Poland is blamed for the Second World War
Relations with Poland are strained by a war of words about how the Second
World War began. President Putin accuses Poland of anti-Semitism and of having
played under the guise of Nazi Germany during the origins of World War II. Putin
says, among other things, that Russian researchers found documents claiming that
Poland cooperated with Germany before the war and that Poland's ambassador to
Berlin at that time praised Hitler's plans for a Europe without Jews. The Polish
government rejects the allegations and criticizes Moscow for "renewed Stalinist
propaganda". The background to the word war is a resolution which the European
Parliament adopted in September on the initiative of Polish parliamentarians and
which has stirred upset feelings in Moscow. According to the resolution, the
non-aggression pact that the Soviet Union signed with Nazi Germany in 1939 paved
the way for the outbreak of World War II. Putin calls the resolution nonsense,
pointing out that even the western countries and Poland settled with Nazi
Germany through the Munich agreement in 1938 when Germany and Poland acquired
parts of Czechoslovakia. According to Putin, the Soviet Union had no choice but
to try to persuade Germany through a pact because the Western countries did not
want to ally themselves with the Soviet Union.
Overview of the capital city of Russia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Summit agreed on a ceasefire in Ukraine
President Putin and Ukrainian President Zelenskyj meet in Paris, with France
and Germany as mediators. The aim is to build trust between the parties so that
agreements on the conflict in Ukraine concluded in Minsk can be implemented as
early as 2015. If the fighting in eastern Ukraine ends, a political solution
could be put into effect around the Moscow-backed separatist pianos Donetsk and
Luhansk. The message from the summit is that a ceasefire should prevail before
the New Year and that all prisoners should be exchanged. Troop retreat from
three conflict zones in eastern Ukraine is due March, 2020; which three conflict
zones have not yet been agreed. More border crossings should be opened to
civilians. The conflict on Crimea is not dealt with at the summit.
125,000 Ukrainians have received Russian passports
Since Russian citizenship was promised to people in eastern Ukraine, Russia
has granted 125,000 people in Russian-controlled and Moscow-supported areas
Russian passports, announces Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev. 160,000
applications have been submitted, submitted in a region bordering Ukraine. Not
everyone has been treated.
Ukraine gets back ships
Russia returns three military Ukrainian vessels seized in connection with a
confrontation in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. The crews were allowed to
return home in September. The lifting of the seizure is one of the elements of
improved relations and international attempts to reach a peace agreement between
Ukraine and Russia.
Crime Tombs Prison
Six Crimean Tatars, arrested after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014, are
sentenced in a military court in Rostov to long prison sentences. They are
considered guilty of membership in the Islamist terrorist organization
Hezb-ut-Tahrir. All six have denied the allegations, and human rights
organizations claim they were sentenced on political grounds because Crimean
Tatars oppose Russian supremacy.
Construction start for Russian reactor in Iran
Russia and Iran take the next step in their nuclear cooperation: a
construction start ceremony for a second reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power
plant in the Persian Gulf. The 2015 International Agreement on Iran's Nuclear
Energy Program, which was added to make it difficult for Iran to manufacture
nuclear weapons, does not prohibit civilian nuclear power. Under the agreement,
Russia is also to supply Iran's power industry with radioactive fuel. The first
reactor in Bushehr was commissioned in 2011. A third reactor is planned.
Russian-Polish investigation of air crash
Polish and Russian investigators jointly launch a new investigation into the
air crash in Russian Smolensk 2010 when 96 people lost their lives. Among the
victims were Polish President Lech Kaczyński and large parts of the country's
political elite, who were on their way to a commemoration. The Polish government
party PiS and its strong man, brother of the dead president, are convinced that
the crash was a terrorist act.
Forces in Abkhazia are equipped
President Putin announces via decree that the military forces of the Georgian
Extermination Republic of Abkhazia will be modernized, at Russian expense.
Georgia accuses Russia of supporting separatists in two areas, South Ossetia and
Abkhazia. In 2008, conflicts led to open war.
Comprehensive police action against Navalny's network
Opposition leader Aleksej Navalnyj states that the police, the National Guard
and the security services carried out raids in a concerted campaign against his
offices and employees in over 40 cities. According to Navalnyj, the raids are a
result of the leadership being shaken after Sunday's local elections in Moscow,
when candidates loyal to President Putin lost a third of the seats in the city
assembly. Navalnyj believes the election result depends on his campaign to get
voters to consistently vote out candidates who support the Kremlin rulers. Most
opposition or independent candidates were barred from running for office.
