Agriculture is a lagging sector in the Russian economy and shows poor returns. Forced collectivization in the 1930s (see Older history) created inefficient large-scale farming that was only slowly divided into smaller, family-owned units.
- CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Russia. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.
The most important agricultural areas are the Volgar region, western Siberia, northern Caucasus, Ural and the Moscow area. The most cultivated cereals are wheat, rye, oats and maize. In addition, potatoes, sugar beets, hemp, cotton, oilseeds and a large number of other crops are grown. Livestock farming is mainly conducted in the northern parts of the country.
During the 1990s, agricultural production had declined sharply and much food was needed at that time, but around 2000 a turnaround came. In 2002, Russia was able to export cereals for the first time since the tsar period. Around ten years later, Russia was the world’s fifth largest wheat exporter.
Almost half of Russia’s area is covered by forest and timber is an important export product. Forestry is also hampered by the legacy of the Soviet era’s predatory operation and the yield is considerably lower than in Sweden, for example. For Russia defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.
Russia accounts for almost a quarter of world production of fresh and frozen fish. But fishing and pollution of rivers and lakes has led to decreasing catches in their own waters. A fishing ban for disturbances was introduced in 2008. The Russian fishing fleet now takes a large part of its catch in the Atlantic, the Northern Arctic Ocean and in the Pacific.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
3.1 percent (2018)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
13.3 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of RUS stands for the state of Russia in geography.
Increased sanctions on Ukraine
Russia is imposing an import ban on a number of goods from Ukraine. The ban includes diapers, bread, sunflower oil, chocolate, wheat, beer and wine. The list of persons and companies subject to Russian sanctions has also been extended. It now encompasses 567 people and 75 companies, which may have frozen assets in Russia.
Fence separates Crimea from Ukraine
A six-mile-long fence has been erected in Northern Crimea. The fence forms the border between Ukraine and the peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. It is needed to protect the Crimea against the Ukrainian government, claims a representative of the Crimean Parliament in Russian media.
Putin boasts a new long-range robot
President Putin announces that the test launch of a new type of long-range robot has been successful. According to Putin, the new robot travels 20 times the speed of sound and cannot be detected by other countries’ defense systems. Putin says it will be commissioned in 2019 and will “ensure Russia’s security for decades to come.” Since the US and Russia terminated the INF agreement in early February, which limits the number of medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe, representatives of the Russian government have on several occasions made plans to upgrade the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Thoughts of constitutional change are vented
Parliament’s President, Vjatjeslav Volodin, proposes a revision of the country’s constitution to assess “its relevance”. Earlier this month, President Putin expressed similar thoughts on a couple of occasions, saying, among other things, that the Constitution “is not an old fossilized construction, but a living organism under development”. An amendment to the Constitution could allow Putin to remain in power even after his current mandate expires in 2024. According to current rules, he cannot be re-elected for another term.
The situation in Chechnya is criticized by the OSCE
In a report, the OSCE accuses the Moscow government of looking at its fingers with human rights violations in Chechnya. According to the organization, there is clear evidence that there is abuse on gays, drug users, legal activists, lawyers and independent media. It is about harassment, persecution, arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions, but for Moscow it is more important to maintain stability in Chechnya than to investigate and criticize human rights violations, the OSCE writes.
Opposition politician up for re-election
When re-election to the governor post is held in the Primorij Kraj region, the Kremlin’s candidate, the acting governor Oleg Kozjemyjako, wins with just under 62 percent of the vote. However, popular opposition politician Andrei Ishchenko from the Communist Party must not argue with the justification that he has not collected the number of signatures required for a candidacy. Ishchenko took part in the elections in September and looked to go for a victory when the results suddenly swung quickly in favor of the Kremlin’s candidate. This led to protests and accusations of electoral fraud and the authorities agreed to arrange re-election. According to the AFP news agency, this was the first time in Russia’s modern history. Even re-election is now being questioned because Ishchenko is prevented from participating.
Diplomatic quarrel with Slovakia
13th of December
Russia expels a Slovak diplomat in response to the fact that Slovakia a few weeks earlier expelled a spy-accused Russian stationed in Bratislava. “Unkind actions always result in proportionate response measures,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zacharova told news agency Tass. Zacharova believes that Slovakia should have taken up the matter with Moscow before the deportation was enforced.
