Russia Monthly Digest: A New Prime Minister, and Environmental Activist Jailed3 min read
– Russia was handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency on December 9th. Russia’s participation at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be the highest-profile events not to feature the Russian flag – however, Russian athletes who can prove they are unaffected by the nation’s ongoing doping scandals may still compete under a neutral flag. Then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that “significant doping problems still exist in Russia … but on the other hand, the fact that all these decisions are repeated … makes one think that this is part of anti-Russian hysteria which has become chronic.” Russia is able to appeal the decision.
– On December 20th, Arshak Makichyan was jailed in Moscow for six days for his “Fridays for Future” climate strike action. Russian law states that a public event involving more than one individual must receive a permit; the group had applied but were denied, and believing the dismissal to be illegal, carried out their protest anyway. Earlier in the month, on December 11th, Makichyan and another Russian climate activist, Natalia Aleksandrova, had met with special advisor to President Vladimir Putin, Ruslan Edelgeriev. Edelgeriev is the President’s special representative for climate issues, and although not directly answering questions, Makichyan expressed hope that further meetings would be more productive.
– President Putin gave his annual New Year’s Eve speech on December 31st, saying first and foremost that Russians must band together to overcome difficult situations and realise their ambitions. “The present and future, as well as the futures of our children, depend on the efforts and contributions of each of us … Only together will we resolve those issues faced by our society and our country today. Our unity is the foundation for achieving the highest goals.” The comments came after a year where dissatisfaction with both the socio-economic conditions of Russian life and Putin has increased, with Putin’s approval ratings the lowest in a decade.
– A Russian court ruled on the 9th of January that a landfill site in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia that contained waste from Moscow would be destroyed. The decision came after a year-long battle by local residents to remove the waste, with the protesters even going as far as to sue the company responsible for constructing the landfill site. The protests gained steam over the year, after beginning in February, before slowly becoming a nationwide protest against Moscow’s desire to ship its waste to less-populated areas of the Russian countryside. In Pomorye, a city in north-west Russia, around 10,000 people (out of a population of 60,000) turned out to protest against the landfill. \
– On January 15th, President Vladimir Putin in his state-of-the-nation address called for wide changes to the Russian political system. Within the next two hours, Russia’s government resigned, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in support of Putin’s proposals. Primarily, Putin wanted to limit the ability of international law to interfere with Russia’s government. Putin also proposed strengthening the State Council within Russian politics, leading many analysts to speculate that Putin intends to take on a position in the Council after his current term as president ends, in 2024. Putin also proposed new restrictions on the presidency, including an absolute two-term limit (as opposed to the current limit of two consecutive terms).
Mikhail Mishustin, former head of the Federal Tax Service and a member of the United Russia party, replaced Medvedev on the 16th of January after being granted permission by Russia’s courts. Mishustin has one week to form a new government according to Russian law. Medvedev was appointed deputy chairperson of the Russian Security Council.