Russian Federation. According to Countryaah.com, Moscow’s relations with the United States deteriorated during the year with growing US accusations of Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election through data breaches and false information. President Vladimir Putin and US new President Donald Trump initially seemed to show a good relationship, but the US retained its sanctions against Moscow for Russian annexation of Crimea, and relations between Putin and Trump deteriorated during the year. The relationship was disturbed by revelations in the US that several of Trump’s employees had meetings with Russian representatives and also contacts with Russian intelligence during the presidential campaign and after the election.
At the beginning of the year, Ukraine also accused Russian hackers of breaking into Ukrainian computer networks. In June, a major data attack was carried out against Ukraine, when Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant was knocked out and the ministries, banks, metro and state-owned companies were affected. The suspicions were directed at Russian forces.
With Belarus, there was a border dispute, since the Russian side increased border control and established a so-called security zone. Belarusian President Aljaksandr Lukashenka accused Moscow of trying to shut down Belarus and also stop oil supplies.
A controversial Russian law came into force in February that mitigated the scale of domestic violence. First-time violence should not be punishable by imprisonment for ill-treatment without fines, unless the victim’s injuries are serious. According to critics, the law increased the scope for the already extensive abuse of women.
Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj was sentenced in February for the second time to five years’ conditional imprisonment and fined accused of embezzlement. The Supreme Court had requested a new trial. At the same time, the court ruled that a convicted regime critic should be released, as the punishment was not considered to be in relation to the crime.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in February at the two-year commemoration of the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. Later in the year, five Chechen men were sentenced to imprisonment for between eleven and twenty years for the murder of Nemtsov, but the commissioner of the murder was on the free foot.
In March, major protests took place in several cities against Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was accused of corrupt deals that gave him control over luxury villas and vineyards. Among hundreds arrested were Aleksey Navalnyj, who revealed Medvedev’s business on YouTube.
A suicide bomb on a subway train in St. Petersburg in April killed 15 people and injured at least 45 people, several of them children. The perpetrator was reported to be a Russian citizen but born in Kyrgyzstan, and in a statement on the internet he was said to have acted on orders by al-Qaeda’s leaders.
The Kremlin received harsh international criticism in April, when more than 80 people were killed in a nerve gas attack in Syria that was believed to have been carried out by Moscow’s ally, the Syrian regime. The Russian side claimed the gas came from rebels, but the British Foreign Minister canceled a visit to Moscow demanding increased sanctions. The US Secretary of State visited the Kremlin, but the tone between Washington and Moscow hardened. However, the Kremlin announced that it would reduce its air force presence in Syria by half due to a quieter location.
President Putin announced during the year that the last Russian chemical weapons were destroyed.
In April, the support organization of formerly imprisoned businessman Michail Chodorkovsky was banned from conducting his regime criticism from exile. His supporters in the Open Russia movement demonstrated in several cities and many were arrested.
On May 1, police arrested a number of activists demonstrating against torture and killing of homosexuals in Chechnya. Then a group of protesters were arrested in Moscow on the fifth anniversary of the big so-called Bolotnaja protest. In May, oppositionists who read aloud from the Russian Constitution on Red Square in Moscow were also arrested. One of Navalnyj’s supporters was sentenced to two and a half years in prison accused of violence during the March protests. Other protesters were sentenced to prison or fined.
According to an international report in May, several human rights activists have been locked up in recent years at Russian psychiatric clinics and in occupied Crimea. There, they have been subjected to compulsive medication that has damaged their mental health.
Tens of thousands of protesters protested in Moscow against plans to demolish many five- and six-story apartment buildings from the Soviet era and build new ones. The residents suspected corruption and did not trust the promises of replacement housing. Among the protesters were Aleksey Navalnyj.
During new demonstrations against the regime in June, Navalnyj was arrested in Moscow and sentenced to 30 days in prison. In total, hundreds of protesters were arrested in several cities. The police also closed Navalnyj’s office in Moscow, his campaign material was seized and many supporters were arrested when they distributed it. Navalnyj himself was sentenced to high fines as responsible for the activities.
US sanctions against the Russian Federation due to the Ukraine conflict were expanded in June to more organizations and people, and the EU decided to extend its sanctions for one year. Moscow responded by extending the import ban on certain US and EU products, and the US was ordered to reduce its diplomatic staff from over 700 to 455. Later, the EU tightened its sanctions in response to Russian relocation of gas turbines from the Russian Federation to Crimea.
In July, the Russian lower house decided to ban Russian citizens from using certain services and sites on the internet. The decision was directed at the opposition, which conducts much of its activity via the Internet.
In August, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was declared undesirable in Moldova and stopped on his way to the breakaway Republic of Transnistria. It was a continuation of a diplomatic quarrel where Moldovan and Russian diplomats were expelled earlier this year.
A protester from the March protests against Medvedev was sentenced in August to four years in prison camp accused of kicking and beating police. Navalnyj described the verdict as grotesque and the court as a criminal. An investigative journalist who reported corruption was sentenced to three and a half years in prison charged with extremism. He had created a website where politicians were examined. According to Reporters Without Borders, the prosecution was baseless.
At the local elections in September, the opposition had some success in Moscow and took every seventh term in the municipal assemblies. The turnout was not even 15%, and in the country well below 50%. President Putin’s support party United Russia won the governorship election in all regions.
Aleksey Navalnyj planned to run in the 2018 presidential election and traveled around the country with campaign meetings. However, he was arrested in October and sentenced to 20 days in prison. As a result, he was unable to attend the protest meeting he planned in St. Petersburg on Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday. Then thousands of people participated and hundreds were arrested. The European Court of Justice declared in October that the verdict against Navalnyj 2014 for fraud and money laundering was arbitrary and unreasonable, and the Russian state was requested to pay damages to Navalnyj. In December, the Election Commission banned Navalnyj from running for president, as he was convicted of a crime. The Supreme Court approved the decision.
In Crimea, two leaders of the Crimean Tatars were sentenced to eight and two years in prison for protests and separatism, respectively. They were later released after intervention from Turkey. A report by the UN Human Rights Commission talked about serious crimes in Crimea, including torture, disappearance and at least one extrajudicial execution. The justice system is biased and non-Russians are discriminated against, according to the report. Public employees who were forced to terminate Ukrainian citizenship but did not meet Russian requirements have become stateless.