Russian Federation. The year was marked by a growing
opposition movement against the old President Vladimir
Putin, who responded with repression that, according to
critics, reminded Stalin.
The conflict surrounding the parliamentary elections in
December 2011 continued at the beginning of the year. The
opposition claimed that the Kremlin's power party United
Russia cheated victory, and in February a demonstration was
held in Moscow with tens of thousands of participants
The feminist punk band Pussy Riot made a domed appearance
in Christ the Savior's Cathedral in Moscow, where they
performed a so-called punk prayer: "Virgin Mary, save us
from Putin". Three band members were arrested accused of
hooliganism, giving the music video the protest
international attention on YouTube.
countryaah, the presidential election in March was considered to be
decided in advance. Opinion polls showed a clear majority
for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Just before the election,
the Kremlin claimed that Russian and Ukrainian security
services in cooperation had averted an attempted assault
against Putin. Two suspects arrested in Ukraine admitted to
television cameras, but one later claimed he admitted under
Already in the first round of elections, it was clear
that Putin would be the next president. He won a landslide
victory with over 63% of the vote. Communist leader Gennady
Ziuganov got 18% and billionaire Michail Prochorov 8%. Among
those who were not approved as candidates were the Liberal
opposition party Jabloko's leader Grigorij Javlinsky.
The data on electoral fraud were numerous. OSCE observers
spoke of irregularities in every three polling stations, and
about 3,000 cases of cheating were reported to the Russian
observatory Golos. The opposition protested against the
result, and the day after the election demonstrated about
20,000 people in Moscow. Police arrested over 500
protesters, and some were sentenced to shorter detention.
Among the arrested were the popular blogger and
anti-corruption activist Aleksey Navalnyj, who during the
protests was hailed as a rock star by his followers. He was
Following winter's protests, in March Parliament eased
the rules for forming political parties. Under the new law,
only 500 members are needed to register a party, instead of
the previous 40,000.
In connection with Vladimir Putin's resignation in May as
a new president, violent protests took place in Moscow. Tens
of thousands of protesters filled the streets, and there was
a quarrel between police and protestors. Many were injured
and over 430 people were arrested, including Aleksey
Navalnyj and Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Solidarity
movement and the Party for the Freedom of the People. Both
were sentenced to 15 days in prison. When Parliament voted
for outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev as new Prime Minister
after Putin, there were also demonstrations.
In the regime's attempt to curb the protests, the maximum
fine for participants in illegal and violent demonstrations
was dramatically increased, from 5,000 to 300,000 rubles,
corresponding to over SEK 64,000. Organizers of unlicensed
demonstrations could be fined double the amount.
When the opposition was to conduct new protests in Moscow
in June, the police struck in advance against opposition
leaders and activists, including Navalnyj, Nemtsov and TV
journalist Ksenija Sobtjak. Their home was searched and they
had to contact the police.
In July, the snare was tightened further around the
opposition through new laws. Defamation and defamation again
became punishable by fines of up to one million SEK. In
addition, organizations that promote human rights, and other
organizations that are judged to carry out political
activities and have contributions from abroad, must be
registered with the Ministry of Justice as "foreign agents".
The EU and the US criticized the law. New control of the
Internet was also introduced, where the authorities were
given the right to close websites with what was called
Aleksej Navalnyj was indicted in July, accused of
embezzlement three years earlier in a state forestry
company. Navalnyj had previously been acquitted in the case,
and he described the new indictment as absurd and devoted to
silencing his regime criticism. On conviction, Navalnyj
risked up to ten years in prison. After the indictment, his
supporters declared that they intended to form a new party,
A few months after Putin took office, Human Rights Watch
noted that the few signs of increased political freedom
during Medvedev's term in office had been wiped out. The new
Putin regime had attacked freedom of assembly, freedom of
the press and freedom of speech and launched a campaign of
arrests and threats to the growing opposition movement.
An urgent flood in the Krasnodar region of the southern
Russian federation in July harvested 172 fatalities. Three
local politicians and officials were charged that residents
of the area did not receive any warning about the rainfall
that was coming, despite weather reports of the approaching
storm. The tidal wave that pulled over the city of Krymsk at
night was described as a multi-meter high tsunami.