Pussy Riot is awarded damages
The European Court of Human Rights dismisses a Russian appeal and states that Russian authorities must pay damages to the members of the punk band Pussy Riot who were imprisoned after performing a Putin critical song in a Moscow church in 2012. The court considers that the Russian justice system is not sufficiently prudent whether the band members called for violence, hatred or intolerance in their appearance in the church. In total, the three band members should have € 37,000 in damages, the court believes.
Tightened surveillance in Moscow
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobjanin announces that all existing surveillance cameras in the city will be replaced by a system that can identify faces. The process will be completed in 2019. The purpose is to curb crime, but critics point out that the system will also be used to intervene against opposites.
Ukraine is facing martial law
The state of emergency that Ukraine introduced after the Kertj Sound conflict (see November 25) comes into force. The exception laws apply, among other things, along the border with Russia. Russian men of arms age (16-60 years) are prohibited from entering the affected areas. According to President Poroshenko’s message, it is feared that “private armies” will be formed, forces that oppose Ukraine’s army in the same way as in the Moscow-friendly separatist enclaves in the east. The exception laws apply during the month: they are repealed on December 26.
Tapered conflict in Crimea
The conflict on the Crimean Peninsula is intensified. According to a 2003 agreement between Ukraine and Russia, the Azovsk Lake and the Kerch Strait will constitute joint territorial waters, but Russian border guards are now shooting Ukrainian naval vessels trying to cross the strait. The Russians accuse the Ukrainian vessels of illegally sailing into Russian territorial waters off the Crimean peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. Several crew members are wounded and three Ukrainian vessels are seized. A total of 24 Ukrainian crew are arrested and placed in Russian detention (see also January 16, 2019). A tanker is placed at the newly constructed bridge between Crimea and Russia, so that Azovska Lake and Eastern Ukrainian ports are blocked for a day. Both countries request the UN Security Council to address the incident.
Declining support for Putin
More than 80 percent of Russians hold President Putin responsible for the country’s problems, according to an opinion poll conducted by the independent institute Levada Center. According to the survey conducted in October 2018, 60 percent believe Putin is “wholly” responsible. That was the worst outcome Putin has had on this issue in the last six years. Putin was re-elected as president in March 2018 with more than 77 percent of the vote, but Putin’s popularity has declined as a result of the unpopular pension reform he pursued in the summer of 2018 (see July 19 and August 29, 2018). Today, only 56 percent would vote for him, according to Levada’s survey.
Navalnyj is supported by the European Court of Justice
The European Court of Human Rights condemns the police’s repeated arrests of opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj. The Court refers to seven arrests between 2012 and 2014 that the Court considers have violated Navalnyj’s right to attend and the right to a fair trial. Navalnyj was convicted on all occasions for either violating the rules of public demonstrations or refusing to obey the orders of the police. In two of the cases, the court finds that the arrests were intended to “counteract political pluralism”. Navalnyj welcomes the court’s ruling with satisfaction. The court had in 2017 condemned Russia for the arrests but at that time did not go on Navalnyj’s line that the arrests were politically motivated, which led Navalnyj to appeal. According to the judgment, Russia will pay Navalnyj the equivalent of EUR 50,000 in damages.
Sparkle with Austria after spy revelation
The usually relatively good relationship with Austria is strained when Austrian authorities announce that a retired colonel is suspected of spying on Russia since the 1990s. The suspicions lead to Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl canceling a planned trip to Moscow. The Kremlin denies the allegations and calls them “unacceptable”.
US punishes economic operators in Crimea
The United States imposes sanctions on individuals and companies that punish them for conducting business on the Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Among those who get their possible assets in the US frozen and who are banned for financial transactions are Vladimir Zaritsky, owner of a hotel chain and former commander of Russia’s artillery. Two people are being sanctioned for committing human rights violations in eastern Ukraine.
Penalties are imposed on Ukraine
Russia announces that 322 Ukrainians and 68 Ukrainian companies will have their assets frozen in Russia. The Russian sanctions are a retaliation for the measures taken by the Ukrainian government to restrict the activities of Russian companies in Ukraine. The Kiev government has also blocked access to Russian social media.
Manifestation for imprisoned youth
Small demonstrations are held in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other Russian cities in protest of the arrest of ten teenagers, accused of extremism and of planning a coup d’état. The organization OVD-Info states that 18 protesters are arrested in Moscow and 40 in St. Petersburg. The youth were picked up by police in March after sending messages to each other on Telegram (a Russian equivalent of Messenger) in a group called “New Greatness” (Novoe Velitjie). The young people acknowledge that they have written regime-critical messages among themselves but that they were about an exchange of views and that they did not have any coup plans. According to the youth and their lawyers, the group was started by an FSB agent who worked under cover and encouraged members to comment critically and organize themselves.
