CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Russian leaders alleged readiness for Ukraine peace talks but on their terms, Kyiv intensified drone attacks, and Bashkortostan region witnessed large-scale protests over jailed activist. 

Moscow accused Kyiv of hindering peace efforts, attacks into Russia persisted. Speaking in Moscow region about Ukraine war, President Putin 16 Jan dismissed Kyiv’s “peace formulas” and said Russia would not give up occupied territories. In further sign Kremlin is only prepared to negotiate on its terms, FM Lavrov 22 Jan said Russia was ready for talks but that Kyiv seeks to “perpetuate the war”; he added that Western aid to Ukraine complicates search for peace. Meanwhile, Ukraine stepped up drone attacks into Russia, notably targeting oil infrastructure. Ukrainian forces 14 Jan shot down early warning and control aircraft A-50 over Sea of Azov and damaged Il-22M aircraft, killing unknown number. Moscow and Kyiv traded blame for downed plane in Russia’s Belgorod region 24 Jan that left 74 dead, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

Anti-war presidential candidate saw surge of support. As March election drew closer, anti-war presidential hopeful Boris Nadezhdin 25 Jan said he had collected around 200,000 signatures endorsing his candidacy, double amount required for him to run in poll, 31 Jan submitted application to Central Election Commission to run. Two other candidates 30 Jan withdrew from race and endorsed Putin. 

Thousands protested in Bashkortostan in support of jailed activist. Protest 15 Jan took place in Baymak city of Bashkortostan region against trial of Fail Alsynov, environmental activist and campaigner for preservation of Bashkir language and culture. Authorities 17 Jan sentenced Alsynov to four years in prison for “inciting hatred”, prompting more protests that led to clashes with police. Despite warnings from authorities, protesters 19 Jan rallied again in Ufa city. 

Russia allegedly acquired Iranian and North Korean weapons. U.S. 4 Jan said Russia used North Korean ballistic missiles to strike Ukraine (see Ukraine), while UK 22 Jan presented fresh evidence to UN indicating transfer of North Korean weapons to Russia. Sky News 10 Jan claimed Iran has developed new attack drone and appears close to providing Moscow with surface-to-surface missiles.

December 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

President Putin reiterated objectives of war in Ukraine, campaign for presidential election in March 2024 kicked off, and Kyiv shelled Belgorod city in largest attack since full-scale invasion.

Putin confirmed Russia’s goals in Ukraine remain unchanged. In televised press conference, Putin 14 Dec proclaimed there will only be peace in Ukraine “when we achieve our goals”, which remain “Ukraine’s denazification, demilitarisation and neutral status”; he said 617,000 military personnel are in combat zone, of which 244,000 are mobilised soldiers. Putin 19 Dec reiterated remarks during meeting with top defence officials, said Moscow is upgrading its nuclear arsenal as west wages “hybrid war” against it but emphasised Russia will not attack NATO countries. Meanwhile, mothers and wives of mobilised soldiers organised more protests during month, 18 Dec called on Putin to end war for first time.

Putin announced presidential bid. Federation Council 7 Dec approved resolution setting date of presidential election for 17 March 2024. Putin next day announced bid for fifth presidential term; ten others announced their participation in poll, though some have yet to collect enough signatures to run. Independent candidate Yekaterina Duntsova, who has called for end to Ukraine conflict, announced bid but authorities 27 Dec barred her from running. Team of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny 7 Dec sponsored billboards in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities urging Russians not to vote for Putin.

Kyiv launched deadliest attack on Belgorod since full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine 30 Dec attacked Belgorod city in heaviest shelling of Russian city since full-scale invasion, killing at least 24 and injuring over 100; Putin promised to retaliate (see Ukraine). Meanwhile, Freedom of Russia Legion (Russian combatants fighting for Ukraine) 17 Dec claimed responsibility for cross-border attack into Belgorod region. Former Ukrainian parliamentarian Ilya Kiva, who fled to Russia early 2022 ahead of full-scale invasion, was shot dead 6 Dec in Moscow region; media reports alleged Ukrainian special services carried out operation.

Japan and EU introduced further sanctions on Russia. Japan 15 Dec imposed new sanctions against Russia. EU 18 Dec adopted twelfth sanctions package; Russia next day expanded list of EU representatives banned from entering country.

November 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Moscow withdrew from several arms treaties and announced record military expenditures in 2024; Finland closed border with Russia.

Russia withdrew from two arms treaties, ramped up military spending. President Putin 2 Nov signed legislation revoking ratification of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, though Russian officials reportedly said withdrawal did not mean Russia would resume nuclear testing; Russia 7 Nov withdrew from Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. State Duma 17 Nov approved 2024 federal budget, which devotes record 10.8tn rubles (approximately $119bn) to defence compared with 6.4tn rubles (approximately $71bn) in 2023. Police conducted raids to draft new army recruits, particularly targeting migrants; notably, police in Voronezh city 14 Nov raided restaurant hosting group of Azerbaijani immigrants and handed around 50 summonses to military enlistment offices.