Prosecution against known director is rejected
A Moscow court dismisses the charge against film and theater director Kirill
Serebrennikov, who has been in house arrest for a year and a half, accused of
embezzling state cultural money. The Court considers that the prosecution is
contradictory and therefore cannot be used as a basis for a judgment. The
prosecution is sent back to the Prosecutor's Office. The court also cancels
Serebrennikov's travel ban. Serebrennikov has always maintained that the charges
were fabricated. In his work, Serebrennikov has come into conflict with both the
Orthodox Church and the cultural authorities.
70 are released in prison exchanges between Russia and Ukraine
Ukraine and Russia conduct a prisoner exchange. There are 70 prisoners, 35
from each country, who are allowed to return to their home countries. Prison
exchange is seen as a first step towards reducing tensions between countries.
One of the Russians allowed to leave Ukraine is Volodymr Tsemach, who is seen as
an important witness in the shooting down of a Malaysian plane, MH17, in Ukraine
2014. Pro-Russian separatists are suspected of being behind the deed. The
release of Tsemach is controversial and the Netherlands has pleaded that he
would be detained in Ukraine. Among those who are now allowed to return to
Ukraine include film director Oleg Sentsov, Russian-Ukrainian journalist Kirill
Vyshinsky and 24 Ukrainian sailors. The latter were captured at Kertjsundet in
the fall of 2018 (see November 2018)). It is noted that no
Crimean Tartars are included among the released Ukrainian prisoners. Following
the prisoner exchange, President Putin and Ukraine's President Volodymyr
Zelenskyj are reported to have had a discussion about initiating new peace
Putin Moscow adversity
Local and regional elections are held throughout the country. President
Putin's support troops lose a third of their seats in the Moscow City Council
following a campaign by opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj. Since most of the
opposition candidates were barred from running for office, Navalnyj urged voters
to vote on any candidate who could beat a candidate loyal to the Kremlin rulers.
As a result, the Kremlin loyalists lose 13 seats and have to settle for 25 of
the city council's 45 seats. None of the Kremlin loyal candidates this time
stood for Putin's support party United Russia, which has become increasingly
unpopular in Moscow. Instead, they registered as independent candidates but
voters seem to have noted the circumvention. While Putin's allied brave land,
the Communist Party wins 8 seats and increases from 5 to 15. The small parties
Jabloko and a Fair Russia get 3 seats each. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman
Dmitry Peskov fades the defeat and points out that United Russia has been very
successful in other local and regional elections. In all cases, the governor
elections held in 16 regions won a candidate loyal to the Kremlin. The turnout
is just over 20 percent.
Moscow denies murder in Berlin
Russia denies all involvement in the murder of a former Chechen separatist
who was shot dead in a park in Berlin a few days earlier. German media have
speculated that the murder would have been a revenge for the murdered man
playing a leading role in the fight against Russian forces during the Second
Chechnya War of 1999 and ten years on.
Regime critics are offered sanctuary in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj announces that it will be easier for
Russians who are politically dissimilar to obtain Ukrainian citizenship or
asylum in Ukraine.
Meetings with foreign researchers are regulated
A professor publishes an open letter in protest of a decree issued by the
government in July that bans Russian researchers from meeting foreign colleagues
without permission. According to the decree, Russian and foreign researchers are
not to meet in a tumultuous manner and not outside working hours. Foreign
researchers who wish to visit Russian institutions must apply for a permit in
good time and they must expect to have their mobiles and watches taken care of
during the visit.
Tens of thousands protest in Moscow
A giant demonstration is being held in Moscow demanding that a number of
incarcerated opposition and independent candidates be allowed to run for the
upcoming local elections (see July 20). A demonstration is also
held in Russia's second city of Saint Peterburg. Organizers state that 50,000
people are participating in the Moscow demonstration while the police estimate
the number of participants to be 20,000. Saturday's march has the state's
permission. More than 130 people are arrested as they try to march on the
buildings housing the presidential administration. In two illegal demonstrations
for the same thing, in late July and early August, police arrested 1,400 and
1,000 people respectively.