Stronger ties to Uzbekistan
President Putin visits Uzbekistan and the countries conclude a series of cooperation agreements worth a total of $ 27 billion. With Russian funding, a nuclear power plant is to be built in western Uzbekistan. It will secure energy supply throughout Central Asia while bringing the region closer to Russia politically and economically, which is an important point for Moscow competing with China for influence in Central Asia. In 2017, bilateral trade between Russia and Uzbekistan increased by one third.
Twitter shows posts from Russian “troll factories”
Twitter announces suspicions that over ten million posts have been made by “magic factories” in Russia and Iran to influence the public in other countries. The announcements, published between 2013 and 2018, include references to, among other things, the recent US presidential election and the UK referendum on EU membership. In total, 4,570 Twitter accounts are believed to have been used for such purposes. 3,800 of the accounts are linked to Russia.
Russia and Egypt form closer ties
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi sign cooperation agreements between Russia and Egypt which – without details – are described as “strategic”. Contacts have been strengthened in recent years despite an incident in 2015, when jihadists in Egypt managed to carry out a bombing attack on an aircraft full of Russian tourists and 224 people died. Direct flights have resumed this year, while charter tourism from Russia is still down. Current cooperation plans include a Russian economic zone on the Suez Canal and Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, which according to a 2015 agreement will be built on the Mediterranean Sea near the old war scene El Alamein.
Russian protests against church decisions
The Russian Orthodox Church cuts all ties to the ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul. The reason is that Ukraine’s Orthodox Church has been granted independent status after being subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church since 1686. Decisions have been made at a synod in Istanbul – a church meeting which is the highest decision-making body of Orthodox churches. The ecumenical patriarchate in Istanbul, led by a patriarch who is also titled Archbishop of Constantinople, is considered the mother church of many Orthodox. The independence of the Ukrainian Church has to do with the Russian Orthodox Church supporting the political leadership in Moscow; among other things, the church leadership has supported Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
Agents are accused of cyber attack against nuclear weapons monitors
The Dutch Ministry of Defense announces that in April the country’s intelligence service launched a cyber attack against the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) in The Hague. According to the Ministry of Defense, four Russian agents were arrested and expelled who would have carried out the attack on OPCW who at that time investigated the nerve gas attack on a Russian double spy in the UK in March. Foreign Minister Lavrov admits that the four Russians, whom he calls specialists, must have been in the Netherlands, but says there was nothing scary about their visit there. Lavrov says the four were on a routine mission and that it was all a misunderstanding.
Director gives up hunger strike
Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who is sentenced to prison in Russia for terrorism, is giving up his hunger strike to avoid being subjected to forced feeding. He is in poor condition after refusing food for 145 days. The Russian Prison Service tells Interfax news agency that he is receiving medical care. At the end of the month, the Sentsov Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament’s human rights prize, will be awarded. From the Russian side, the reaction is sharp: the price is dismissed as “political”, aimed at Russia.
Land exchange causes concern in Ingushia
An agreement to exchange territory between Ingushetia and Chechnya is causing extensive demonstrations in Ingushetia. The protesters reportedly amount to up to 40,000 people are objecting to the Republican leaders agreeing to the change without consulting the people. Participants in the protests demand that Inguschien’s leader resign and a referendum is held on the issue.
Pension reform will be made despite the protests
President Putin signs the disputed pension reform, which thus becomes law. Previously, the reform that has caused widespread protests for months has been passed in three votes in the duma and one in the parliament’s upper house of the Federation Council. The retirement age should now be gradually increased, from 55 to 60 years for women and from 60 to 65 years for men
Conflict with Ukraine on transport in the Black Sea
Ukraine accuses Russia of disrupting civilian ship traffic. Since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, vessels traveling to and from Ukrainian ports on the Azovsk Lake – a secondary sea to the Black Sea – must pass through a sound surrounded by Russian-controlled territory. The vessels are controlled by Russian personnel, with long waiting times as a result, and the bridge that Russia has built across the strait to Crimea limits the size of vessels that can pass.
The released Navalnyj is immediately imprisoned again
After a month behind bars, Putin critic Aleksey Navalnyj is sentenced to another 20 days in prison. Immediately after being released from prison, Navalnyj is arrested and sentenced to 20 days in prison for inviting the Russians to protest against the rise in retirement age that the government decided in July. During September, several protests were organized, including September 9 when the country held elections for regional and local parishes, but also after that.
