Kozitsyn, head of the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, opposed the protesters and lobbied together for the project. Following the September gubernatorial elections, and amid tensions between Yekaterinburg’s popular mayor and Kuyvashev, the church project was canceled in October.15 In nearby Chelyabinsk, citizens protested the construction of a new mining and processing plant.16 The plant would be built by the Russian Copper Company. Two new waves of national truck driver protests against new taxes occurred in March and December,17 while protesters in Moscow demonstrated against the city’s proposed renovation of districts built in the 1950s and 1960s (see Local Democratic Governance).18
- Russian civil society faced an additional threat during 2017 in the form of illiberal and extremist elements. These groups, inspired by the government’s antiliberal propaganda, committed acts of violence against civil society activists and organizations. The Kremlin has periodically delegated violence to nonstate actors; in the 2000s, the PEO flirted with extremist soccer fans and neo-Nazis.
- The South East Radical Block (SERB)—originally founded by pro-Russian street fighters in Dnipro, Ukraine, acted against Russian liberals during the year. On April 27, a SERB activist attacked Navalny, splashing him with a chemical cocktail that damaged his eye.19 SERB also tried to prevent public commemorations of the death of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in February 2015. The group regularly attacked the makeshift memorial erected at the site of Nemtsov’s murder,20 and in August, an unknown assailant attacked a volunteer, Ivan Skripnichenko, near the memorial. Skripnichenko died several days after the incident,21 and SERB denied responsibility for the attack. In September, SERB activists removed a memorial tablet from the building where Nemtsov lived before his death,22 and attacked lawyer Ilya Novikov—the defense attorney for the formerly imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko—near the same building.23 Also in September, the head of Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, Nikolay Lyaskin, was attacked and suffered a concussion;24 it was unclear at year’s end whether SERB was responsible. In November, evidence emerged that SERB was supervised by police officers who are formally tasked with combating extremism.25
- The security services continued to target religious extremism, whether real or imagined. On April 20, the Supreme Court labeled the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and prohibited the group’s activities in Russia.26 On September 4, a man from the Christian State, a radical group, attacked a movie theatre in Yekaterinburg that was screening the romantic drama Matilda, which depicts an alleged extramarital affair between a ballerina and the future tsar Nikolay II, who is venerated as an Orthodox saint.27 On September 11, radicals burned two cars near the office of the movie’s director.28 On September 20, a number of Christian State activists were detained,29 suggesting that the Russian authorities understood the threat of uncontrolled religious radicalism, as distinct from the targeted nationalist violence represented by SERB.
- In March, authorities in the Chechen Republic conducted a campaign of violent repression against the local LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. A journalistic investigation by Novaya Gazeta in April confirmed at least three deaths as a result of the campaign, with dozens of men illegally detained and tortured.30 Evidence that appeared in July suggested that between 27 and 56 people were killed.31 Chechen authorities denied that the repression was occurring, but the disappearances continued. Even a popular Chechen singer, Zelimkhan Bakayev, disappeared in Grozny in August.32 By autumn, there was credible evidence of at least 31 deaths of Chechen men who were suspected of being gay, but Russian authorities did not officially confirm any crackdown in Chechnya.33 Dozens of gay men left Chechnya to seek asylum in other Russian regions or abroad.34
- 1Tatyana Stanovaya, “Худшие ожидания. Куда пойдет страна после 2018-го” [The worse expectations. Where Russia will go after 2018], Republic, 13 October 2017, https://republic.ru/posts/86999
- 2“Карельскому историку Юрию Дмитриеву продлили арест на месяц и предъявили новые обвинения” [Arrest of Karelian historian Yuriy Dmitriyev prolonged for month, and new charges brought], 7x7: Novosti, Mneniya, Blogi, 9 March 2017, https://7x7-journal.ru/anewsitem/92712
- 3Zoya Svetova, “Дело Юрия Дмитриева и дракон Большого террора” [Yuriy Dmitriyev’s case and dragon of Great Terror], Otkrytaya Rossiya, 11 June 2017, https://openrussia.org/notes/710011/
- 4“Петербургский экологический центр ‘Беллона’ признали иноагентом” [Ecological center “Bellona” in St. Petersburg designated as foreign agent], Interfax, 16 January 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/545613
- 5“Сведения реестра НКО, выполняющих функции иностранного агента” [The register of NGOs acting as foreign agents], Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, http://unro.minjust.ru/NKOForeignAgent.aspx
- 6“Перечень иностранных и международных неправительственных организаций, деятельность которых признана нежелательной на территории Российской Федерации” [List of foreign and international organizations that are undesirable in Russia], Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, http://minjust.ru/ru/activity/nko/unwanted
- 7“Путин утвердил запрет на создание нежелательными иностранными НКО юридических лиц в РФ” [Putin signed ban on undesirable foreign NGOs establishing entities in Russia], TASS, 28 March 2017, http://tass.ru/politika/4132175
- 8“В отношении центра ‘Сова’ возбуждено два административных дела” [Two administrative cases initiated against “Sova” center], Kommersant, September 7 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3404116
- 9“Президентские гранты получили 970 НКО из 79 регионов России” [970 NGOs from 79 Russian regions got presidential grants], Interfax, 1 August 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/572957
- 10“Российские НКО за год получили из-за рубежа 72 млрд рублей” [Russian NGOs received from abroad 72 billion rubles in a year], BBC Russia, 28 April 2017, http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-39748105
- 11“Глава благотворительного фонда ‘Русь сидящая’ Ольга Романова уехала из России” [Olga Romanova, head of charity fund “Rus Sidyashchaya,” left Russia], Ekho Moskvy, 8 November 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2088440-echo.html