Crackdown continued, notably targeting war opponents and LGBTQ+ community. Wives of mobilised soldiers 7 Nov staged protest calling on authorities to demobilise their husbands who, according to Putin’s mobilisation decree, could remain in military service until end of so-called special operation in Ukraine. Court in Saint Petersburg city 16 Nov sentenced artist Aleksandra Skochilenko to seven years’ imprisonment for spreading disinformation or “fakes” about Russian army; court in Moscow same day sentenced opposition politician Vladimir Milov in absentia to eight years in prison, also for “fakes”. Meanwhile, Supreme Court 30 Nov labelled “international LGBT movement” as “extremist”, banned activities; UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk same day “deplored” decision, called on authorities to repeal laws that place “improper restrictions on the work of human rights defenders or that discriminate against LGBT people”.

Finland closed checkpoints along border with Russia, Ukrainian strikes continued. Finland 22 Nov announced closure of all but one of its border crossings with Russia beginning 24 Nov, accusing its neighbour of purposely pushing asylum seekers toward border; 28 Nov closed last border crossing point, saying closure would last until 13 Dec and banned filing of requests for “international protection” at border. Meanwhile, authorities 26 Nov announced its air defences had intercepted Ukrainian drones over several regions, including Moscow, day after Kyiv reported one of biggest drone attacks since full-scale invasion (see Ukraine).

October 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Antisemitic attacks left dozens injured in North Caucasus, Moscow moved to withdraw from nuclear test ban treaty, and Ukrainian strikes continued.

Antisemitic violence erupted in North Caucasus. Amid worrying escalation in Israel-Palestine (see Israel/Palestine), several hundred residents 28 Oct demonstrated outside hotel in Dagestan Republic’s Khasavyurt city following rumours Israeli refugees were staying there; crowd dispersed but notice appeared at hotel saying “entrance is strictly prohibited for foreign citizens of Israel (Jews)”. Hundreds 29 Oct stormed airport in Dagestan’s Makhachkala city to search for Jewish passengers arriving from Israeli city Tel Aviv, clashing with security forces and leaving over twenty injured; authorities arrested 60 people. In Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, unknown assailants 29 Oct set fire to Jewish cultural centre in capital Nalchik and wrote “death to Jews” on wall. President Putin 30 Oct blamed West and Ukraine for helping stoke unrest.

Moscow moved to reverse nuclear test ban ratification and unveiled new missiles. Putin 5 Oct raised possibility of withdrawing ratification of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, citing U.S. failure to ratify. Russia’s envoy to Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Mikhail Ulyanov next day confirmed plans, saying it “doesn’t mean the intention to resume nuclear tests”. State Duma and Federation Council 18, 25 Oct respectively approved bill to withdraw ratification. Meanwhile, Putin 5 Oct announced “successful” test of Burevestnik cruise missile and completion of Sarmat super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile.

Ukrainian strikes into Russia persisted. Russia faced more Ukrainian attacks, particularly targeting border regions. Notably, military 4 Oct shot down 31 unmanned aerial vehicles in Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk regions. Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov 12 Oct reported fallen drone killed three civilians in Belgorod city. Ministry of Defence 18 Oct announced air defences had shot down 28 drones over Belgorod, Kursk and Black Sea; Ukrainian media outlets same day claimed at least eighteen drones struck military camp near Khalino airfield in Kursk.

Authorities arrested Alexei Navalny’s lawyers. Crackdown on dissent continued. Notably, authorities 13 Oct detained three lawyers representing imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny on charges of participation in “extremist community”; 26 Oct charged Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva for violating “foreign agents” law.

September 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Ruling party claimed sweeping victory in local elections held across Russia and in occupied Ukrainian territory, drone attacks continued, and North Korea’s leader made surprise visit.

Ruling party won big in regional and municipal elections. Russians 8-10 Sept cast their ballots for regional governors, regional legislatures, and city and municipal councils. President Putin’s United Russia party won 15 out of 16 elections for regional legislative assemblies and every provincial governor’s race aside from Republic of Khakassia, which re-elected Communist party governor Valentin Konovalov. Russia also held elections in four partially occupied regions of Ukraine, announcing ruling party victory and prompting outrage from Kyiv and its allies. Meanwhile, crackdown on dissent persisted; notably, Justice Ministry 1 Sept added Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief and Nobel Prize winner Dmitry Muratov to its list of foreign agents.

Ukraine’s campaign of aerial strikes continued. Ukrainian drone attack 7 Sept caused explosion near military headquarters in Rostov region’s Rostov-on-Don city; Kursk region witnessed multiple drone attacks. Notably regional governor 16 Sept announced that strike on Plekhovo village killed one; drone 20 Sept hit oil depot in Sochi city’s Adler district, 25km from Putin’s Sochi residence; and drone attack 25 Sept destroyed several buildings. Meanwhile, reports 4 Sept surfaced claiming authorities had released General Surovikin, detained after Wagner mutiny in June; two days later, Commonwealth of Independent States reportedly appointed Surovikin head of air defence committee.

President Putin held summit with North Korea’s leader. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un 12-18 Sept made surprise trip to Russia and 13 Sept met with Putin at Cosmodrome Vostochny space launch centre for talks. Sides did not provide details on concrete agreements, but Putin later confirmed readiness to assist North Korea with its satellite program; in exchange, Russia is likely to receive ammunition for Ukraine war. Kim also visited Gagarin Aircraft Manufacturing Association, Sukhoi fighter jet production facility in Komsomolsk-on-Amur city and Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok city.