The United States extends the sanctions
The United States is expanding its sanctions campaign against Russia to include China, where a military purchasing unit in China and its chief are subject to sanctions since Beijing bought Russian fighter aircraft and air defense robots. According to the United States, the acquisition circumvents US sanctions against Moscow introduced as a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine in 2014 and the alleged involvement in the US election in 2016. The US also extends sanctions against Russia to include an additional 33 individuals and entities with ties to the Russian military and intelligence.
“Pussy Riot Member Poisoned”
Members of the dissident group Pussy Riot state that one of its members, Pjotr Verzilov, was subjected to a poisoning attempt. One possible reason, according to Pussy Riot, would be that Verzilov tried to find out what happened to three Russian journalists who were killed when they investigated the activities of Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic
Proof of the shooting down of MH17
Russia is releasing information to prove that the robot that shot down a passenger plane over eastern Ukraine 2017 was fired by Ukrainian forces. An expert group investigating the issue has previously blamed Russia for the downturn (see May 2018). Russia, which at the press conference gives out the serial number of the BUK robot that hit the plane, claims that the robot was placed in Ukraine during Soviet times and that it was never returned to Russia after the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991. The expert group states that it will look more closely at the Russian data
The Netherlands is showing suspected hackers
Media in the Netherlands reports that the country’s intelligence service this spring arrested two Russians suspected of planning a hacker attack on a Swiss laboratory that investigated the nerve gas attack against a Russian double agent in the UK in March. The arrested men, who are believed to have been agents of the Russian intelligence service GRU, are reported to have been deported after the arrest. Foreign Minister Lavrov dismisses the information as baseless.
Large military exercise in the east
The military exercise “Vostok-18” which is called the largest in the country’s history begins in eastern Russia. Three hundred thousand Russian soldiers are participating and even a few thousand Chinese soldiers. The Western Defense Alliance NATO condemns the exercise as a rehearsal for “a large-scale conflict”. The exercise coincides with an economic summit hosted by President Putin in the city of Vladivostok on the Pacific. One of the guests is Chinese President Xi Jinping. At the meeting, the two leaders confirm Russia and China’s increasingly close relations.
Motivated for Putin’s support party in regional elections
The protests against pension reform characterize regional and local elections. On the one hand, large protests against the reform are held in connection with the elections and a large number of people are arrested, and on the other, anger over the reform and other financial hardships results in Putin’s support party United Russia making its worst election in a decade. Putin’s ally Sergei Sobjanin managed to retain the mayor post in Moscow, but in several other regions, United Russia candidates may see themselves beaten by other candidates. Still others fail to win more than 50 percent in the first round and are thereby forced to stand in a second round where several of them lose. Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj had called on the Russians to protest against the government during the election day and thousands of people are reported to have obeyed the call. According to the independent organization OVD-Info, more than 1,000 protesters were arrested, most in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. (9/9)
London points out suspects for nervous gas attack are named
British authorities name the two Russians suspected of trying to murder former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March by exposing the couple to the noviti gas. A European arrest warrant is issued for the men, who, according to British authorities, work for the Russian military intelligence service GRU. Both the United States and Canada, Germany and France share the British assessment that the Russian government is likely to have approved the poisoning attempts. The information is dismissed by the Russian government as “unacceptable”. A spokesman for the Russian government says no one in the Russian leadership or anyone in the administration has any part in what happened in Salisbury.
Putin reverses the height of retirement age for women
In a televised speech, President Putin announces a change in the planned rise in retirement age. Putin announces that the general increase for women should be limited to five years, from 55 years to 60 instead of 63 as previously proposed. Women with more than three children should be allowed to retire even earlier. The increase for men is fixed from 60 to 65 years. Putin, who previously promised not to raise the retirement age, has lost much in popularity since the raise became known. After receiving support from 80 percent of Russians in May, Putin’s support dropped to 64 percent when the reform was launched in July, and opposition to the reform has generated a number of major events around the country. Putin said in his speech that reform is necessary to avoid financial collapse and hyperinflation. The concessions do not stop the demonstrations.
New verdict against Navalnyj
A Moscow court sentenced opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj to 30 days in prison for organizing a protest without permission in January. During the negotiations, Navalnyj points out that the authorities have not once approved his requests to conduct demonstrations. Navalnyj adds that the goal of imprisoning him right now is to prevent him from organizing demonstrations in connection with the September 9 regional elections.