Explosion and high radiation at robot test area
At a naval base in the Archangel region, where there is a test area for
weapons systems, an explosion takes place and the Ministry of Defense confirms
five people have been killed. Elevated radiation levels are noted in the region
and worried residents are buying up iodine stores in pharmacies that can provide
some protection against carcinogenic radioactivity. Only after a few days do the
authorities recognize that the explosion caused radioactive emissions for a few
hours. They say the levels have been too low to pose any danger, a task that the
Russian branch of the environmental organization Greenpeace questions.
Chain explosions in ammunition warehouse
A fire triggers large explosions on a military base west of Krasnoyarsk in
Siberia. After initial confusion, about 10,0000 people are ordered to evacuate,
from all villages within two miles radius. Ten large cargo aircraft and five
helicopters are deployed to water bomb the hearth. The base outside the city of
Atjinsk, which has stored over 55,000 artillery pieces, is one of Russia's
oldest and would be wound up by 2022. The area around Krasnoyarsk is one of
several in Siberia that has been ravaged by large forest fires during the
summer, but the fire areas are a good piece to the northeast from Atinsk.
Navalnyj's foundation is being investigated
Authorities announce that an investigation has been launched against
opposition leader Aleksej Navalnyj's foundation, which is dedicated to exposing
high-level corruption. The foundation lives on donations and is now accused of
engaging in money laundering of millions. A few days before the investigation
begins, the foundation publishes a report in which Moscow's deputy mayor,
Natalia Sergunina, is accused of selling cheap city property cheaply to family
members. A few days later, the authorities freeze the foundation's assets.
The mass arrest in Moscow
The police carry out new mass arrests in yet another demonstration in support
of the opposition politicians who were blocked from running in the Moscow local
elections in September. About a thousand people are arrested during the protest,
which is carried out in the form of a walk in town. About 6,000 people walk.
Most of the candidates involved have been imprisoned since a similar
demonstration a week earlier (see July 27).
Many records seized after demonstration
Nearly 1,400 people are arrested after participating in an unauthorized
protest in Moscow demanding that the authorities change and allow a number of
opposition politicians to stand in local elections in September (see also
July 20). Around 3,500 people are reported to have participated
in the protest, which is being broken up by police by force. The mass arrest is
the largest since 2012. Most of the arrested are released after a few hours. 160
are sentenced to fines while around 60 remain in custody. The most well-known
opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj had been arrested and sentenced to a month's
imprisonment even before the demonstration. Navalnyj is taken from prison to
hospital with symptoms that, according to his personal physician, may indicate
poisoning, but that theory is rejected by the doctors at the state institution
where Navalnyj is being examined.
Ukraine seizes Russian thought
Ukraine seizes a Russian tanker in a Ukrainian port near the river Danube
outlet in the Black Sea. The tanker, under another name, should have had a role
in the blockade of the Kerch Strait - the inlet to the Azovska lake - that
Russia carried out in November 2018. The event ended with the seizure of three
Ukrainian naval vessels and the crews imprisoned in Russia. The crew of the
Russian tanker is allowed to return home via Moldova.
Big protest in support of opposition to local elections
A major demonstration is being held in Moscow against a number of popular
opposition politicians being barred from running in the local elections in
September. Politicians, such as Aleksey Navalnyj, llja Yasjin and Ljubov Sobol,
are accused of falsifying some of the 5,000 signatures required to get a
candidate. The protest, which has been approved by the government, is the
largest since 2012 when tens of thousands of people demonstrated in connection
with the re-installation of Vladimir Putin as president. According to
independent organizations that monitor participation in demonstrations, the
number of participants this time amounts to more than 20,000. The police
indicate a lower figure: 12,000.
Oppositionists are prevented from participating in local elections
Authorities approve nearly 60 applications for the Moscow local elections in
September. Among those stopped are several well-known opposites such as Aleksey
Navalnyj, Ljubov Sobol and Dimitri Gudkov. The authorities claim that some of
the signatures that the candidates collected in support of their candidacies are
false. The failed candidates claim that they have proof that the signatures are
real but the authorities did not want to look at them. Sobol initiates a hunger
strike with demands for an open review process of name signatures.
Russia bans flights to Georgia
The already strained relations with Georgia are tightened once more as a
Russian ban on commercial air traffic between the countries comes into force.