- 12“Эксперты заявили о резком росте числа протестов в России” [Experts told about fast growth of protests in Russia], RBC, 10 July 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/politics/10/07/2017/596375709a7947363a3a9d94
- 13“Социальный протест переходит в политический” [Social protest turns to political protest], Rosbalt, 21 March 2017, http://www.rosbalt.ru/russia/2017/03/21/1600521.html
- 14“На защиту пруда в Екатеринбурге вышло больше тысячи человек” [More than one thousand people participated in public rally for protection of city pond in Yekaterinburg], Politsovet, 8 April 2017, http://politsovet.ru/54986-na-zaschitu-pruda-v-ekaterinburge-vyshlo-bol…; “Третья акция ‘Обними пруд’ собрала две тысячи человек” [Third action “Hug the Pond” attracted two thousand people], Politsovet, 3 September 2017, http://politsovet.ru/56438-tretya-akciya-obnimi-prud-sobrala-dve-tysyac…
- 15“Власти Екатеринбурга отказались от планов строительства храма на пруду” [Regional authorities abandoned of project of church at the city pond in Yekaterinburg], Interfax, 18 October 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/583673
- 16“Скандал вокруг Томинского ГОКа в Челябинске” [Public scandal around Tominsky mining and processing plant in Chelyabinsk], Ura.ru, 10 September 2017, https://ura.news/story/387
- 17“В городах России стартовали протесты дальнобойщиков против системы ‘Платон’” [Truck drivers’ protests against “Platon” system started in cities around Russia], NEWSru.com, 27 March 2017, http://www.newsru.com/russia/27mar2017/platon.html; “В регионах началась новая стачка водителей—против ‘Платона’ и роста цен на бензин” [New strike of truck drivers against “Platon” and growing fuel prices started in Russian regions], NEWSru.com, 15 December 2017, http://www.newsru.com/russia/15dec2017/stachka.html
- 18“Митинг против реновации стал вотумом недоверия властям Москвы” [Public rally against the renovation became a motion of no confidence in Moscow authorities], BBC Russia, 14 May 2017, http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-39916464
- 19“Активисты движения SERB—предполагаемые нападавшие на Алексея Навального. Кто они такие?” [Activists of SERB are presumed as Aleksey Navalny’s attackers. Who are they?], Meduza, 2 May 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/05/02/aktivisty-dvizheniya-serb-predpola…
- 20“Ты что, Путина не любишь?” [Don’t you like Putin?], Radio Svoboda, 25 August 2017, https://www.svoboda.org/a/28696683.html
- 21“Что известно о смерти активиста, избитого на ‘Немцовом мосту’” [What is known about death of activist who was hit on Nemtsov bridge], BBC Russia, 25 August 2017, http://www.bbc.com/russian/features-41046752
- 22“Активисты SERB сорвали мемориальную доску с дома Немцова и сделали селфи в полиции” [Activists of SERB plucked memorial tablet from Nemtsov’s house and made selfie in police office], Novaya Gazeta, 12 September 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/2017/09/12/135198-aktivisty-serb-demon…
- 23“Активист SERB Гоша Тарасевич подрался с адвокатом Ильей Новиковым” [Activist of SERB Gosha Tarasevich fought with lawyer Ilya Novikov], Mediazona, 14 September 2017, https://zona.media/news/2017/09/14/novikov-vs-tarasevich
- 24“Нападение на Ляскина” [Attack against Lyaskin], Mediazona, 15 September 2017, https://zona.media/chronicle/lyaskin-truba
- 25“Активист SERB рассказал о кураторе движения—майоре центра ‘Э’” [Activist of SERB told about movement’s supervisor, major of police antiextremism department], Meduza, 9 November 2017, https://meduza.io/news/2017/11/09/aktivist-serb-rasskazal-o-kuratore-dv…
- 26“‘Свидетели Иеговы’ признаны слишком опасными для россиян [Jehovah’s Witnesses recognized as too dangerous for Russians], Vesti.Ru, 20 September 2017, https://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=2880003
- 27“В Екатеринбурге водитель въехал на УАЗе в кинотеатр” [Driver drove UAZ into movie theater], Meduza, 4 September 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/09/04/v-ekaterinburge-voditel-v-ehal-na-…
- 28“Поджог автомобилей за ‘Матильду’” [Burning cars for “Matilda” movie], Mediazona, 11 September 2017, https://zona.media/chronicle/dobrynin
- 29“По делам о ‘горячих’ противниках ‘Матильды’ задержаны 10 человек—источник” [Source told: 10 anti-Matilda activists detained for burnings], Fontanka.ru, 20 September 2017, http://www.fontanka.ru/2017/09/20/044/
- 30“Убийство чести” [Honor killing], Novaya Gazeta, 1 April 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/01/71983-ubiystvo-chesti; “Расправы над чеченскими геями” [Massacres over Chechen gays], Novaya Gazeta, 4 April 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/04/72027-raspravy-nad-chec…
- 31“Это была казнь. В ночь на 26 января в Грозном расстреляли десятки людей” [It was execution. On the night of 26 January dozens of people were shot in Grozny], Novaya Gazeta, 9 July 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/07/09/73065-eto-byla-kazn-v-n…
- 32“В видеообращении якобы уехавшего в Германию чеченского певца Бакаева есть энергетик Drive Me; PepsiCo не продает его на немецком рынке” [Chechen singer Bakayev seems not to be in Germany, some details in his video appeal testify], Mediazona, 25 September 2017, https://zona.media/news/2017/09/25/drive
- 33“Гей из Чечни пожаловался Москальковой на преследования” [Gay from Chechnya complained of manhunt to Moskalkova, ombudswoman for human rights], Lenta.ru, 13 October 2017, https://lenta.ru/news/2017/10/13/chechengays/
- 34“Более 30 геев из Чечни получили убежище в Канаде” [More than 30 gays from Chechnya received asylum in Canada], BBC Russia, 3 September 2017, http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-41139056
|Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media.||1.502 7.007|
- Although independent media outlets still exist in Russia and are often quite critical of the regime, they remained under constant threat in 2017. Such outlets are limited by a number of factors, including the size of their audiences, their willingness to investigate sensitive topics and individuals, and the readiness of owners and editors to compromise with authorities and other influential members of Russia’s political elite. The Kremlin’s pressure grows in tandem with the expansion of independent outlets’ audience and influence. Economic pressure has become one of the main tools of political leverage in recent years. Owners of independent media are forced—through threats to their businesses or advertisers—to either change the composition of their editorial boards or sell their media assets to the “right” people. However, the authorities also used more direct intimidation during 2017. Most independent media outlets in Russia operate online, enhancing the Kremlin’s interest in controlling the Russian segment of the internet and its links with the wider world.