Agreement on the Caspian Sea
12th of August
The five countries that coast towards the Caspian Sea – Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan – sign an agreement regulating its legal status. The agreement is signed by the country’s leaders in the port city of Aktau, Kazakhstan. The status of the Caspian Sea has been unclear since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The conflict has affected whether it is a lake or an inland sea. An inland sea would be subject to UN maritime law, while the right to a lake must be negotiated between the countries. The ambiguity has led to strained relations between the states as well as ambiguities about who has the right to extract the rich oil and natural gas resources. The agreement provides that the Caspian Sea is neither a lake nor a sea, but has “special legal status”. This means that the surface water should be used jointly by the five states, while the seabed and its assets are to be divided, How these boundaries are to be drawn says nothing about the agreement. The big fishing that produces caviar is regulated by means of quotas. The agreement also states that no other country may establish military bases on the Caspian Sea alongside the five states.
More get jail for likes online
The Russian company mail.ru, which runs the popular social online networks VK and Odnoklassniki, raises alarm that an increasing number of users are being prosecuted for having leaked and shared material online. Mail.ru believes that the authorities are unnecessarily harsh when they act against internal users and the company in a statement demands that the laws be changed. According to the organization Agora, which examines how human rights are complied with in Russia, 43 people were sentenced to prison for the posts they posted on the internet in 2017.
The EU punishes bridge builders
The EU is extending its sanctions on Russia by including six companies that participated in the construction of the new bridge over the Kerch Strait that links the Russian mainland to the annexed Crimean peninsula. The sanctions involve travel bans and frozen assets within the EU. A total of 44 companies / organizations and 155 people are now on the EU sanctions list.
Protests against raising retirement age
In a first vote, the Russian parliament, the duma, adopts an unpopular law that raises the retirement age from 55 to 63 for women and from 60 to 65 for men. This is the first time in almost 90 years that the retirement age is being raised. The reform has caused major discontent demonstrations around Russia. According to opinion polls, 80 percent of Russians are against the increase, and 2.8 million people are reported to have signed a petition against the reform. Due to the low life expectancy in Russia, the planned increase would mean that forty percent of all men and twenty percent of all women never reach retirement age, writes the AFP news agency. Weeks after the vote, more protests are being organized against the reform.
Criticism from the European Court of Justice
The European Court criticizes Russia on two points: for having done too little to find out who ordered the murder of journalist Anna Politovskaja in 2006 and for exposing the imprisoned members of the punk band Pussy Riot for abusive and threatening treatment while they were being detained and during the trial. The Court orders Russia to pay EUR 20,000 to Politovskaya’s survivors and EUR 16,000 to the two gang members sentenced to prison. A lower amount is awarded to a third band member who received conditional judgment.
Disputed meeting between Putin and Trump
President Putin meets his American colleague Donald Trump for two hours in Helsinki, Finland. Expectations of what the meeting will lead to are low and it is unclear after the meeting what it actually gave, as only the two leaders and their interpreters were present. However, many observers believe that the meeting was a success for Putin, who could show that Russia is no longer internationally isolated. Trump at home criticizes Putin for appearing against Putin, especially when Trump says he believes Putin when he once again denies that the Russian state would have interfered in the US election campaign in 2016. Putin does not comment on Trump’s statements but gives in a TV interview seemed to be satisfied with the meeting. Putin describes Trump as well-informed and easy-going, and says he is a good listener.
Russian agents are being prosecuted in the United States for interference in Clinton’s election campaign
Twelve people at the Russian military intelligence service GRU are charged with hacking the Democratic Party’s computers during the 2016 US election campaign. The defendants are accused of performing “large-scale cyber operations” for the purpose of stealing documents and emails from the Democratic camp. No Americans are being prosecuted because the prosecutor’s side believes that the campaign workers who have had contact with the hackers are not aware that they were Russian agents. Russia has denied all allegations of involvement in the cyberattacks.
Hunger strike for prisoners in Russia
The condition is described as serious for Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who is imprisoned in Russia, convicted of terrorism, and has been starving for 50 days. Sentsov demands that all political prisoners from Ukraine be released. He was arrested on the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and is serving the sentence at a remote location in Russia.
Baltic sea pipelines become bat in gas funnel
A new step is taken in the guest dispute with Russia when state-owned Ukrainian Naftogaz acts to seize Russian shares in the Baltic Sea project Nord Stream. Naftogaz, which relies on an arbitration award announced in Stockholm in February, has appealed to the Swiss authorities with its request, which is directed at Russian energy giant Gazprom. The Nord Stream consortium is registered in Switzerland, with Gazprom as the majority owner, to build two pipelines through the Baltic Sea. The lines allow Russian gas exports to Western Europe without Ukrainian intermediaries.