President Putin decided on the flight ban in June following major demonstrations
against Russia in Georgia's capital Tbilisi. On the same day as the ban on
flight begins to apply, the Russian parliament votes for more sanctions on
Georgia. The sanctions that may be in question are not defined, but it could,
for example, be a halt to imports of Georgian wine and mineral water. The reason
for the actions of the parliamentarians is that a well-known Georgian journalist
on TV has pronounced serious insults against President Putin.
The Council of Europe stops punishing Russia
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe votes for Russia to
regain its right to vote. The decision was expected. Russia lost its right to
vote in the Assembly following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and reacted
partly with boycotts and partly to stop paying its contribution to the
organization's budget. Since then, the member countries of the Council of Europe
have tried to find a solution to avoid excluding Russia. Ukraine's delegation
protests against the decision to vote.
Famous human rights activist is released
Ojub Titijev, head of the Russian human rights organization Memorial's office
in Chechnya, will be released prematurely. Titijev has been incarcerated since
January 2018 and was sentenced in March 2019 for drug possession to four years
of criminal work. His supporters have accused the authorities of having invented
the history of drug possession in order to stop Titijev's investigation into
information about a secret prison system in Chechnya. Titijev is released a week
after the police were forced to release a reporter who was also arrested for
drug possession (see June 6).
Suspects of shooting are named
Three Russian citizens and one Ukrainian rebel leader are suspected of murder
following the shooting down of a commercial aircraft over Ukraine in 2014.
Investigators present new evidence. 298 people died when the Malaysian plane was
shot down over the rebel-controlled area to the east. The robot used was
previously traced to an air defense regiment in Russia. The majority of the
victims were from the Netherlands and the investigators hope to bring those
responsible to justice there.
Putin kicks cops
President Putin dismisses two senior police chiefs as a result of the failure
of the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov (see June 6). The head of Moscow's
western district is allowed to go, as is the head of the Moscow Police Drug
Hundreds of people arrested in protest in Moscow
The police arrest hundreds of participants at a demonstration in Moscow. The
demonstration was intended as a protest against the arrest of the journalist
Golunov (see June 6), but the day before the demonstration
Golunov is released. Those who still demonstrate demand punishment for those
behind Golunov's arrest. They also demand that the police and judicial system be
reformed. The police state that 1,200 people participate in the manifestation
and that 200 are arrested. The organization OVD Info indicates a higher figure:
over 420 arrested. Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj is among those arrested.
He is sentenced to ten days in prison for organizing the protest. Four days
later, on June 16, another demonstration will be held against the police's
methods. 1,600 people are reported to be participating in that protest.
Digging reporter falsely accused
Ivan Golunov, a digging reporter at the independent news site Meduza, is
arrested and charged with attempting to sell drugs. Golunov's colleagues see the
arrest as a revenge campaign for his journalistic activities and a large-scale
support campaign is launched. Three of the country's largest daily newspapers
publish identical front pages with the text "I / We are Ivan Golunov", something
that has not happened in Russia before. Journalists and ordinary citizens stand
uninterruptedly in one-man demonstrations for several days, which contributes to
Golunov being fully acquitted and released after one week. Police say there is
no evidence that Golunov has disposed of drugs. Thereafter, several
demonstrations will be organized against the judiciary (see June 12).
Fine visits from China give Huawei a contract
President Putin welcomes China's leader, Xi Jinping, and says relations
between the countries are now at an outstanding level. Xi's visit to Moscow and
St. Petersburg is said to be aimed at strengthening economic ties. In connection
with the meeting, the Chinese telecom company Huawei, which in the West is
perceived as a security threat, signs an agreement with its Russian counterpart
MTS to expand the country's 5G network.
The Law of the Sea goes to Russia
The International Criminal Court, based in Hamburg, calls on Russia to
immediately release the 24 Ukrainian crew members who have been detained since
the collision at sea at the Crimean Peninsula (see November 25, 2018).
The Court also requires the seizure of three Ukrainian vessels to be lifted.
Russia considers that the Supreme Court has no right to decide the matter.
Popular protests stop cathedral construction
The mayor of Jekateringburg announces plans to build a new cathedral in a
popular park in the city. The message comes after vigorous popular protests
against the building and clashes between protesters and police. President Putin
has also been involved in the matter and said that the opinion of the
residents must be respected. The mayor announces that local opinion must now
be read before the fate of the building is decided.
Swedish diplomats are ordered to go home
Moscow has two Swedish diplomats. The Swedish Foreign Ministry states that
the diplomats are expelled as a response to Sweden's refusal to extend the visa
for a Russian diplomat in Stockholm and to reject a visa application from
another Russian diplomat.