- In June, Russian authorities registered the popular messaging application Telegram as an organizer of information dissemination, a term introduced into Russian law in 2016.1 While Telegram is less popular than competitors WhatsApp and Viber, it has end-to-end encryption and provides users with services for the creation of media channels. On September 27, the FSB demanded that Telegram provide access to its encryption keys; Telegram refused.2 The Russian authorities concurrently tried to monitor media channels on Telegram.3 In October, a court fined the company 800,000 rubles ($13,700) for its refusal to bend to the FSB’s demands.4 However, presidential press secretary Dmitriy Peskov gave assurances that the service would not be banned, and it remained accessible at year’s end.
- In July, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, adopted a legislative amendment—Federal Law No. 276—banning virtual private network (VPN) services and anonymizers that can be used to reach websites blocked by the Russian authorities.5 The new law took effect in November.6 While it was not clear by year’s end how the authorities would enforce the restriction, it gave the FSB and Ministry of Internal Affairs an additional point of leverage over the information technology industry. Also in July, the parliament passed Federal Law No. 241, which was set to take effect on January 1, 2018.7 Under this law, messaging applications and online services are required to identify their users and to cooperate with the Russian government in its efforts to control users’ access and online communication behaviors.
- On May 9, Putin signed the Strategy for the Development of an Information Society for 2017–2030.8 Based on the Russian government’s desire to establish “sovereignty” over the Russian portion of the internet, the strategy postulates that Russia must have the capacity to produce its own software and hardware independently, with all core information infrastructure ultimately under state control. Under a new law signed in July, owners of telecommunications networks in Russia must be Russian entities or entrepreneurs.9
- The government’s offensive against media independence online has faced challenges. In 2017, it became clear that telecom companies were incapable of complying with the Yarovaya law, Federal Law No. 374-FZ of 2016, which amended the Russian Counterterrorism Act.10 The measure compels telecom companies to record all traffic in the Russian segment of the internet and in domestic mobile networks, and provide the FSB with the ability to decrypt this information.11 Consequently, the government has started to search for a way to delay enforcement of the law.
- On September 20, the FSB and Roskomnadzor, the authority responsible for regulating media and communications, barred Russian internet providers from using Google Global Cache servers, because this equipment does not have a Russian license.12 In October, Roskomnadzor established a new department tasked with developing measures for blocking online services and applications.13
- In addition to legal and regulatory restrictions, independent media and individual journalists continued to face extralegal violence. On July 19, unknown assailants sprayed the house of Yuliya Latynina—a columnist at Novaya Gazeta and radio host at Ekho Moskvy—with a pungent chemical agent.14 On September 3, Latynina’s car was burned,15 and she and her family were forced to move abroad.16 In October, experts said that the chemical agent sprayed on her house was highly toxic.17
- The Russian government moved against international media outlets during 2017. In September, Roskomnadzor warned CNN International over alleged violations of Russian media law.18 In October, the Ministry of Justice warned Radio Svoboda and Nastoyashcheye Vremya—the Russian-language outlets of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)—about the possibility of being designated as foreign agents.19 These warnings were apparently aimed at preparing a legal basis for countermeasures if the United States required Kremlin mouthpieces RT and Sputnik to register as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). RT was in fact forced to register in the United States in November, and Russia passed a law that month allowing foreign agent status to be conferred on media outlets.20 In December the Ministry of Justice designated Voice of America and eight media outlets associated with RFE/RL as foreign agents.21
- In the domestic sphere, the independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy experienced government pressure. Editor in chief Aleksey Venediktov expressed his belief in October that eliminating his radio station’s independence was still part of the leadership’s agenda.22 On October 23, a man named Boris Gritz attacked Ekho Moskvy’s studios with a knife and seriously wounded deputy editor in chief and radio host Tatyana Felgengauer.23 Though the circumstances were unclear, the attack appeared to be a personal act inspired by state propaganda against those expressing independent and opposition opinions.
- Also in October, investigators raided the editorial office of the Open Russia website in Moscow, as well as employees’ homes. Officially, the investigators were searching for information pertaining to a criminal case related to Yukos, the former oil company once owned by Khodorkovsky, Open Russia’s founder.24 However, the authorities have used this justification as a pretext for persistent pressure on those involved with Khodorkovsky’s civic projects in Russia, as the Kremlin continues to view the exiled businessman and opposition supporter as a threat. In December, Roskomnadzor blocked access to websites affiliated with Open Russia and its main projects after a request by the Prosecutor General’s Office.25
- 1“Telegram внесен в реестр распространителей информации” [Telegram put on the list of disseminators of information], Lenta.ru, 28 June 2017, https://lenta.ru/news/2017/06/28/v_reestre/
- 2“ФСБ потребовала от Telegram расшифровать переписку пользователей” [FSB requires Telegram to decrypt user communications], Vedomosti, 27 September 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/technology/articles/2017/09/27/735506-fsb-potr…
- 3“В Кремле и ФСБ занялись мониторингом телеграмм-каналов” [Kremlin and FSB started monitoring of Telegram channels], Vedomosti, 24 September 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2017/09/24/735092-kremle-fsb…
- 4“Павел Дуров назвал требования ФСБ к Телеграм противоречащим конституции России” [FSB’s claims towards Telegram contradict Russia’s constitution, Pavel Durov says], Ekho Moskvy, 16 October 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2074526-echo.html; “Суд оштрафовал Telegram за отказ сотрудничать с ФСБ” [Court fined Telegram for rejection of cooperation with FSB], RBC, 16 October 2017, https://www.rbc.ru/politics/16/10/2017/59e4594c9a79472f70294422
- 5“Президент России подписал закон о запрете анонимайзеров и VPN” [Russia’s president signed ban on anonymizers and VPNs], Geektimes, 30 July 2017, https://geektimes.ru/post/291591/