Several EU countries banned entry of Russian-registered cars. Poland 17 Sept joined Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland in banning entry of Russian-registered cars; Norway’s Foreign Ministry 19 Sept announced plans to introduce similar restrictions.

August 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Authorities confirmed Wagner chief’s death in plane crash amid speculation about Putin’s role; Ukraine intensified drone strikes on Russian territory.

Wagner boss killed in plane crash. Authorities 27 Aug confirmed that head of paramilitary Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin, who staged failed mutiny in June, was killed 23 Aug in plane crash outside capital Moscow alongside nine others. U.S. 24 Aug said explosion on board likely brought down plane as number of Western intelligence assessments suggested President Putin may have ordered his death, which Kremlin 25 Aug denied. Meanwhile, Putin 23 Aug sacked Gen. Surovikin, ally of Prigozhin who many believe knew about plans for June insurrection and possibly aided him.

Ukraine conducted near-daily drone attacks on Russia. Ukraine intensified strikes on Russian territory, with largest drone attack since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine 29-30 Aug targeting seven regions. Among other notable incidents, aquatic drones 4 Aug struck Navy base in Black Sea port city of Novorossiysk; drones 19 Aug struck Soltsy airfield in northwestern Novgorod region; shelling in Belgorod region 23 Aug killed three; and shelling in Bryansk region left several people dead. Moscow targeted throughout month.

Rumours of possible mobilisation swirled. Bloomberg report 20 Aug revealed hardline members within Russia’s security apparatus are pushing for changes to army leadership (including dismissal of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valerii Gerasimov), declaration of martial law and introduction of full-scale mobilisation. Though Putin gave no indication he plans to take such steps, rumours of new mobilisation wave due to shortage of volunteers spread on social networks. Meanwhile, Putin 4 Aug signed into law measures to increase number of potential conscripts.

Crackdown on dissent continued, value of Russian ruble tumbled. Court 4 Aug sentenced imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 19 years in prison on extremism charges; authorities 17 Aug searched offices and homes of members of Golos movement, which monitors elections; and Moscow court 29 Aug sentenced in absentia investigator Ruslan Leviev and journalist Michael Naki to 11 years in prison for spreading disinformation or “fakes” about army. Meanwhile, Russian ruble 14 Aug hit 17-month low against dollar.

July 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Kremlin clamped down on senior military officers following Wagner insurrection, Parliament passed raft of measures to strengthen mobilisation efforts, and Moscow withdrew from Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Authorities detained high-ranking officers in wake of Wagner mutiny. News outlet The Wall Street Journal 13 July reported that at least 13 high-ranking officers were detained following paramilitary Wagner Group’s short-lived mutiny in June, including Gen. Sergei Surovikin and Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev. Paper also said Kremlin suspended or dismissed about 15 other officers. In further sign of cracks in security establishment, Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov 12 July announced he had been fired after criticising high command’s management of Ukraine war. Meanwhile, video published 19 July showed Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin addressing combatants in Belarus (see Belarus), saying mercenaries will remain in Belarus only temporarily before heading to Africa, though hinting they could eventually return to Ukraine.

Lawmakers extended eligibility for military service and approved creation of paramilitaries. State Duma 18 July approved bill raising age limit for reservists, 20 July increased fines for non-appearance at military enlistment office on demand and 25 July raised maximum age for military conscription from 27 to 30. Upper House of Parliament 28 July approved law allowing governors to create regional paramilitary units to assist security forces during mobilisation, wartime or periods of martial law; president will decide when to form or disband such units.

Fresh drones struck capital. Kremlin 24 July accused Kyiv of fresh drone attack on Moscow and promised retaliatory measures; two drones 30 July attacked govt complex, also in capital.

Moscow scuttled Black Sea grain deal. Russia 17 July withdrew from Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports (see Ukraine). President Putin 19 July said Moscow could return to deal if Western states fulfil their obligations, including by unblocking Russian assets related to agriculture and reopening Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline. During Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg 27-28 July, representatives from five African countries publicly called for resumption of agreement; Putin 29 July pledged to ship 25-50,000 tonnes of grain free of charge to poorest countries in Africa within 3-4 months, but stopped short of promising return to initiative.

June 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

In most serious challenge ever to Putin’s grip on power, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin spearheaded insurrection, advancing within 200km of capital before abruptly aborting mission.

Wagner leader left Russia after short-lived mutiny rocked country. Amid months of escalating tensions between military leaders and head of paramilitary Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin, most recently over attempts to bring Wagner forces under military command structure, Prigozhin 23 June claimed defence ministry had killed around 30 Wagner fighters at a camp in Ukraine and vowed to topple military leadership. In dramatic escalation that raised questions about stability of Putin’s rule, Wagner forces 23-24 June entered southern Rostov-on-Don city, seizing control of key sites before advancing toward capital Moscow in armoured convoys, passing through Voronezh city. Putin 24 June decried Prigozhin’s “betrayal” and vowed to punish those involved as Wagner mercenaries shot down six helicopters and military airplane, killing 13. As Prigozhin’s forces entered Moscow region, he abruptly called off rebellion and reportedly went into exile following negotiations allegedly brokered by Belarussian leader Aleksandr Lukashenka (see Belarus). Kremlin same day said it would not prosecute Wagner members or Prigozhin; Putin 26 June said Wagner mercenaries can either go to Belarus or sign contract with Ministry of Defence.