At a concert in Moscow in August, American pop star
Madonna urged the Russian authorities to respect freedom of
speech and release the three accused members of the punk
band Pussy Riot. An employee of President Putin responded to
Twitter by calling Madonna "whore."
About a week later, the three young women were sentenced
to two years in prison for hooliganism. According to the
judge, the protest song in the Savior Cathedral in February
was anti-religious, which many Russians agreed with, but
according to the women themselves, the protest was directed
at the Putin regime. One lawyer said the three were held
under cruel conditions in the detention and that the trial
was substandard. The ruling was criticized internationally,
and Amnesty International described it as a severe blow to
freedom of speech in the Russian Federation.
In September, opposition politician Gennady Gudkov, A
Fair Russia, was excluded from Parliament's lower house. He
was accused of illegally conducting business alongside his
elected representative. Gudkov described Parliament's
decision as a political revenge for his participation in the
street protests against Putin and an attempt to silence his
criticism of corruption and electoral fraud.
During new protests outside the security service FSB's
headquarters, Aleksey Navalnyj and other opposition
activists were arrested. It happened after Navalnyj, Garri
Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov formed a coordination council for
resistance to the Putin regime. Subsequently, several mass
rioters were indicted at the May demonstrations. The first
sentence was four and a half years in prison. Left-wing
activist Leonid Razvozzyev was also accused of plans for a
coup d'etat, but he himself claimed that he had been
kidnapped from Ukraine to Moscow and tortured for
After the three convicted Pussy Riot members appealed
their verdict, one of them was acquitted during the fall.
The other two were taken to labor camps over a hundred miles
from Moscow. According to the human rights organization
Memorial, the Russian leadership now used Stalinan's methods
against the opposition, repression with arrests, trials and
labor camps. Even Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized
the verdict against Pussy Riot.
A court in November declared Pussy Riots punk prayer
video for extremist material, which means media publishing
it is threatened by closure.
Two worrying changes to the law came into force in
One was a so-called treason law punishable by up to 20
years in prison for Russians who have contact with
foreigners who may be considered a danger to the security of
the Russian Federation. The law was considered to be aimed
at activists working for organizations focused on politics,
human rights and corruption. According to an experienced
activist from the Soviet era, the law was a return to
Stalin, when all conversations with foreigners could be
treated as a threat to the state.
Organizations that are considered to work on political
issues and who receive financial assistance from abroad
(they receive nothing in the Russian Federation) must
register as foreign "agents" from November. Both those who
chose to register and those who refused to do so risk the
In the local elections in the autumn, Putin's power party
Enade Russia had great success, but was met by accusations
of electoral fraud and pressure on voters.
In November, President Putin dismissed Defense Minister
Anatoly Serdyukov and the head of the armed forces after a
corruption scandal was revealed at the Department of
During the year, relations with the United States were
strained when the Kremlin decided to put a stop to the US
aid agency USAID in the Russian Federation. USAID, which has
worked with human rights, among others, was accused of
interfering in domestic politics.
In December, a former police officer was sentenced to
eleven years in prison for assisting in the murder of
journalist Anna Politkovskaja in 2006. Who ordered and
executed the murder is unclear.
In his speech to the nation in December, President Putin
said that a mixed electoral system with both party lists and
one-man constituencies should be reintroduced. It was
Putin's first surrender to the opposition since taking
office as president in May.
When the United States adopted the so-called Magnitsky
law in December, Russia responded, among other things, with
a ban on Americans adopting Russian children. Magnitsky law
blacklists Russian officials suspected of participating in
Sergei Magnitsky's death in prison in 2009. Magnitsky had
been charged with tax fraud after he struck a billion-dollar
alarm among state officials.
Relations with the United States were strained by the
Magnitsky case but also when the Kremlin decided during the
year to stop the US aid agency USAID's activities in the
Parliament approved during the year the membership of the
Russian Federation in the World Trade Organization WTO,
which could thus enter into force.