Russian Federation. According to countryaah, the current population of Russia is 145,934,473. The Russian economy was squeezed by low oil prices and sanctions from the west. GDP fell and, according to the government, the budget must be cut by one tenth in 2016. At the same time, loans were promised to affected regions and investments to save industries and agriculture. The sanctions due to Russian intervention in Ukraine were extended during the year by both the US and the EU.
In March, President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea on the two-year anniversary of the Russian annexation, and in April the Crimean Tatars’ governing body was banned. A Russian court sentenced a female Ukrainian fighter pilot to 22 years in prison accused of killing two Russian journalists. She claimed innocence and in the West demanded her release. In May, she was released and exchanged for two Russian soldiers arrested in Ukraine.
The oppression of human rights was hardened, among other things, the human rights organization Memorial was stamped as a foreign agent. The Kremlin dismissed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that opposition politician Aleksey Navalnyj would receive damages for unfair trial in 2013, when he was convicted of embezzlement.
In April, Putin announced a new security force, the National Guard, which would be under his direct command and used in the fight against terrorism and organized crime. It was to be based on riot police units, and critics feared it would be used to knock down demonstrations.
Human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina was awarded in Stockholm the so-called alternative Nobel Prize, the Right Livelihood Award. She leads the Citizens Support Committee, which provides legal assistance to migrants and refugees.
In May, Russian military armament was announced on the archipelago of Kurils, which is disputed between Japan and the Russian Federation. During the summer, large Russian military maneuvers were held in Crimea, as well as near the borders with Ukraine and the Baltics.
Relations with Turkey thawed during the year, the two presidents met and agreed on cooperation against terrorism. The military chiefs of the countries also met. In the West, this was seen with concern, as both countries cracked down increasingly on regime critics and emerged as a Western hostile coalition. The relationship between the two regimes did not appear to be damaged despite the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey at the end of the year.
At home, Putin replaced a longtime close associate, Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov. His successor was Anton Vaino, grandson of the Soviet Communist leader in Estonia.
According to thereligionfaqs, before the September parliamentary elections, independent election observer Golos was forced to close after court decisions. Golos was stamped as a foreign agent and sentenced to high fines. The country’s last major independent opinion institute, Levada, received the same stamp two weeks before the election.
As expected, the election turned out to be a superior victory for Putin’s power party United Russia, which, according to official figures, performed strongly, taking 54.2% of the vote and 343 of the dum’s 450 seats. The Communist Party received 42 seats, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democrats 39 and A Fair Russia 23 seats. No real opposition candidate entered the duma.
Turnout was the lowest in modern times, 47.8%. According to the OSCE, the election campaign was governed by the power’s grip on the media and society in general. Electoral cheating was reported from many directions.
After the election, Putin appointed his Vice-Chancellor and former KGB employee Vjatjeslav Volodin as the new President in the Duma.
Foreign policy intensified the confrontation in Syria, where the Russian air force bombed the regime. Russian-American talks were conducted on a ceasefire plan between the warring parties in Syria, but they mainly led to temporary bomb stops in Aleppo. In September, the United States accused Russian war plan of bombing an aid shipment in Syria, when many aid workers were killed and trucks destroyed. The Kremlin rejected the charges.
International investigators found in September that it was a Russian-made missile used against the Malaysian passenger plane that was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. The missile must have been fired from a site controlled by Prorian separatists. Moscow rejected the charges.
The tense relationship with the US deteriorated when the Kremlin withdrew from an old agreement in October on how to handle plutonium left over for nuclear weapons manufacturing. In order to return to the agreement, Moscow stipulated that the United States should lift its sanctions and withdraw its forces from the Baltic countries, among others. At the same time, the United States withdrew from the talks on ceasefire in Syria and referred to Russian bombings against Aleppo. Instead, at the end of the year, Moscow and Ankara established a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and some of the country’s rebels, but not the Islamic State (IS).
The tension in the Baltic Sea area increased when Moscow in October stationed additional Iskander robots in Kaliningrad. They had the opportunity to carry nuclear weapons. The decision was said to be a response to the US missile defense in Europe and the stationing of soldiers in the Baltics and Poland. Subsequently, two Russian warships entered the Baltic Sea with long-range robots that can be loaded with nuclear weapons.