Attacks on Belgorod persisted. Ukrainian shelling and attacks by Ukraine-aligned Russian combatants continued to target southern Belgorod region. Notably, combatants 1 June shelled Shebekinsky town, prompting evacuations from there and other vulnerable districts. Putin 13 June suggested he could order troops to seize more land in Ukraine to create “sanitary zone” protecting Russia from attack. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 20 June accused Kyiv of plans to strike Russia with U.S.-made HIMARS and UK-made Storm Shadow Missiles, warning this would be considered “full-fledged [Western] involvement” and promising “retaliation”. Meanwhile, Putin 16 June announced first tactical nuclear weapons had arrived in Belarus (see Belarus).

Crackdown on dissent continued. Anti-war activist Anatoly Berezikov 14 June died in detention centre in Rostov-on-Don; his lawyer hinted death could be result of torture. Trial against imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who faces extremism charges, 19 June began behind closed doors. Authorities 21, 28 June declared World Wildlife Fund and news outlet Novaya Gazeta Europa, respectively, “undesirable”.

May 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Ukraine-aligned Russian combatants staged cross-border incursion, while large-scale drone attack targeted capital; more subversive activities and attacks on Russian territory expected as Ukraine war continues.

Cross-border raid from Ukraine sparked violence, multiple drones struck capital. Governor of Belgorod region (which borders Ukraine) 22 May said Ukrainian “sabotage group” had infiltrated region, announced “counter-terrorist operation”. Authorities evacuated villages coming under fire as attackers reportedly took control of several locations. Defence ministry 23 May said Russian troops used “airstrikes, artillery fire and active action” to repel invaders. Two groups that claimed responsibility reportedly are comprised mostly of far-right Russian nationals tied to Ukrainian military intelligence, which may have coordinated attack; Kyiv denied involvement. More subversive activities expected in coming weeks and months as Ukraine war continues. Meanwhile, presumably Ukrainian shelling of Russia rose sharply, mostly affecting Belgorod but increasingly targeting capital, Moscow. Series of drone strikes 30 May marked most significant attack on Moscow since full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Wagner Group’s feud with top military brass escalated. Head of paramilitary Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin 5 May threatened to withdraw from Ukrainian city of Bakhmut amid ammunition shortages, 9 May claimed defence ministry had threatened to qualify move as treason. Politician and former commander Viktor Sobolev 15 May branded Wagner “an illegal armed formation”; three Wagner mercenaries next day threatened to rape Sobolev. Prigozhin 31 May called on prosecutors to investigate possible “crimes” committed by senior defence officials before and during Ukraine war.

Western states imposed sanctions, finance ministry recorded huge deficit. During Japan summit, G7 leaders 19 May promised more measures against Russia and those who support its war effort; several Western countries and Russia same day imposed tit-for-tat sanctions. Meanwhile, finance ministry 10 May recorded 3.4tn ruble deficit in first four months of 2023; in same period in 2022, authorities recorded 1.2tn deficit.

Repression of dissent continued. Court in Moscow 5 May ordered two-month pre-trial detention for two artists accused of “justifying terrorism” in play about Russian women who joined Islamic State. Authorities 19 May designated environmental organisation Greenpeace “undesirable”. Authorities 23 May extended pre-trial detention of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich by three months.

April 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Govt sought to clamp down on draft-dodgers with new conscription law, repression of dissent continued, and Ukraine launched more drone strikes in Russian borderlands.

Govt tightened conscription legislation. President Putin 14 April signed new legislation providing for digital register of all Russian citizens eligible for military service, which could help authorities expedite mobilisation activities and prevent conscripts from fleeing abroad. Specifically, law allows authorities, previously required to deliver in-person notices to those eligible for military service, to issue electronic draft orders; it also bans citizens from leaving country when they receive such order. Those who fail to appear at registration office within 20 days without valid reason could face new restrictions related to banking, selling property, driving and registering vehicles. Meanwhile, defence ministry 1 April launched regular spring conscription; 30 April announced it had replaced deputy defence minister Mikhail Mizintsev with Alexei Kuzmenkov.

Crackdown on opposition continued. In harshest judgement for opposition activist since Putin came to power, Moscow court 17 April handed politician Vladimir Kara-Murza 25-year prison sentence for spreading disinformation about army and treason; State Duma next day approved amendments allowing life sentences for treason. Imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny 26 April said military tribunal opened “terrorism” case against him, which could see him imprisoned for up to 30 years. Authorities throughout month declared several foreign NGOs “undesirable organisations” and “foreign agents”.

Pro-war blogger assassinated, Ukraine launched more attacks into Russia. In Saint Petersburg city, explosion in cafe owned by paramilitary Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin 2 April killed war correspondent known as Vladlen Tatarsky; authorities next day arrested Russian citizen and accused Ukrainian special services of planning “terrorist attack”. Meanwhile, Ukrainian drones 4, 18 April hit military offices in Bryansk region; 17 April struck two power stations in Belgorod region. In Moscow region, authorities 24 April found drone containing explosives.