North Korea's leaders visit for support
President Putin receives North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in the city of
Vladivostok in the east, where the North Korean leader traveled with his armored
train to seek Russian support in the conflict with the United States for a
disarmament of the country's nuclear weapons. For Moscow, it is important to
have a role in the negotiations, and Kim's visit is a welcome step in this
process. According to the North Korean news agency KCNA, Kim tells Putin that
the collapse at the meeting with US President Trump in Hanoi in February (see
North Korea: Calendar) was because the US got there but a one-sided and bad
attitude. Putin notes that North Korea "needs to get guarantees for its security
and sovereignty" and believes that if the US delivers such guarantees, the
deadlock in the negotiations could be broken. President Trump comments on it all
by saying that he appreciates the help of both Russia and China. The day after
Kim's visit, Putin travels to Beijing to discuss the issue with the Chinese
Moscow condemns new language law in Ukraine
Moscow condemns the law that the Ukrainian parliament has just adopted and
which restricts the use of the Russian language in Ukraine. The law makes it
compulsory for, among others, civil servants, doctors, teachers and judges to
speak Ukrainian in public context, otherwise threaten fines. Maria Zacharova,
spokesman for Russian Foreign Ministry calls the law "outrageous". According to
the decision, the law is only to be applied in three years; in the meantime, a
system will be set up for teaching in Ukrainian. The newly elected President
Volodymyr Zelenskyj, who himself likes to speak Russian even in public, promises
that the law will be reviewed.
Residents of Ukraine are offered Russian passports
President Putin signs a decree that makes it easier for people living in the
Donetsk and Luhansk separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine to obtain Russian
passports. The reaction will be sharp from Ukraine's incoming President
Volodymyr Zelenskyj, who calls Russia "invader state". Four days later, Putin
says that Russia is considering making it easier for all Ukrainians to gain
Russian citizenship. Zelenskyj responds by offering Ukrainian citizenship to
"all who suffer under authoritarian and corrupt regimes but first and foremost
to the Russians because they suffer most of all".
Trump cleared of accusations of election cooperation with Moscow
"What did we say?" How to summarize Moscow's comments on the conclusions of
the US Mueller investigation that, among other things, investigated whether
President Trump and his staff collaborated with Russia during the US
presidential campaign in 2016. The report states in its report that has now been
largely published that it cannot be stated that members of Trump's campaign
conspired or co-ordinated with the Russian government in order to influence the
2016 election. According to the investigation, Trump officials did not cooperate
with Russia. Moscow has constantly denied any form of involvement in the
Norrman convicted of espionage
A retired Norwegian border guard, Frode Berg, is sentenced to 14 years in
prison for spying. Berg was arrested in Moscow in 2017 and accused of receiving
documents concerning the Russian Navy from a Russian former police. Berg has
acknowledged that he acted as courier for the Norwegian intelligence service but
said he believed he only transported money.
New judgment against the Kremlin in the European Court of Justice
For the second time in six months, the European Court of Human Rights has
given Moscow a backlash for the treatment of regime critic Aleksey Navalnyj (see
also November 15, 2018). The court condemns that Navalnyj was
placed under house arrest for a long period of 2014 and believes that it was out
of proportion to the crimes that Navalnyj was charged with and that it is
obvious that Navalnyj was placed in house arrest to stop his activities. The
Court orders Russia to pay Navalnyj a damages of EUR 20,000 and reimburse him
for expenses of the equivalent of just over EUR 2,600.
NATO tightens up action against Russia
The NATO foreign ministers decide, citing Russian "aggression", that the
alliance should expand its scouting activities and hold military exercises in
the Black Sea in support of Ukraine and Georgia (both of which want to become
NATO members and have Russian-backed separatist forces within their borders).
According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, NATO will also study strategies
for responding to non-conventional warfare, in the light of Russia being
accused, among other things, of trying to influence democratic elections in
Soldiers are sent to Venezuela
24th of March
The Russian state news agency Sputnik announces that two Russian military
planes delivered troops and equipment to Venezuela over the weekend, where
Russia and the United States are supporting each other in an ongoing power
struggle between the president and the President of Parliament. No details are
reported. The news agency AFP reports a few days later that the plan brought 100
soldiers and tons of equipment. US President Trump responds to the news by
demanding that Russia take back the troops. Moscow responds that the soldiers
will be there "as long as needed" and that the United States need not worry
about Russia's relations with a traditional ally. In the conflict in Venezuela,
Russia supports the incumbent president, while the United States and 50 other
countries have recognized the President of Parliament as president.