- 6“Федеральный закон от 29.07.2017 № 276-ФЗ ‘О внесении изменений в Федеральный закон “Об информации, информационных технологиях и о защите информации”’” [Federal Law of 29.07.2017 No. 276-FZ “On changes to Federal Law ‘On information, information technologies and information protection’”], Official Web Portal of Legal Information, 30 July 2017, http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201707300002?index=0&…
- 7“Федеральный закон от 29 июля 2017 г. N 241-ФЗ ‘О внесении изменений в статьи 10 и 15 Федерального закона “Об информации, информационных технологиях и о защите информации”’” [Federal Law of 29.07.2017 No. 241-FZ “On changes to articles 10 and 15 of Federal Law ‘On information, information technologies and information protection’”], Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 4 August 2017, https://rg.ru/2017/08/04/informacia-dok.html
- 8“Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 09.05.2017 № 203 ‘О Стратегии развития информационного общества в Российской Федерации на 2017–2030 годы’” [Executive Order of the President of Russia of 09.05.2017 No. 203 “On the Strategy for the Development of an Information Society in the Russian Federation for 2017–2030”], Official Web Portal of Legal Information, 10 May 2017, http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201705100002?index=0&…
- 9“Федеральный закон от 26.07.2017 № 187-ФЗ ‘О безопасности критической информационной инфраструктуры Российской Федерации’” [Federal Law of 26.07.2017 No. 187-FZ “On protection of critical information infrastructure of the Russian Federation”], Official Web Portal of Legal Information, 26 July 2017, http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201707260023?index=2&…
- 10“Федеральный закон от 06.07.2017 №374-ФЗ ‘О внесении изменений в федеральный закон “О противодействии терроризму” и отдельные законодательные акты российской федерации в части установления дополнительных мер противодействия терроризму и обеспечения общественной безопасности’” [Federal Law of 06.07.2017 No. 374-FZ “On changes to Federal Law ‘On counterterrorism’ and other laws for additional measures for counterterrorism and public security”], Consultant Plus, 6 July 2017, http://www.consultant.ru/cons/cgi/online.cgi?req=doc&base=LAW&n=201078&…
- 11“Сроки исполнения ‘закона Яровой’ операторами могут перенести ради программы ‘Цифровая экономика’” [Terms of implementation of “Yarovaya law” by providers may be delayed for “Digital economy” program], NEWSru.com, 5 October 2017, https://hitech.newsru.com/article/05oct2017/yarovaya
- 12“ФСБ и Роскомнадзор предупредили провайдеров о незаконности серверов Google Global Cache” [FSB and Roskomnadzor warned providers that Google Global Cache servers are illegal], Meduza, 20 September 2017, https://meduza.io/news/2017/09/20/fsb-i-roskomnadzor-predupredili-prova…
- 13“Роскомнадзор создал департамент по блокировке анонимайзеров и VPN-сервисов” [Roskomnadzor established department for blocking anonymizers and VPN servers], TASS, 6 October 2017, http://tass.ru/obschestvo/4622429
- 14“На дом Юлии Латыниной совершено нападение” [Yuliya Latynina’s house was attacked], Ekho Moskvy, 19 July 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2021598-echo.html
- 15“Автомобиль обозревателя ‘Новой’ Юлии Латыниной сожгли в Переделкине. Полиция не исключила ‘самовозгорание’” [Car of Yuliya Latynina, columnist of Novaya Gazeta, burned out in Peredelkino. Police do not rule out “self-ignition”], Novaya Gazeta, 3 September 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/2017/09/03/134972-sgorela-mashina-yuli…
- 16“Латынина уехала из России” [Latynina left Russia], Gazeta.ru, 9 September 2017, https://www.gazeta.ru/social/2017/09/09/10881728.shtml
- 17“Получены результаты экспертизы вещества, которым опрыскали автомобиль обозревателя ‘Новой газеты’ Юлии Латыниной” [Results of expert examination of reagent that was sprayed onto Yuliya Latynina’s car delivered], Ekho Moskvy, 14 October 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2073660-echo.html
- 18“Роскомнадзор обвинил CNN в нарушении закона о СМИ” [Roskomnadzor accuses CNN of violation of law on mass media], RBC, 29 September 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/technology_and_media/29/09/2017/59ce06619a7947e7058ba…
- 19“‘Радио Свобода’ и телеканал ‘Настоящее время’ получили предупреждение от Роскомнадзора” [“Radio Svoboda” and “Nastoyashcheye vremya” received warning from Roskomnadzor], Ekho Moskvy, 9 October 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2070452-echo.html
- 20“Путин подписал закон о статусе иноагента для СМИ” [Putin signed law on foreign agent status for mass media], RIA Novosti, 25 November 2017, https://ria.ru/society/20171125/1509591419.html
- 21“Реестр иностранных средств массовой информации, выполняющих функции иностранного агента” [Register of foreign mass media that work as foreign agents], Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, 5 December 2017, http://minjust.ru/ru/deyatelnost-v-sfere-nekommercheskih-organizaciy/re…
- 22“Задача уничтожить ‘Эхо Москвы’ как самостоятельную станцию не изменилась” [Killing Ekho Moskvy as independent radio station is a goal that has not changed], Novaya Gazeta, 2 October 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/10/02/74047-zadacha-unichtozh…
- 23“На журналистку Татьяну Фельгенгауэр напали с ножом прямо в редакции ‘Эха Москвы’” [Journalist Tatyana Felgengauer was attacked with knife in the office of Ekho Moskvy], Meduza, 23 October 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/10/23/napadenie-na-zhurnalistku-eha-mosk…
- 24“Следователи пришли с обысками в ‘Открытую Россию’” [Investigators raid the office of “Open Russia”], Vedomosti, 5 October 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2017/10/05/736683-sledovatel…
- 25“Блокировка ‘Открытой России’ и других сайтов Михаила Ходорковского” [Blocking of “Open Russia” and other Mikhail Khodorkovsky websites], Meduza, 12 December 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/12/12/blokirovka-otkrytoy-rossii-i-drugi…
|Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities.||1.502 7.007|
- The system of local governance in Russia, incorporating regions and local communities, remained firmly under the Kremlin’s control in 2017. The central leadership exercised this control through laws, taxes, and budget redistributions, as well as through state-owned companies and security agencies. The year’s main trend was the continuing struggle among regional and local elite groups for political survival and decreasing economic assets. This struggle coincided with the Kremlin’s aim of increasing the manageability of local political processes in the face of growing domestic turbulence. Consequently, personal loyalty to the Kremlin became the only criterion for new gubernatorial appointments, and any significant political and economic autonomy for regional elites (as in Tatarstan) became unacceptable.