Defence minister announced plans to boost combat readiness of Central Asian bases. Speaking at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 28 April announced plans to increase combat readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, saying U.S. efforts to strengthen its presence there triggered move.

March 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Authorities arrested U.S. journalist on espionage charges in worrying escalation of Russia’s media crackdown; rumours swirled of forthcoming mobilisation.

Authorities arrested foreign journalist as crackdown continued. In worrying sign for foreign journalists working in Russia, security services 30 March detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, on suspicion of espionage, first such case since Cold War; court same day ordered his pre-trial detention until 29 May. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken condemned “Kremlin’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress and punish journalists and civil society voices”; U.S. same day urged its citizens to immediately leave country. Meanwhile, President Putin 18 March tightened punishment for “discrediting” or spreading misinformation (“fakes”) about volunteer forces – such as Wagner Group; criminal code already prohibits “fakes” about Russian army. Court in Tula region 28 March sentenced single father to two years in prison for “discrediting” Russian army and placed his daughter in orphanage. Authorities throughout month declared several foreign NGOs and think tanks “undesirable organisation[s]”, 20 March ordered liquidation of Moscow-based SOVA think-tank.

Prospect of second mobilisation loomed. Authorities in at least 43 regions summoned individuals military deems subject for mobilisation to military offices throughout month, citing need to update contact information, digitise personal data and conduct military training, fuelling speculation authorities could announce second mobilisation for Ukraine war.

International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrant for Putin. ICC 17 March issued arrest warrant for President Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova for “war crime of unlawful deportation” of children from occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia. Kremlin same day called decision “outrageous” and noted that Russia does not recognise court’s jurisdiction. Russian Investigative Committee 20 March opened criminal case against ICC prosecutor and three judges.

In other important developments. Russia and Ukraine 18 March agreed to extend UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal by 60 days. Chinese President Xi Jinping 20 March arrived in capital Moscow for three-day visit, during which leaders reaffirmed close ties and readiness to promote “multipolar world”. Putin 25 March announced plans to store tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus (see Belarus).

February 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Putin suspended participation in key nuclear arms treaty, Ukrainian shelling of Russia continued, and Western states imposed more sanctions.

Putin suspended participation in key arms treaty with U.S. In state-of-the-union address delivered days before one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, President Putin 21 Feb announced suspension of Russia’s participation in 2010 New START Treaty (last arms control treaty in force between Russia and U.S.), which could portend end of arms control system established during Cold War and built upon since. Putin also said “the more long-range Western systems are delivered into Ukraine, the further we’ll have to push the threat from our borders”.

Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory continued. Putin 1 Feb said preventing Ukrainian strikes on Russia was “priority task”, though cross-border attacks continued. Notably, governor of Bryansk region 3 Feb said Russian air defences shot down four Ukrainian rockets in Starodubsk municipality; governor of Belgorod region 19 Feb reported child killed in Novaya Tavolzhanka village. Series of drone attacks 27-28 Feb occurred in six regions, striking oil refinery in Krasnodar Krai region. Meanwhile, founder of paramilitary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, 20 Feb accused officials of denying his fighters sufficient ammunition for Ukraine war and admitted having uneasy relations with people “at the top”.

Persecution of war opponents persisted. Court in Barnaul city 15 Feb sentenced journalist Maria Ponomarenko to six years in prison for spreading disinformation, or “fakes”, about army. Russian Investigative Committee chairman 20 Feb said authorities had opened 152 criminal cases against individuals for “fakes” since invasion of Ukraine. Police 24 Feb reportedly detained at least 54 people in 14 cities at protests on anniversary of Ukraine war.

West and Russia imposed more tit-for-tat sanctions. Western states continued to impose sanctions throughout month; European Union 25 Feb introduced tenth sanctions package. Deputy PM Alexander Novak 10 Feb announced Russia would cut oil production by 500,000 barrels per day starting in March. Meanwhile, media outlet The Financial Times 6 Feb reported that at least 16 Iranian “ghost” ships, previously used to breach U.S. sanctions, have begun shipping Russian oil since Group of Seven imposed price cap.

January 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Govt shuffled military command, lawmakers and medical professionals decried imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s treatment, and Western states and Moscow imposed tit-for-tat measures. 

Govt made changes to military command and sketched out army reforms. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 11 Jan appointed Valery Gerasimov commander of Joint Group of Forces; Gerasimov will lead war in Ukraine, replacing Sergei Surovikin who is now Gerasimov’s deputy. Fourth shuffle of Russia’s command structure since Feb invasion indicates Moscow may be preparing new offensive in Ukraine. Shoigu 17 Jan revealed new details about planned military reforms from 2023-2026; changes include forming army corps in Karelia region near Finland, creating new force groupings in occupied areas of Ukraine and strengthening combat capabilities of Navy, Air and Space Forces, and Strategic Missile Forces. Meanwhile, reports 19 Jan began emerging of authorities deploying air defence systems atop several defence and administrative buildings in Moscow, suggesting Kremlin is preparing for possible future attacks on capital.