The Communist Party marches against Putin's policies
The Communist Party is organizing protest demonstrations in Moscow and other
cities. In Moscow, several thousand people are participating in the
manifestation of declining living standards, corruption and new laws that limit
freedom of expression (see March 18). Both younger and older
are taking part in the protest led by the party's long-time leader Gennadij
Famous human rights activist convicted
The head of the Russian human rights organization Memorial's office in
Chechnya, Ojub Titijev, is sentenced to drug possession for four years of
criminal work. Titijev has been incarcerated since January 2018. His supporters
believe the allegations are made up to stop Titijev's work. According to defense
lawyers, the case can be linked to Titiyev's investigation into information
about a secret prison system in Chechnya. According to human rights
organizations, allegations of drug possession are regularly used to silence
journalists and human rights activists in Chechnya.
New media laws are criticized
President Putin signs some controversial legislative proposals to prevent
fake news and prevent the publication of information on the Internet that is
considered to show a lack of respect for the state. By Putin's signing, the laws
come into force and are thus prohibited from "disseminating information that
shows disrespect to the state. It is also prohibited to" disseminate false
information on the Internet that poses threats to citizens' lives or health,
public order and security ". A government agency Roskomnadzor determines what is
fake news and compels media to remove such in their feeds. Media that refuses
will be blocked. "These new bans and penalties are not just a continuation of
the repressive policy that Putin initiated in 2012 but take it to a whole new
level," said Jurij Dzhibladze in a comment to the AFP news agency. Dzjibladze,
who heads the Center for Democratic Development and Human Rights, believes that
the legislative texts are so vague that they can not only be used to stop fake
news but also to prevent the dissemination of views that power holders dislike.
Djibladze also points to the similarities between the new laws and the
prohibitions that existed during the Soviet era against "undermining the Soviet
system" and "anti-Soviet campaigns and propaganda". Alexander Cherkasov of the
country's best-known human rights organization, Memorial, states in a comment
that "from now on it is the police who will decide what is fake news". The laws
also face criticism in the duma (parliament) when the laws were dealt
with there and by the Kremlin's own human rights council. Read more about the
law in the article in the Foreign Magazine" Russian attempts to restrict freedom
of expression on the Internet".
Demonstration against Internet law proposals
Demonstrations are taking place in Moscow and other cities in protest of a
bill that will prevent Russian traffic on the Internet from passing through
foreign servers. According to the government, the law aims to strengthen cyber
security, but critics say it can be used by the authorities to control and
censor activities on the Internet. The law now being dealt with in Parliament,
the duma, is expected to come into force on November 1.
Russia confirms support for Venezuela
Foreign Minister Lavrov welcomes Venezuela's Vice President in Moscow and at
the same time makes clear that Russia intends to continue supporting Venezuelan
President Nicolas Maduro, who is fighting a bitter power struggle with the
President of the country's parliament (see VENEZUELA: Current Policy). The
United States supports the President who has declared himself interim president.
Thus, Russia and the United States end up on their side in the escalating
conflict. Maduro and his allies - including Russia - accuse the United States of
trying to stage a coup in Venezuela.
Reduced support for Putin
In his annual speech to the nation, President Putin seeks to counteract
declining popularity figures by promising improved living conditions. Putin says
that, among other things, families with many children should receive increased
child support and tax relief. He also promises financial assistance in house
purchases and investments in health care and school. Putin's declining
popularity worries the Kremlin authorities. After pushing through criticized
reforms, including raising the retirement age, Putin was approved by 64 percent
of Russians in January, according to a study by the independent Levada
Institute. That is the lowest figure in five years. In his speech, Putin also
touches on the relationship with the United States as a result of the recently
terminated agreement on medium-range robots (see February 2).
Putin warns the US to deploy new robots in Europe and makes it clear that Moscow
would perceive such action as a serious threat.
Penalties for confrontation in Azovska Lake
The EU is imposing sanctions on eight Russian citizens who are held
responsible for the military confrontation that occurred when Russia summoned
Ukrainian ships heading into the Azovsk Sea from the Black Sea (see
November 25, 2018).