Plot around the Kremlin critic in Kiev
The Kremlin-critical journalist and writer Arkadij Babchenko, who was reportedly murdered at his residence in Kiev a day earlier, is appearing before media in Ukraine. Babchenko is a Russian citizen but lives in exile because he feels threatened. The Ukrainian security service claims that Babtchenko lived for a considerable time during a conspicuous murder threat and that this is the reason why a murder of him was staged. War experience from the Russian wars against separatists in Chechnya in the 1990s prompted Babchenko to start writing. In 2015 he was awarded the Tucholsky Prize by Swedish PEN. The Russian government is now accusing Ukraine of using Babchenko for propaganda purposes.
Experts blame Russia for the shooting down of MH17
24th of May
The expert group investigating the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine 2014 states that the robot that hit the plane came from an anti-aircraft brigade based in the city of Kursk in southern Russia. Investigators say they have pictures showing how the robotic system was carried on a vehicle column to the Ukrainian side of the border, where Prorian rebels operate. The investigators who were previously unsure of who fired the robot now say that it could only have been fired by trained Russian military and not by the rebels themselves. All the 298 aboard lost their lives when the MH17 was shot down on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam. Russia rejects investigators’ conclusions.
Renovation in the government
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shujgu and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov may retain their jobs when Prime Minister Medvedev reforms the government. Finance Minister Maxim Oreshkin may also remain. Deputy Prime Minister Vitalij Mutko is dismissed as Sports Minister. Mutko is considered to be one of the architects behind the doping program that was the reason why Russia was banned from the North Korea Olympics at the beginning of the year. Those who were not allowed to continue also included Minister of Space Dimitri Rogozin as well as emergency minister Vladimir Pushkov. The latter had faced criticism following a major fire in the shopping mall in Siberia in March when many people lost their lives.
Navalnyj sentenced to prison
15th of May
Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj is sentenced to 30 days in prison for arranging protests for President Putin’s installation in early May. Navalnyj is found guilty of having organized demonstrations without permission. A little over a week later, some close employees are also arrested for Navalnyj. They are prosecuted and sentenced on the same grounds as Navalnyj and receive shorter prison sentences – for a maximum of one month.
Bridge to Crimea inaugurated
15th of May
President Putin inaugurates the new bridge between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Putin drives a truck with construction workers across the 19-kilometer bridge, which, with the inauguration, will be the longest in Europe. The bridge will be supplemented by a railroad that is expected to be completed by 20219. The submission provokes angry reactions in Ukraine saying that Russia continues to act alongside international laws. Ukraine has previously criticized the bridge construction for damaging the environment and preventing larger vessels from entering the Azovsk lake and affecting Ukrainian ports.
Sanctions against election officials in Crimea
The EU is imposing sanctions on five senior officials of the Crimean Election Commission. They are penalized for participating in and organizing presidential elections on the peninsula that were annexed by Russia in 2014. The sanctions mean that the five cannot travel within the EU and they get their possible assets in the EU area frozen. With the latest addition, the EU sanctions list now comprises 155 individuals. The penalties are renewed every six months.
The government is judged to pay damages to Crimean companies
The International Arbitration Court in The Hague orders the Russian government to pay the equivalent of $ 159 million to 19 private companies in Crimea for damages caused by the Russian annexation of the area in March 2015. After the annexation, Russia nationalized about 480 companies in Crimea. Since then, companies have tried to compensate for lost property on various roads. Russia announces that it will not accept the verdict and will not adhere to it.
Medvedev continues as head of government
The dumb vote to give Dimitri Medvedev renewed confidence as head of government. 374 of the stupid members voted for Medvedev and 56 against. Medvedev is supported by the United Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party, while A Fair Russia and the Communist Party oppose his candidacy.
The fourth time liked for Putin
Vladimir Putin is sworn in as President for the fourth time. A few hours after the installation, Putin will issue a decree setting the following goals for the coming term until 2024: poverty will be halved, pensions will be increased and life expectancy will increase to 78 years (compared to just over 71 years today). Putin has high confidence figures for his foreign policy, but in the economy it is worse off. According to the Levada Center opinion institute, 45 percent of Russians believe Putin has been unable to distribute the state’s assets fairly.