Concern grew over treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Navalny’s lawyer 9 Jan warned of politician’s deteriorating health at penal colony in Vladimir region; 481 doctors next day signed open letter to President Putin demanding end to abuse and provision of medical care. By 20 Jan, over 80 current and former lawmakers had signed appeal urging end to unjustified disciplinary punishments for Navalny and provision of adequate medical assistance. Meanwhile, crackdown on media and NGOs continued. Notably, Moscow City Court 25 Jan ruled to liquidate Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia’s oldest human rights organisation; General Prosecutor’s Office 26 Jan declared media outlet Meduza “undesirable organisation”.

Western countries and Russia imposed tit-for-tat measures. Head of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen 17 Jan announced plans to introduce tenth sanctions package against Russia in Feb; Russia same day sanctioned number of European Union security agencies’ leaders, businesses and individuals helping provide military assistance to Ukraine. Moscow 23 Jan ordered Estonian ambassador to leave Russia by 7 Feb; Lithuania and Latvia same day ordered Russian ambassadors to leave their countries and recalled their ambassadors. U.S. Treasury Dept 26 Jan declared Russian paramilitary Wagner Group a transnational criminal organisation.

December 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Govt announced reforms to army, crackdown on dissent continued, and Ukraine struck military bases hundreds of miles inside Russia.

Authorities announced reforms to strengthen military. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 21 Dec announced increase in maximum number of army servicemen from 1.15mn to 1.5mn. Shoigu also proposed changes to conscription age – currently between 18 and 27 – to 21 and 30 and outlined plans to form new military units. He added that “priority” task for 2023 is continuing “special military operation until its full completion”. Meanwhile, President Putin 9 Dec said Russia could abandon “no first use” nuclear doctrine; Kremlin 12 Dec clarified that Russia does not intend to take “quick actions”.

Crackdown on opposition persisted. Court in Moscow 9 Dec sentenced politician Ilya Yashin to over eight years in penal colony for spreading disinformation about Russian army. Justice ministry 20 Dec filed lawsuit to liquidate Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia’s oldest human rights organisation. Prosecutor general’s office 22 Dec declared NGO Russian Anti-war Committee in Sweden “undesirable organisation”. Police 29 Dec arrested politician Mikhail Lobanov. Meanwhile, law expanding definition of “foreign agent” to include any individual or organisation that is “under foreign influence” 1 Dec entered into force.

Ukraine launched strikes deep into Russia. Authorities 5 Dec accused Ukraine of attacking air bases in Saratov and Ryazan regions, which killed three and damaged several aircrafts; Kyiv acknowledged attacks but did not publicly claim responsibility. Attacks on military bases hundreds of miles inside country reveal Ukraine’s long-range capabilities, which Russia’s air defence appeared unprepared for (see Ukraine). Further strikes on air base near Saratov 26 Dec, although reportedly intercepted by Russian air defence, killed three. Meanwhile, Belgorod and Kursk regional governors 6 Dec announced formation of “territorial defence units” amid continued Ukrainian shelling in border regions.

In other important developments. Group of Seven 3 Dec agreed to price cap of $60 per barrel of Russian oil, which 5 Dec came into force; Moscow 4 Dec said it would not sell gas to any country participating in cap. Meanwhile, U.S. 9 Dec accused Russia of providing Iran with “unprecedented” level of military assistance in exchange for drones.

November 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Authorities introduced new laws on military service as tensions within army surfaced, Ukrainian shelling continued, and ties with Iran deepened.

President Putin gave updates on mobilisation drive, authorised new laws on military service. Following Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s announcement late Oct that 300,000 people had been mobilised for war in Ukraine, Putin 4 Nov said additional 18,000 soldiers had been mobilised and that 49,000 were engaged in combat activities. No official decree has been issued to end mobilisation despite reaching declared goal of 300,000 soldiers, enabling future mobilisation drives. Putin 4 Nov signed law allowing authorities to mobilise citizens convicted of serious crimes, including murder and robbery; decree exempts crimes such as espionage, terrorism and sexual crimes against minors. Putin 14 Nov signed additional decree allowing foreign citizens to be drafted.

Russian army faced backlash over poor leadership and logistical problems. Over 100 people 1 Nov held protest in western Ulyanovsk city against lack of payments to conscripts, following day announced “total strike” until payments are made. Videos 5 Nov emerged showing soldiers in south-western Kazan city decrying poor conditions and lack of proper training, uniforms and weapons. Soldiers from southern Tomsk city 18 Nov held rally, criticising commanders’ lack of leadership and poor training. Meanwhile, members of Council of Mothers and Wives, which demands return of mobilised relatives from front lines, 14 Nov held protest rally in St. Petersburg city, 22 Nov proposed meeting with Putin; Putin 25 Nov held meeting, but did not invite any member who opposes war and criticises military leadership.

Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory persisted. Shelling continued near border with Ukraine throughout Nov. Notably, authorities in Belgorod region 15 Nov reported two killed in Shebekino town, 18 Nov said shelling killed one in Valuiki city. Ukrainian naval drone 18 Nov attacked Sheskharis oil terminal and naval base in Novorossiysk.

In other important developments. Media outlet The Washington Post 19 Nov reported that Moscow had struck deal with Tehran to produce Iranian drones in Russia. U.S. 10 Nov revoked Russia’s market economy status, European Union 23 Nov designated Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, and UK 30 Nov sanctioned 22 Russian officials.

October 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

President Putin introduced new threat-level system across country, crackdown on opposition continued, and Moscow deepened military cooperation with Iran.

