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Russia Culture and Traditions

2019

December

Poland is blamed for the Second World War

24 December

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.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Russia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

Culture and Traditions of RussiaSummit agreed on a ceasefire in Ukraine

December 9

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

December 9

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.

November

Ukraine gets back ships

November 18

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

November 12

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

November 10

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.

October

Russian-Polish investigation of air crash

October 28

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.

September

Forces in Abkhazia are equipped

September 22

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

September 12

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

11 September

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

September 9th

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 talks.

Putin Moscow adversity

September 8

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.

August

Moscow denies murder in Berlin

August 28th

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

August 13th

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

August 13th

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

10th August

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

August 7th

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

5 August

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

August 3rd

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

August 3rd

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).

July

Many records seized after demonstration

July 27

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

July 25

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

July 20

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

July 16

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

July 8

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.

June

The Council of Europe stops punishing Russia

June 24th

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

21 June

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

June 19

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

June 13th

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 Control Unit.

Hundreds of people arrested in protest in Moscow

June 12

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

6th June

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

June 5

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.

May

The Law of the Sea goes to Russia

May 25

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

May 16

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

May 8

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.

April

North Korea's leaders visit for support

April 25

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 leaders.

Moscow condemns new language law in Ukraine

April 25

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

April 24

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

April 19

"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 elections.

Norrman convicted of espionage

April 15

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

April 9

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

April 4th

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 Western countries.

March

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

March 23rd

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 Ziuganov.

Famous human rights activist convicted

March 18th

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

March 18th

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

March 10

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

March 1st

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.

February

Reduced support for Putin

February 20th

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

February 17th

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

February 15

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

February 4th

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

February 2

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.

January

No solution in dispute with Japan

January 24th

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

January 31

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

January 23

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

January 21st

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

January 18

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

January 16

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.


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