Moscow rejected US allegations of influence in the US presidential election through cyberattacks. At the same time, state-run Russian media campaigned against Hillary Clinton, painting her as a warrior and an enemy of the Russian people. When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he received warm congratulations from President Putin. In December, the US expelled a large number of Russian diplomats in revenge for the suspected cyberattacks. Moscow waited with response measures.
During the year, the Russian Federation voted away from the UN Human Rights Council. Human rights organizations had called for this because of the Russian bombings in Syria.
In January 2015, the Duma first enacted a new law against foreign NGOs that would allow the authorities to ban them when they “pose a threat to national defense, public security or public health”. The law was in line with the law against «foreign agents» in 2012 and was to be used to suppress criticism of the authorities. In September, the human rights organization HRC Memorial was fined 600,000 rubles because its sister organization Historical and Educational Center Memorial had not marked its publications with “Foreign agent”. HRC lost the appeal case.
In February, system critic Boris Nemtsov was assassinated in Moscow. He had been strongly critical of Russia’s intervention in eastern Ukraine and had been collecting material for a report to document that Russian soldiers were active in eastern Ukraine. Police subsequently confiscated all his papers and his computer. A number of Chechens were arrested and charged with the murder.
On May 9, Russia celebrated the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism. 500,000 Russians and foreigners took part in the Moscow sailing parade. The US and the EU boycotted the parade, but 15 presidents (from China, India, South Africa and Cuba, among others) participated with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
In September 2015, Russia surprisingly intervened in the Syrian civil war as it sent hundreds of bombers and fighters to Syria to bomb IS and other armed opposition groups. While the West’s “bombing” of IS had no visible effect, the Russian bombings quickly produced visible results, with IS’s oil exports to Turkey almost stalling. IS was squeezed financially and had to be compensated from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The West sharply criticized the Russian bombings, claiming that they were almost exclusively targeting opposition groups other than IS. IS was of a different view and dropped a bomb in a plane with Russian tourists over Sinai in late October.
From the beginning of the war effort, Russia was very interested in avoiding friction with the US and Israel’s intervention in the Syrian civil war and therefore established an exchange of information on overflying and bombing of Syria. However, both Turkey, the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia were fiercely critical of the Russian effort that pushed the Islamic opposition and strengthened the Assad regime. In November, Turkey therefore shot down a Russian plane over northern Syria. Turkey wanted to involve NATO in a confrontation with Russia. It failed and instead Turkey came to pay a high economic price for its military attack. Russia stopped economic cooperation and the flow of tourism to Turkey, where 2 million. Russians otherwise annually vacationed. Russia failed to respond militarily to Turkey, but instead bombed the Turkmen rebels in northern Syria, supported militarily by Turkey. In June 2016, Turkey had to officially apologize for the shootings against Russia in an attempt to normalize relations.
The Russian bombings put the rebels under heavy pressure, and in January 2016 new peace talks in Geneva could be initiated under the UN leadership. The peace talks took place on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution from December. On the basis of negotiations and resolution, a ceasefire agreement was concluded in February between the Assad government on the one hand and the opposition – apart from IS and all the Nusra front – on the other. Russia then ceased its bombing of the part of the opposition that participated in the ceasefire but continued to bomb IS. In March, President Putin declared that Russia’s military targets in Syria had been largely met and began to withdraw fighter planes. However, the situation was highly unstable and the ceasefire finally collapsed in early April.
Before the ceasefire agreement was signed in February, Saudi Arabia had sent fighter jets to bases in Turkey, where they, together with Turkey, planned attacks on Russian planes over Syria. It was thwarted by the ceasefire agreement. Instead, Saudi Arabia began supplying ground-to-air rockets to the rebel groups. Until then, the United States has managed to keep these rockets out of Syria because they could also be used against superpower aircraft. But from July and August, Russian fighter jets and helicopters began to be shot down with US-produced ground-to-air rockets. At the same time, Russia again stepped up its bombings and participated in the Syrian regime’s encirclement of Aleppo and bombings against IS controlled areas in northern and eastern Syria.
In November 2015, Russian authorities estimated that approx. 2,700 Russians – most from the North Caucasus – had gone to war under IS’s banner. Others set the figure even higher.
During 2015, 130,297 people were granted temporary refugee status in Russia. 129,506 were from Ukraine, 482 were from Syria. A very large number of refugees traveled through Russia heading for Western Europe. Many traveled to Norway, however, which changed its legislation at the end of 2015 so that even convention refugees could be deported back to Russia without delay.