Arbitration on bank seizures in Crimea
Privat Bank, the banking company with the largest lending in Ukraine, wins a
case against Russia at the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague. The bank
seized its assets in Crimea when Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. The bank
was then privately owned, but it was later, in 2016, nationalized by Ukrainian
authorities who rated it as underfunded: much of the loan stock was classified
as bad debts. In the arbitration ruling that goes in Ukrainian favor, no amount
appears which Russia is considered obliged to pay.
Jehovah's Witness is sentenced to prison
6th of February
Danish Dennis Christensen is sentenced to six years in prison. His crime is
that he is a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious community. In 2017,
Jehovah's Witnesses were labeled as an extremist organization by Russian
authorities and, consequently, Christensen is condemned for "extremism". Since
2017, over 40 Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned or placed under house
arrest pending prosecution. Christensen is the first to go to prison.
Doubled investment in Crimea
In the next three years, 310 billion rubles (about SEK 43 billion) will be
invested in infrastructure on the Crimean Peninsula, announces the Russian Prime
Minister Medvedev. He states that this is a doubling of the appropriations
allocated to Crimea since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Russia jumps on nuclear weapons agreement with US
Russia announces that it is withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range
Nuclear Forces disarmament agreement. The agreement was signed in its time by
Ronald Reagan and Michail Gorbachev (leader of the then USSR) and is considered
to have paved the way for the continued disarmament that followed and by
extension the Cold War ended. Under the agreement, all robots with a range
between 50 and 550 kilometers would be scrapped. The US has accused Russia of
developing a new robot (9M729) with a scope that falls within the agreement.
Moscow claims that the new robot can only fly 48 miles and in turn accuses the
United States of other violations of the agreement.
No solution in dispute with Japan
President Putin welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Moscow.
The two leaders discuss the cooperation between the countries; among other
things, Russia wants trade exchange to increase. The dispute over four southern
islands in the Kuril Islands between the Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan also
arises. Both countries claim the islands occupied by the Soviet Union at the end
of the Second World War. The dispute has prevented the countries from concluding
a peace agreement after the war. As late as November, Putin and Abe agreed to
try to settle the knot and get a peace deal, but no agreement on the islands was
reached at the Moscow meeting.
Expelled Georgians are awarded damages
The European Court of Human Rights confirms a 2014 ruling in which Russia is
condemned for carrying out mass expulsions of Georgians during a Russia-Georgia
conflict in 2006. More than 1,500 Georgians were expelled from Russia after
Georgia accused four Russian officers in the capital in September 2006 Tbilisi
for spying and asked them to leave the country. The European Court of Justice
now orders Russia to pay EUR 2,000 in damages to each of those expelled and
between EUR 10,000 and EUR 15,000 to those imprisoned.
New law is used against opposition activist
Anastasia Shevchenko, a member of the opposition movement Open Russia, is
charged with "repeatedly participating in activities organized by an undesirable
organization". According to Amnesty International, she is placed under house
arrest pending trial. Amnesty states that Shevchenko is the first person to be
prosecuted under the "undesirable organizations" law. She faces up to six years
in prison if convicted. The prosecution triggers minor protests in Moscow, St.
Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Kazan.
The EU is punishing agents for the nerve poison attack
EU imposes sanctions on four members of the Russian security service GRU for
participation in the nerve poison attack against a former Russian double agent
in Salisbury, England in the spring of 2018. Two GRU agents are subject to
travel bans within the EU and may freeze any assets within the Union. According
to the EU, the agents have had access to, transport and use of the neurotoxin.
Sanctions are also introduced against GRU's two top executives.
Observers to contentious sound
Russia agrees that German and French observers should monitor ship traffic
through the Kerch Strait east of the Crimean Peninsula. The proposal is based in
the autumn's military confrontation in the strait (see November 2018).
In 2014, Germany and France, together with Russia and Ukraine, formed a joint
forum to discuss at a high level the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian sailors remain in Russian detention
The 24 Ukrainian crew members who are being held in prison in Russia
following events in the Kertjsundet on the Crimean Peninsula (see
November 25, 2018) remain in custody. A Moscow court has extended the
detention period to the last week in April. The navy of the Ukrainians was on
their way into the Azovsk Lake from the Black Sea when Russian forces opened
fire on them. The sailors risk six years' imprisonment, as Russia considers them
guilty of a border violation.