- The Kremlin tried to reinforce its grasp on local governance through a huge reshuffle of governors in February, and further changes in September and October. The reshuffles were partly connected with regional and local economic problems, and with competition among regional leaders.1 In keeping with the Potemkin nature of Russia’s local politics, these reshuffles showed that it does not matter whether a governor was elected, or how many people voted for him. In every decision concerning regional governance, the Kremlin and other actors preferred informal bargains hidden behind the facade of fake local elections.2
- In February, the governors of the Perm, Novgorod, and Ryazan regions, and the Buryat and Karelia republics, were replaced with acting governors appointed by Putin.3 In April, against a backdrop of protests concerning the proposed Orthodox church in the heart of Yekaterinburg (see Civil Society), the governor of Sverdlovsk region, Yevgeniy Kuyvashev, resigned, but stayed on as acting governor.4 Both the conflict over the construction of the church and Kuyvashev’s long-term tensions with the popular Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeniy Royzman resulted in Royzman being barred from running for the Sverdlovsk governorship, and Kuyvashev returned to office following the gubernatorial elections in September.
- In September and October, Putin appointed 11 acting governors to replace the governors of the Nenets Autonomous District, Samara, Nizhniy Novgorod, Krasnoyarsk, Primorsky, Oryol, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Ivanovo, and Pskov regions and the Republic of Dagestan.5 In December, the governor of Voronezh region, former agriculture minister Aleksey Gordeyev, was also replaced, and Gordeyev became presidential envoy for the central federal district.6 Overall, 17 of the federation’s 83 governors, plus two governors in the occupied Ukrainian jurisdictions of Crimea and Sevastopol, were replaced during 2017. The overarching reasons for this reshuffle were complicated. First, Putin’s cronies, and the financial-industrial groups affiliated with them, were trying to improve their positions in the regions. Second, the Kremlin was preparing for the 2018 presidential election and removed weak governors in problematic regions. Third, Putin might have been seeking to give bureaucrats of the younger generation—many of the new acting governors were aged around 40—an opportunity to prove themselves, possibly as part of the aging president’s planning for an eventual succession.7
- The replacement of the governor of Dagestan in October stood out as particularly significant. Putin’s choice for acting governor was Vladimir Vasiliyev, the head of the United Russia faction in the State Duma and a former police general.8 Vasiliyev’s appointment marked the first time in the post-Soviet history of Russia that Dagestan was headed by a person not originally from the republic. Dagestan is a complicated multiethnic entity, marred by insurgency and local corruption; in the past, Moscow has usually tried to rely on locals to govern the restive republic.9 Vasiliyev’s appointment appeared to signal the Kremlin’s desire to change current conditions and make the region more amenable to central rule.
- Also significant was the appointment of Andrey Turchak—the outgoing governor of Pskov and the son of Anatoliy Turchak, a Putin ally since the 1990s and owner of the defense company Leninets—to the office of secretary of the general council of United Russia.10 In this role he would manage relations between the party and Russian authorities at the federal and local levels. Turchak would also be responsible for the party’s mobilization during the presidential campaign. In November, Turchak became a deputy chairperson in the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, where he received a seat as a representative of the Pskov regional legislature.11 In this position, he would also be involved in managing Russia’s local governance system.12 Turchak was notorious for his alleged role in a brutal 2010 attack on independent journalist Oleg Kashin.
- In March, a political crisis began in the Republic of Tatarstan, one of the most developed regions in Russia, following the collapse of the two biggest regional banks and subsequent public protests.13 In April, the president of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, dismissed the republic’s premier, Ildar Khalikov.14 In July and August, the Kremlin used this weakness in the republic’s leadership as the basis for deciding against the renewal of a 1994 agreement on the delineation of authority between the federal government and Tatarstan, which had been extended several times.15 From 1994 until the end of the 1990s, such agreements between the federal and regional authorities were a common practice under Article 11 of the constitution. However, after Putin came to power the practice was eliminated, and only Tatarstan kept its agreement due to the strength of its political and economic elites. The end of the pact represented the demise of the last real example of relative regional autonomy in the Russian Federation.16
- Putin also ended the practice of requiring Russian children to learn regional languages in the federation’s republics, and retained the Russian language as a mandatory language of instruction across the country.17 Tatarstan’s authorities took this message to heart and increased Russian-language classes in the republic’s schools.18 However, the decision stirred political dissatisfaction among Tatars.19
- Another key development in local governance occurred in Moscow. In February, Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin decided to start a program of renovation for the city. For the plan to be implemented, more than 1.5 million Muscovites would have to be moved from their old apartments into new buildings. The moving procedure, as well as property rules and future plans for gentrification of the land surrounding the old buildings, were unclear. This led to local protests during 2017, as Moscow’s authorities attempted to ignore property rules and the interests of citizens; banks and construction companies were expected to be the main beneficiaries of the program. Moreover, the plan could create a precedent for other regions, with potentially painful consequences for the weak system of private property in Russia.
- The Republic of Chechnya continued to exhibit unique local governance conditions in 2017. Among other unusual traits, the republic’s leadership played a disproportionate role in Russian foreign policy.20 Beginning in January, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s security forces were used in Syria as Russian military police. In September, Kadyrov mobilized Muslims in Moscow, as well as in Chechnya, to protest Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of its Muslim Rohingya minority,21 despite the Russian government’s official support for the government of Myanmar.22 These differences were eventually resolved through the involvement of Kadyrov representative Ziyad Sabsabi, a member of the Federation Council, in Russia’s state policy toward Myanmar.23 The development further strengthened Kadyrov’s position in Russia’s authoritarian system and his self-assigned function as a mediator between the Kremlin and foreign Islamic communities.