Many arrested during anti-Putin manifestations
Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj and hundreds of his supporters are arrested in connection with demonstrations against President Putin across the country. The meetings have been organized in protest of the impending installation of Putin as president for a new term in office. Manifestations are held in over twenty cities, even in Siberia and the Far East. According to the OVD-Info organization that monitors arrests during mass protests, a total of 1,600 people are arrested in twenty-six cities – including 700 in Moscow, 230 in Saint Peterburg, 160 in Chelyabinsk, 75 in Yakutsk, over 60 in Krasnoyarsk and more than 40 in Astrakhan. The authorities state lower figures for the number of those arrested – 300 in Moscow and 200 in Saint Petersburg.
Less money for the military
Stockholm Peace Research Institute Sipri states in a report that the world sanctions in 2017 hit Russian government finances so hard that the government forced the country’s defense spending for the first time in almost twenty years. According to Sipri, Russia spent nearly EUR 55 billion on the repository in 2017, which was a 20 percent reduction compared to 2016.
The “expulsion war” is escalating
The United States, NATO, a number of EU countries and a handful of countries outside the EU, in a concerted action, expel 120 Russian diplomats as a result of the nerve poisoning attack against a Russian former spy and his daughter in the UK in early March. The countries are acting in solidarity with the British government, which has accused Russia of being behind the attack (see March 14). Moscow denies all involvement and replies a few days later with the expulsion of as many diplomats from the countries that have acted against Russia. In addition, the US consulate in St. Petersburg and the United Kingdom are being ordered to reduce their representation in Russia by an additional 50 people.
Putin re-elected President
Vladimir Putin is re-elected President for a new six-year term. Putin gets 77.5 percent of the vote, which is a higher figure than in previous elections. In second place comes the Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin with 11.9 percent. Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky becomes third with 5.7 percent and TV celebrity Ksenija Sobtjak gets 1.5 percent. The opposition and independent election monitors state that cheating has occurred at a wide range of polling stations, for example by having election workers stuffing extra ballots with Putin’s name in the polls. In many cases, the violations are filmed and posted on the independent election monitoring body Golo’s website. Putin’s campaign team believes Britain has given Putin traction through allegations of Salisbury’s poison attack (see March 14). The charges must have caused the Russians to stop behind Putin, a spokesman for Putin’s campaign said. On the occupied Crimean peninsula, Putin receives more than 92 percent of the vote. The turnout is 67 percent.
British diplomats are expelled
Moscow responds to the deportation of 23 Russian diplomats from London a few days earlier by ordering as many British diplomats to leave Moscow. The UK is also being ordered to close its consulate in St. Peterburg. Furthermore, a British cultural and educational organization is prohibited from operating in the country.
Russians expelled after nervous gas attack
14th of March
Twenty-three Russian diplomats are expelled from the UK after the British government concluded that Russia was behind the nervous gas attack that a Russian former spy and his daughter suffered in the city of Salisbury on March 4. The nerve poison is reportedly manufactured in Russia. According to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Russia has not been able to explain how the nerve poison could be used in the attack and thus one can only conclude according to May: “that the Russian state was guilty of the attempted murder of Mr. Skripas and his daughter”. May also withdraws an invitation to the Russian Foreign Minister to visit London and announces that neither government nor members of the British royal family will be attending the Football World Cup in Russia later this year.The British line is supported by both the EU and NATO as well as the German and US governments. Russia refuses to have anything to do with it and accuses Britain of wanting to discredit Russia intentionally.
Putin promises that Crimea will remain Russian
11th of March
In a documentary sent a week before the presidential election in Russia, Vladimir Putin says that the Crimean Peninsula will never be returned to Ukraine. “Under no circumstances,” is Putin’s answer in an interview produced by his campaign staff and broadcast through a follower’s social media accounts.
Prison exchange with Ukraine
Ukraine and Russia conduct a prisoner exchange. Authorities in both countries confirm that two soldiers from each side have been exchanged.
Putin speaks to the nation
In his annual line figure, Putin promises to halve poverty in the country within six years. He also makes a number of promises to ordinary Russians, including improving the situation for the elderly, giving teachers higher wages, increasing access to health care in certain parts of the country and investing in infrastructure. The President also announces that Russia is developing new nuclear weapons, including an intercontinental robot that is “invincible”.
New battle apple in the gas funnel
Russian energy giant Gazprom refuses to resume gas supplies to Ukraine, which should have begun on March 1, citing contractual uncertainty. Deliveries have been down since November 2015, while the parties have started a dispute over the price. The European Commission is ready to mediate. In Ukraine, as in large parts of Europe, there is unusually severe winter cold.