Govt introduced new security regime. In signs Russia is preparing for protracted conflict with Ukraine, Putin 19 Oct declared martial law in four annexed Ukrainian regions (see Ukraine) and introduced various “response levels” across Russia. System differentiates depending on threat level in particular regions. Notably, Putin introduced “medium response level” in annexed Crimea and regions bordering Ukraine such as Belgorod, which has seen continued shelling from Ukraine and which 16 Oct encountered “terrorist attack” at military site that killed 11 soldiers. “Medium level” decree gives local authorities right to organise economic mobilisation, ban movement for residents and support military services. Putin also announced new “Coordination Council” to increase supply of weapons and equipment, as well as medicines, food and salaries, to military.

Partial military mobilisation completed. Following Sept “partial military mobilisation” announcement, which prompted rallies across country and mass exile, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 28 Oct announced 300,000 people had been mobilised, of whom 41,000 have been deployed to military units in Ukraine. Authorities reported around 11 cases of arson during month at military enlistment offices, but overall protest activity decreased.

Crackdown on opposition persisted. Court in Moscow 18 Oct sentenced local resident Pavel Pischulin to two months of pre-trial arrest for “cooperating with foreign state”, first known criminal case handed down for working with foreign govt. Imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny 20 Oct said authorities had opened another criminal case against him for “promoting terrorism”. Former presidential candidate and journalist Ksenia Sobchak 26 Oct became suspect in extortion case against Rostec State Corporation; Sobchak same day left country. News 27 Oct emerged that authorities opened first criminal case against individual for failing to obey wartime order.

In other important developments. EU 6 Oct adopted eighth sanctions package, aimed at “depriving the Kremlin’s military and industrial complex of key components and technologies and Russia’s economy of European services and expertise”. U.S. newspaper The Washington Post 16 Oct reported that Iran agreed to secretly transfer short-range ballistic missiles to Russia.

September 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

President Putin announced partial mobilisation, prompting hundreds of thousands to flee, and pledged to annex parts of Ukrainian territory; political volatility and border insecurity could increase in coming weeks.

Putin announced partial military mobilisation, fuelling protests and mass exile. Following Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in which it recaptured swathes of territory from Russian forces (see Ukraine), Putin 21 Sept announced partial mobilisation and threatened nuclear escalation. Anti-mobilisation rallies same day erupted across country, including in Russian national republics such as Dagestan and Chechnya. According to OVD-Info, around 2,414 people were detained 21-26 Sept. Over 20 military enlistment offices were torched and over 260,000 Russians had fled country by late Sept. Meanwhile, Putin 30 Sept annexed four only partly occupied regions in Ukraine – biggest annexation in Europe since World War Two – saying “we will defend our land with all our strength and all our means” (see Ukraine). U.S. same day sanctioned hundreds of individuals.

Municipal deputies demanded Putin’s resignation, opposition crackdown continued. Ten deputies from Smolninskoye municipal council in Saint Petersburg 7 Sept appealed to State Duma to remove Putin from office and charge him with treason. Deputies from Moscow’s Lomonosovsky municipal council next day urged Putin to resign. Municipal deputy from Saint Petersburg 12 Sept started petition demanding Putin’s resignation; as of 28 Sept, 75 municipal councillors had signed petition. District court in Saint Petersburg 13 Sept approved dissolution of Smolninskoye municipal council. Meanwhile, court in Moscow 14 Sept sentenced opposition politician Leonid Gozman to 15-day jail term for 2013 publication “equating” Soviet-era Russia with Nazi Germany. Ministry of justice 16 Sept labelled comedian Maxim Galkin “foreign agent” for protesting Ukraine war.

Russian energy company said major gas pipeline to Europe closed indefinitely. G7 finance ministers 2 Sept agreed to price cap on Russian oil exports. Announcement followed Deputy PM Alexander Novak’s threat 1 Sept that Russia would cease oil and gas supplies to countries that impose such caps. Gazprom 2 Sept announced Nord Stream 1 pipeline supplying gas to Europe would remain closed indefinitely. Four gas leaks were detected 26-29 Sept in Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines; NATO 29 Sept said leaks were “result of deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”.