- 1“Наталья Зубаревич: называть это показательной поркой я не могу” [Natalya Zubarevich: I cannot call this a demonstrative flogging], Ekho Moskvy, 30 September 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/blog/partofair/2065008-echo/
- 2Fedor Krasheninnikov, “Putin’s Political Machine Defeats Its Purpose,” Russia File, 20 October 2017, http://www.kennan-russiafile.org/2017/10/20/putins-political-machine-de…
- 3“Путин назвал ротацию губернаторов регионов естественным процессом” [Putin calls rotation of governors a natural process], RIA Novosti, 17 February 2017, https://ria.ru/politics/20170217/1488194634.html
- 4“Путин назначил Куйвашева ВРИО губернатора Свердловской области” [Putin appointed Kuyvashev as acting governor of Sverdlovsk region], Interfax, 17 April 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/558741
- 5“Путин отправил в отставку десятого губернатора” [Putin dismissed 10th governor], RBC, 10 October 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/politics/10/10/2017/59dc82ec9a7947a573ae81d2; “Чем запомнился Андрей Турчак на посту губернатора Псковской области” [What Andrey Turchak was remembered for as governor of Pskov region], TASS, 12 October 2017, http://tass.ru/politika/4639943
- 6“Путин уволил губернатора Воронежской области” [Putin dismissed governor of Voronezh region], 25 December 2017, https://www.rbc.ru/politics/25/12/2017/5a40de7b9a79472a460c05d2
- 7“Для чего Владимир Путин поменял этой осенью 11 губернаторов” [Why Vladimir Putin changed 11 governors this autumn], Vedomosti, 13 October 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2017/10/13/737682-dlya-chego…
- 8“Главой Дагестана назначен Владимир Васильев” [Vladimir Vasiliyev is appointed as a head of Dagestan], Meduza, 3 October 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/10/03/glavoy-dagestana-naznachen-vladimi…
- 9Konstantin Kazenin, “Кавказская демократия: Почему Дагестан не повторил путь Чечни” [Caucasian democracy: Why Dagestan did not go Chechnya’s way], Carnegie Moscow Center, 19 October 2015, http://carnegie.ru/commentary/61666
- 10“Врио губернатора Псковской области стал заместитель полпреда” [Deputy presidential envoy for the Northwestern Federal District became acting governor of Pskov region], RIA Novosti, 12 October 2017, https://ria.ru/politics/20171012/1506724756.html
- 11“А. Турчак избран заместителем председателя Совета Федерации” [A. Turchak elected as deputy chairperson of the Federation Council], Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, 8 November 2017, http://www.council.gov.ru/events/news/85511/
- 12“В СФ прошел съезд Всероссийского Совета местного самоуправления” [All-Russian Council of local governance was held at the Federation Council], Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, 25 December 2017, http://www.council.gov.ru/events/news/87687/
- 13“Крах иллюзий. Обернется ли банковский кризис в Татарстане политическим?” [Ruined illusions. Will the bank crisis in Tatarstan turn to political crisis?], Argumenty i Fakty–Kazan, 7 March 2017, http://www.kazan.aif.ru/money/banks/konec_illyuziy_kak_pomogut_klientam…
- 14“Жертва кризиса: президент Татарстана отправил в отставку премьера республики” [Victim of crisis: president of Tatarstan dismissed premier of the republic], RBC, 3 April 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/politics/03/04/2017/58e244d79a794700ec8af512
- 15“В Кремле отказались сохранять особый договор с Татарстаном” [Kremlin declined to maintain special treaty with Tatarstan], RBC, 11 July 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/politics/11/07/2017/5963b9d09a7947cc065a5b11
- 16“Кремль не продлит договор с Татарстаном. Изменит ли это что-то?” [Kremlin will not prolong treaty with Tatarstan. Will it change something?], BBC Russia, 11 August 2017, http://www.bbc.com/russian/features-40904692; “Сигнал от Путина: что оставят Татарстану по истечению договора с Россией” [Sign from Putin: What Tatarstan will keep after the expiration of treaty with Russia], RBC, 11 August 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/politics/11/08/2017/598db6239a7947c83a69eceb
- 17“Путин увидел в русском языке духовный каркас страны” [Putin considers Russian language as a cultural frame of Russia], Lenta.ru, 20 July 2017, https://lenta.ru/news/2017/07/20/putin_language/
- 18“Татарстан увеличит объем преподавания русского языка в школах с 2018 года” [Tatarstan will increase number of lessons in Russian language from 2018], Kommersant, 7 September 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3404303
- 19“Владимира Путина просят защитить татарский язык” [Vladimir Putin is asked for protection of Tatar language], Kommersant, 25 September 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3420927
- 20Pavel Luzin, “Ramzan Kadyrov: Russia’s top diplomat,” The Intersection, 11 April 2017, http://intersectionproject.eu/article/security/ramzan-kadyrov-russias-t…
- 21“Принуждение к Мьянме” [Coercion to Myanmar], Novaya Gazeta, 5 September 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/09/05/73713-gnev-lyudey-dobro…
- 22“Выступление Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова на панельной дискуссии ‘Общество и мировая политика’ в рамках XIX Всемирного фестиваля молодежи и студентов [Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the panel discussion “Society and World Politics” at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students], Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 16 October 2017, http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/meropriyatiya_s_uchastiem_ministra/-/asset_…
- 23“Комментарий Департамента информации и печати МИД России о ситуации в Ракхайнской национальной области Мьянмы” [Commentary by the Information and Press Department on the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar], Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 17 November 2017, http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/kommentarii_predstavitelya/-/asset_publishe…
|Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions.||1.251 7.007|
- The Russian judicial system remained fully dependent on the Kremlin in 2017 and continued its traditional support for the authorities and their associates in civil, commercial, and criminal cases. For example, no more than 0.5 percent of criminal cases end in acquittal.1 Throughout the year, Russia considered whether to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) or at least to not execute its decisions.2 The country also failed to address key judicial challenges, including violations of the rule of law in Chechnya. This failure had a negative effect on the justice system throughout the country.
- After opposition protests on March 26, Russian courts penalized some activists who were detained by police.3 This tactic of selective repression was aimed at intimidating individual activists and protesters, and followed a strategy that had been honed since mass demonstrations against Putin’s return to the presidency in May 2012. Policemen served as the only witnesses in such trials.