The West’s demonization of Russia continued. In many countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and the Eastern European, the Cold War assumed similar dimensions. Economic sanctions and low oil prices had a negative impact on the economy in both blocs and at the same time, Veten was pushing hard to rebuild Russia, despite the fact that Russia’s military budget was 8% of the US superpower. (The demonization of Russia risks paving the way for war, Guardian 4/3 2015).
Western observers estimated that the Russian economy shrank by 3.7% in 2015. There was a slight decline in 2016. From 2017, the economy was expected to grow again.
In July 2016, Parliament passed a number of additions to the “anti-extremism” legislation. The changes were known as the “Yarovaya package”. It banned any missionary activity outside certain religious institutions, required internet service providers to store copies of data for 6 months and metadata for 3 years, doubled the “extremism” penalty frame from 4 to 8 years in prison, and doubled the penalty frame for inviting people to participate in «Mass riots» from 5 to 10 years in prison.
In November, the ICC Prosecutor’s Office declared that the situation in Crimea and Sevastopol had to be characterized as an international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The prosecution was still assessing whether the same could be said about the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Putin responded 2 days later by declaring that Russia would not ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute. Russia signed in 2000, but had not yet ratified. The country thus placed itself in the same group of countries as the United States and Israel, who also did not want to join the United Nations War Criminal Tribunal.
Russia’s air support for the Assad regime in Syria was crucial to the turn of the civil war. In March 2016, the Russian bombings supported the regime’s recapture of the IS occupied Palmyra; in September-December, the bombings were crucial to the recapture of Aleppo; and in the first half of 2017 they were crucial to the recapture of the IS occupied Deir ez-Zor. In the fall of 2016, Russian and / or Syrian aircraft bombed hospitals and living quarters in Aleppo. Several hundred civilians were killed. The bombing campaign prompted Western supporters of the jihadists to launch the “Aleppo Bleeding” campaign in protest of the war crimes. The same Western groups closed their eyes as ten times as many civilians were killed during Western bombings by Mosul in 2017.
Russia’s interference in the Syrian civil war in 2016-17 caused the West to be run out on a siding. Together with Iran and Turkey, Russia paved the way for so-called de-coalition zones in Syria, where the fighting subsided. Just 1½ years earlier, Russia-Turkey relations were at a freezing point, but Turkey now backed Russia, partly because the country was vertical against US support for the Kurds in northern Syria, and partly because Turkey itself wanted territorial control in northern Syria, and it was only possible with Russian support.
Cooperation between Russia and the United States approached conflict from the summer of 2017 in the fighting around Deir ez-Zor, as the United States wanted to bring the oil fields in the area under its control and therefore sent the Kurdish militia south. It brought the US-backed forces into direct conflict with the Russian-backed.
Russia-US relations developed turbulently from the 2016 US presidential race. Russia was not particularly interested in Hillary Clinton becoming president when she faced a tough sanctioned course on Russia. Her counterpart, Donald Trump, in turn, had both economic and political contacts. Clinton’s private mail server was hacked and many thousands of mails published via WikiLeaks. Clinton and later the FBI accused Russian hackers of being behind, but unable to provide conclusive evidence. Following his takeover of power in January 2017, Trump tried on several occasions to stop The FBI’s interest in the relationship between him and Russia. An interference that simply resulted in Congress setting up a special unit to investigate the president’s relations with Russia. The interest in “Russia’s involvement in the US election campaign” was turbulent, colorful and completely devoid of self-examination. The United States had been actively involved in Russia’s elections since the 1990s, for which the superpower had a tradition. It has traditionally wanted to control the election results of both friends and enemies.
At the end of December 2016, the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats as revenge for alleged Russian interference in the presidential race. Russia failed to reciprocate.
In April 2017, the United States sent 59 tomahawk missiles into Syria. The attack sparked protests from Russia. The relationship between the two countries then quickly cooled, and Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed regret that the relations between the two countries were approaching a Cold War level. In July, Russia decided that the United States should reduce its total embassy and consulate staff in the country to 455 people, equivalent to the number of Russian embassy staff in the United States. This meant that 755 had to leave Russia until 1 September. In August, the United States Congress passed new sanctions on Russia.
In 2018, Denmark doubled its military budget. Allegedly because of the threat from Russia. The reality was that the larger budget would fund arms purchases in the United States.