New decision in gas stays
Yet another element of a complicated dispute between Russia and Ukraine is said to have been decided by an arbitral tribunal in Stockholm. Russian Gazprom has been ordered to pay $ 4.63 billion in transit charges for gas deliveries through Ukraine, Ukrainian sources said, according to AFP. The net would amount to just over SEK 2.5 billion, as an earlier ruling, on the contrary, obliges Ukrainian Naftogaz to pay SEK 2 billion to the Russian energy giant. The arbitral tribunal’s ruling is not public.
Russian veto on Yemen
Russia veto against a resolution in the UN Security Council that is meant to pressure Iran and hinder the supply of arms to huthierna in Yemen. Instead, the Council adopts a Russian proposal to extend UN sanctions on Yemen, without mentioning Iran.
Belly milk is stopped
A temporary stop is introduced for, among other things, milk and cream from Belarus with reference to the sanitary conditions and animal husbandry in production. The stop should be until action is taken. About a quarter of Russian consumption of dairy products is imported, and a large part of the goods come from Belarus; between 78 and 92 percent during the period January to November 2017, according to Russian statistics published by AFP.
Russians are being prosecuted for helping Trump
Thirteen Russian citizens and three Russian companies are being prosecuted for under false identities trying to bolster Trump’s chances in the 2016 election. According to the indictment, the Russians have claimed to be Americans and often represented grassroots movements when they acted through Facebook and Instagram, bought digital advertising and spread false information. Twelve of the defendants are said to have worked in a magic factory called the Internet Research Agency, which engaged in an information war against the United States with the help of hundreds of fake accounts on social media. Trump’s security advisers say at a security conference in Germany that the evidence of Russia’s involvement in the election is undeniable. Moscow dismisses the data as “absurd”.
Russians killed in Syria
Russia confirms for the first time non-military losses in Syria. It appears that Russian citizens lost their lives when the US-led alliance attacked a gas field on the eastern side of the Euphrates River a week earlier. 15 Russians, employees of the Russian security company Wagner, have died, according to news sources, when a weapons stockpile was blown up. Russian Foreign Ministry states the number of casualties to “probably five”.
Protests before the election
Protest marches against the impending presidential election are held in a dozen Russian cities. In Moscow, around 4,000 people participate in slogans such as “Down with the Tsar” and “Väljarstrik”. Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj is arrested by police when speaking. In Jekateringburg, about a thousand people take part in a protest led by the local mayor. Movies at the demonstrations are broadcast by Navalny’s employees. Police stop one of the broadcasts by breaking into Navalnyj’s headquarters, but two employees continue to dispatch from secret location. The two are arrested a few days later when they return to Moscow.
Russian soldier imprisoned in Ukraine
Russian citizen Viktor Agejev, 22, has been sentenced to ten years in prison for fighting the Ukrainian army in the Luhansk separatist republic, his lawyer told news media. Agejev was captured in June and shortly afterwards told the media that he was sent to Ukraine by the Russian army, despite Russian authorities denying that Russians fighting in Ukraine do so on behalf of the state. Ageev is said to have later retracted his information that he was an Army employee.
The foundation behind Navalnyj is stopped
A court orders that the foundation behind the regime critic Aleksej Navalny’s operation be closed. Navalnyj greets via a spokesman that the closure will not stop him.
Russian Syria Conference without the opposition
30th of January
In Russia, Sochi launches a Syria conference, but important players have refused to participate. The largest opposition umbrella organization SNC is absent as well as representatives of the area in northern Syria where the Kurds have set up a form of self-government. UN mediator Staffan de Mistura is in place despite, or because of, fears that Russia, Iran and Turkey, through their Syria initiatives, are undermining UN peacekeeping efforts.
Ukrainian law stirs Moscow
Moscow condemns the law passed by the Ukrainian Parliament the day before and officially classifies the fighting in the eastern part of the country between government forces and Moscow-friendly separatists as a “temporary Russian occupation”. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes Ukraine’s statement as “preparation for a new war”.
Famous human rights activist arrested
The head of the Russian human rights organization Memorial’s office in Chechnya, Ojub Titijev, is arrested and jailed for two months, accused of drug possession. The allegations are dismissed by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations as false. A week later, Memorial’s office in the neighboring Republic of Dagestan is burnt down.
HD says no to Navalnyj
The Supreme Court rejects a request from the regime critic Aleksey Navalnyj that demanded that the court revoke the Election Commission’s decision to annul his candidacy in the March presidential election (see December 2017). A spokesman for Navalnyj says the opposition leader will now turn to the Constitutional Court to have his candidacy approved, but he admits that the chances of it succeeding are small.