- During and after the campaign of persecution against the LGBT community in Chechnya in March and April, victims were denied their rights to protection, due process, and the presumption of innocence throughout the Russian court system. The families of disappeared people in Chechnya were even prohibited from making complaints to the human rights commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova, when she visited Grozny in September.4
- Russia’s latent conflict with the ECtHR came to a head in October. The court recommended abrogating the prison term of Yaroslav Belousov, who had been charged as a participant in the May 2012 protests and spent more than three years in prison. The ECtHR also ordered Russia to pay Belousov compensation. However, the Supreme Court of Russia rejected the recommendation and the decision. Also that month, the ECtHR ruled that Navalny and his brother Oleg had been unfairly sentenced, respectively, to probation and prison in 2013.5
- Later in October, both the chairperson of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko,6 and the State Duma speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin,7 said Russia would not accept ECtHR decisions as long as the head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is a person elected without Russia’s involvement. In other words, Matviyenko and Volodin signaled that Russia wants PACE to lift its sanctions against, and restore voting rights to, the Russian delegation. Russia also chose not to pay its part of the ECtHR budget.8
- 1“Верховный суд подвел итоги работы судов за 2017 год” [The Supreme Court resumed work of courts in Russia in 2017], Pravo.ru, 21 February 2018, https://pravo.ru/story/200608/
- 2“Участие России в ЕСПЧ невозможно заморозить, признали чиновники” [Russia’s membership at ECtHR cannot be frozen, officials say], Vedomosti, 30 October 2017, https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2017/10/30/739761-rossii-esp…
- 3“Дело о нападениях на полицейских 26 марта ведет группа ‘болотных’ следователей” [Criminal trial of attacks against policemen on March 26 is carried out by the officers that were engaged in Bolotnaya case], Novaya Gazeta, 14 April 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/14/72164-kuliy-zimovets-sh…; “Мосгорсуд оставил в силе приговор фигуранту дела ‘26 марта’ Зимовцу” [Moscow City Court upheld sentence against defendant Zimovets in “March 26” case], Novaya Gazeta, 25 September 2017, https://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/2017/09/25/135551-mosgorsud-ostavil-v-…
- 4“Жителям Чечни запретили жаловаться омбудсмену Москальковой” [People in Chechnya are prohibited to complain to ombudswoman Moskalkova], BBC Russia, 21 September 2017, http://www.bbc.com/russian/features-41345997
- 5Case of Navalnyye v. Russia (Application No. 101/15), European Court of Human Rights, 17 October 2017, http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-177665
- 6“Матвиенко: Россия не будет признавать решения ЕСПЧ без ее участия в работе ПАСЕ” [Matviyenko: Russia will not recognize ECtHR decisions without Russia’s participation in PACE work], Kommersant, 9 October 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3434327
- 7“Russia to Reject Strasbourg Court If Not Allowed to Help Select Judges,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 14 October 2017, https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-to-reject-strasbourg-court-if-not-allowe…
- 8“Европейский суд без российских денег” [European court without Russian funding], Izvestiya, 23 October 2017, https://iz.ru/645724/iurii-bogdanov-tatiana-baikova-andrei-ontikov/evro…
|Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives.||1.251 7.007|
- Russia’s authoritarian system is based on grand corruption. Officials at all levels are involved in corruption networks that lavishly reward their members for loyalty and have extensive informal links with private businesses and organized crime. In 2017, corruption remained the main barrier to Russia’s democratization. The authorities did not make any sustainable efforts to combat corruption, and new evidence of egregious high-level corruption appeared during the year. The official anticorruption campaign remained nothing more than a tool of political struggle within the ruling establishment.
- One of the most prominent privatizations of 2017 was the sale in January of 19.5 percent of the shares in Rosneft. However, the process, which began at the end of 2016, was not transparent, nor were the names of the sale’s beneficiaries publicly accessible. In September, Rosneft announced that a Chinese company, CEFC China Energy, had purchased a 14.2 percent stake in Rosneft, worth $9 billion. The details of the privatization were still unclear at year’s end,1 but there were strong indications of possible corruption.
- In February, Navalny presented a documentary film about real-estate assets linked to Prime Minister Medvedev with an estimated value of more than $1.5 billion.2 The investigation alleged that while the assets are formally owned by nonprofit foundations and companies controlled by Medvedev’s close friend Ilya Yeliseyev, the prime minister regularly utilizes the properties as if they were his own. Medvedev did not provide an explanation, and the Russian authorities refused to respond to Navalny’s investigation.
- In April, Prosecutor General Yuriy Chayka presented a report about billions of rubles stolen during the construction of the Vostochny space launch site.3 However, only one person, the chief executive of one of the construction companies, Vadim Mitryakov, was charged for the embezzlement of 1.3 billion rubles ($2.29 million). Mitryakov was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and fined 1 million rubles ($17,000).4 The conviction of only one person suggested that there was no substantive investigation: Contrary to the official narrative, the Spetsstroy construction company played the main role in the Vostochny embezzlement. The Ministry of Defense owned Spetsstroy but disbanded the company in December 2016 due to the many financial violations during the Vostochny project.5
- In July, police in the Tyumen region arrested a group of FSB and police officials who were suspected of committing murders and operating a criminal racket.6 The case illustrated how security services in Russia coalesce with organized crime. That same month, two FSB colonels were arrested in Moscow and charged with extortion.7
- In August, the National Bureau of Economic Research, a U.S. nonprofit organization, reported that Russia’s richest citizens accumulated about 75 percent of Russia’s national income in offshore accounts.8 While this does not directly mean that all these funds were the product of graft, it does speak to the absence of transparency in Russia’s political and economic system. Moreover, in October, the government decided against implementing a policy to incentivize large Russian corporations, including Alrosa and Gazprom, to avoid using offshore accounts in their financial dealings.9
- In September, a bureaucratic attack against the European University in Saint Petersburg (EUSPb) continued, and the university lost its license. The attack against the independent and influential university began in 2016, but in 2017 the main purpose of the campaign became clear. According to a journalistic investigation by independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the university’s campus is close to luxury real estate owned by Medvedev’s cronies, who presumably initiated the case to expand their property.10 By the end of the year, the EUSPb had moved into other building and continued its work in the capacity of a research center.11
- From September to December, a number of criminal corruption trials began against officials from the Ministry of Defense,12 the Ministry of Internal Affairs,13 the Investigative Committee,14 the Federal Penitentiary Service,15 and the Federal Guard Service (FSO).16 However, the proceedings had the appearance of internal power struggles rather than a genuine attempt at stamping out corruption, as they did not touch the highest leadership, only deputies and midlevel officials. In an authoritarian system like Russia’s, such officials would likely be involved in patron-client relationships with their superiors.
- In October, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published an investigative report on the assets of Putin’s inner circle, finding that Putin and his associates collectively own assets worth at least $24 billion.17 Also in October, authorities charged Roskomnadzor press secretary Vadim Ampelonsky and two other officials with stealing from the state budget.18 However, the hearings in their cases were closed to the public.19 According to prosecutors, Ampelonsky and his colleagues created fictitious jobs in one of Roskomnadzor’s subsidiaries. These jobs existed on paper but were unfilled, and prosecutors alleged that the defendants collected the salaries. However, one of the accused, Anastasiya Zvyagintseva, said that the scheme was used to give rewards to key Roskomnadzor employees for several years.20
Author: Pavel Luzin
Pavel Luzin is the founder of research start-up Under Mad Trends. He previously worked as a senior lecturer at Perm State University. From 2013 to 2014 he was a fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO RAS). From 2011 to 2013 he worked at the Higher School of Economics as a lecturer and at the PIR Center as an expert and assistant to the editor in chief of the journal Security Index. He is a columnist at the Intersection project and a contributing analyst for Wikistrat.
The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.
- 1Mikhail Krutikhin, “Извивы приватизации: как китайцы получили часть ‘Роснефти’” [Privatization twist: How Chinese got a stake in Rosneft], Carnegie Moscow Center, 11 September 2017, http://carnegie.ru/commentary/73053
- 2“Он вам не Димон. Дворцы, яхты и виноградники—тайная жизнь Дмитрия Медведева” [Don’t call him “Dimon.” Palaces, pleasure boats and vineyards—Dmitry Medvedev’s secret life], Anti-Corruption Foundation–Navalny, 2 March 2017, https://dimon.navalny.com
- 3“Чайка связал упразднение ‘Спецстроя’ с проверками космодрома ‘Восточный’ [Chayka associates elimination of Spetsstroy with the audit at Vostochny launch site], RBC, 25 April 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/society/25/04/2017/58fef8209a794740d13d0f72
- 4“Суд приговорил бизнесмена к 4 года колонии за хищения на Восточном” [Court sentenced businessman to four years in prison for frauds in Vostochny launch site], RBC, 20 February 2017, http://www.rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/58aab5899a794736fe6632dc
- 5“Коррупция расформировала Спецстрой” [Corruption broke up Spetsstroy], RBC, 22 December 2016, https://www.rbc.ru/politics/22/12/2016/585bdeaf9a794757df20a360
- 6“На счету чекистов-убийц могут быть десятки трупов” [Gang of FSB officers could kill dozens of people], Znak.com, 20 July 2017, https://www.znak.com/2017-07-20/v_tyumeni_rassleduyut_delo_bandy_killer…
- 7“Двух полковников ФСБ арестовали за вымогательство взятки” [Two FSB colonels are arrested for extortion], Interfax, 15 July 2017, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/570707
- 8Filip Novokmet, Thomas Piketty, Gabriel Zucman, “From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia, 1905–2016,” NBER Working Paper No. 23712, August 2017, http://www.nber.org/papers/w23712
- 9“Власти отказались выводить из оффшоров крупные российские компании” [Russian authorities refused to withdraw state-owned Russian companies from offshore jurisdictions], Rosbalt, 3 October 2017, http://www.rosbalt.ru/business/2017/10/03/1650213.html
- 10“Европейский университет. Откуда доносится?” [European University of Saint Petersburg. Where does problem come from?], Novaya Gazeta–St. Petersburg, 17 November 2017, http://novayagazeta.spb.ru/articles/11338/
- 11Rebeka Foley, “The Bureaucratic Assault on a Liberal Russian University,” Freedom at Issue, 31 January 2018, https://freedomhouse.org/blog/bureaucratic-assault-liberal-russian-univ…
- 12“Полковник проявил тыловую хватку” [Colonel showed iron grip in collecting bribes], Kommersant, 26 September 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3421487
- 13“Оперативники Следственного комитета задержали главного полицейского Камчатки” [Officers of Investigative Committee detained the head of Kamchatka police], Ekho Moskvy, 29 September 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2064290-echo.html; “Главный конструктор МВД Андрей Нечаев был задержан на выставке ‘Интерполитех-2017’ на ВДНХ” [Chief product manager of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Andrey Nechayev detained at expo ‘Interpolitex 2017’ in VDNKh], Ekho Moskvy, 18 October 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2076026-echo.html
- 14“Следствие стало подследственным” [Investigators became suspected], Kommersant, 28 December 2017, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3511729
- 15“Заместителя главы ФСИН Олега Коршунова, подозреваемого в растрате, задержали во время отдыха на яхте” [Deputy head of Federal Penitentiary Service Oleg Korshunov detained on yacht after suspicious embezzlement], Ekho Moskvy, 13 September 2017, https://echo.msk.ru/news/2054990-echo.html
- 16“ФСБ взялась за искусственный интеллект Москвы” [FSB investigates case related to design of intelligent parking system in Moscow], Rosbalt, 15 November 2017, http://www.rosbalt.ru/moscow/2017/11/15/1660955.html
- 17“Putin and the Proxies,” OCCRP, https://www.occrp.org/en/putinandtheproxies/#infographic
- 18“Дело Роскомнадзора. Все подробности” [Criminal trial against Roskomnadzor officials. All details], Meduza, 12 October 2017, https://meduza.io/feature/2017/10/12/delo-roskomnadzora-vse-podrobnosti
- 19“В ФСБ рассказали о гостайне в деле сотрудников Роскомнадзора” [FSB discusses classified information in criminal trial against Roskomnadzor officials], RBC, 12 October 2017, https://www.rbc.ru/society/12/10/2017/59df97a79a79470c86806a03
- 20“ФСБ полгода прослушивала сотрудников Роскомнадзора” [FSB wiretapped Roskomnadzor officials for half of year], RBC, 13 October 2017, https://www.rbc.ru/society/13/10/2017/59e04b4a9a7947518c046464
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Global Freedom Score19 100 not free
Internet Freedom Score23 100 not free