August 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Clampdown on opposition persisted, Ukraine continued attacks on Russian borderlands, and govt temporarily halted gas supplies to Europe. Crackdown on opposition continued. Police 22 Aug detained 33 activists and journalists across capital Moscow, according to OVD-Info, in move likely aimed at preventing protests on Russia’s National Flag Day; most detainees released that day. Kira Yarmysh, press secretary of imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, 23 Aug announced authorities had opened criminal cases against her and seven other associates of Navalny for spreading disinformation, or “fakes”, about Russian army. Authorities 24 Aug detained former Mayor of Yekaterinburg city, Sverdlovsk region, and opposition figurehead Yevgeny Roizman for “discrediting” Russian army. Head of human rights group Agora 16 Aug said Russian authorities are investigating 85 criminal cases for “fakes” about Russian army. Authorities 19 Aug included three Canadian organisations in list of “undesirable organisations”, which now includes 65 foreign NGOs. Darya Dugina, daughter of Russian philosopher and Putin ally Alexander Dugin, was killed 20 Aug in car bombing near Moscow. Authorities 22 Aug blamed Ukrainian special services for assassination; Ukrainian govt denied involvement. Ukrainian army continued attacks in Russian borderlands. In Belgorod region, authorities 9 Aug announced discovery of Ukrainian Lepestok mines in Shebekinsky district; ammunition depot 18 Aug caught fire near Timonoyo village, compelling authorities to evacuate civilians. Authorities 16 Aug accused Ukrainian “saboteurs” of repeatedly blowing up electricity pylons running from nuclear reactor complex in southern Kursk region. Elsewhere in Kursk, Ukrainian drones 18 Aug twice attacked Kucherov farmstead in Belov district, injuring one border guard. In Kaliningrad region, security forces 25 Aug announced they had thwarted planned terrorist attack on Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet and Khrabrovo airport, and detained Russian citizen who allegedly supports Ukrainian Azov regiment. President Putin 25 Aug signed decree expanding size of Russian army, bringing total number of servicemen up from 1.9mn to almost 2.04mn. EU foreign ministers 30 Aug agreed to suspend visa travel agreement with Russia, which gave preferential treatment to Russian visa requests. Meanwhile, State-owned gas company Gazprom 31 Aug halted gas supplies to Europe for three days, claiming Nord Stream I pipeline needed repairs.

July 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Crackdown on dissent persisted, Ukraine launched more cross-border attacks and Gazprom imposed further cuts to Europe’s gas supply. Clampdown on opposition continued throughout month. Notably, court in Moscow 8 July sentenced Councillor Alexei Gorinov to seven years in prison for spreading false information or “fakes” about Russian army; authorities 12 July arrested opposition leader Ilya Yashin for same reason and opened criminal case over Yashin's YouTube stream discussing Bucha massacre in Ukraine; 15, 25 July detained opposition politician Leonid Gozman for failing to report his Israeli citizenship; 22 July brought criminal case against Councillor Helga Pirogova for spreading “fakes”. Head of human rights group Agora 18 July said authorities have brought criminal cases against 200 people for anti-war actions since invasion of Ukraine 24 Feb (see Ukraine). Meanwhile, court in Krasnodar 15 July sentenced politician and activist Andrei Pivovarov to four years in prison for cooperating with “undesirable organisation”; authorities 27 July opened criminal case against politician Vladimir Kara-Murza for same reason; throughout month authorities added four other organisations and media outlets to list of “undesirables”. Ministry of justice 21 July filed lawsuit demanding liquidation of Soсhnut Jewish Agency, which helps Jews emigrate to Israel; Israeli delegation 27 July travelled to Moscow to resolve issue. Authorities 28 July filed lawsuit to revoke independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta’s registration. Ukrainian forces continued attacks on Russian borderlands. Notably, missiles 3 July struck Belgorod city, killing five. Governor of Belgorod region 20 July said Ukraine shelled two villages, killing one. Drone 26 July struck border checkpoint in Bryansk region, killing one. UK, Australia, Canada and Japan imposed sanctions. EU 21 July approved seventh sanctions package targeting gold and Russia’s biggest lender, SberBank. At same time, EU unfroze some assets of seven Russian banks to prevent food supply issues. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy condemned EU sanctions for not going far enough. State-owned gas company Gazprom 27 July cut Europe’s gas supply to 33mn cubic metres per day — about 20% of pipeline’s capacity; Zelenskyy accused Moscow of waging “gas war”. Meanwhile, Lithuania 22 July lifted ban on transport of sanctioned goods to and from Russia’s exclave Kaliningrad.

June 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Crackdown on dissenting voices continued, border attacks from Ukraine increased, Western states and allies introduced more sanctions. NGO OVD-Info said authorities 12 June detained at least 67 people during Russia Day celebrations, many previously seen protesting war in Ukraine (see Ukraine). Foreign ministry 28 June announced that two Swedish organisations must cease operations. State Duma next day passed bill expanding criteria for individuals and organisations who can be listed “foreign agents”. This follows European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision 14 June to condemn law on foreign agents adopted in 2012; President Putin 11 June signed law on non-execution of ECHR decisions made after 15 March. Lawmakers 30 June approved legislation allowing fast-track bans on foreign media outlets. Govt continued crackdown on opposition. Court in capital Moscow 8 June handed prison term to politician Lyubov Sobol; news surfaced 14 June that authorities had transferred imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny to Penal Colony No. 6, known for harsh conditions, in Vladimir region; court in Moscow 24, 28 June jailed politicians Mikhail Lobanov and Ilya Yashin respectively, both for 15 days. Authorities reported more attacks from Ukraine in border regions. Governor of Bryansk region 14 June said missile struck Zaimishche village in Klintsy district; governor of Kursk region 19 June reported strike in Belov district; drone 22 June struck Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery. Western states and allies continued sanctions. Notably, EU 3 June imposed sixth sanctions package; U.S. 28 June unveiled new sanctions, including ban on imports of Russian gold. Bloomberg media company 27 June reported that Russia defaulted on its foreign debt for first time since 1918. In response to sanctions, Gazprom 14 June announced it would reduce gas supplies to Europe through Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 40%. Foreign ministry during month banned hundreds of British, Australian, Canadian and U.S. citizens from entering country, including U.S. President Biden’s wife and daughter on 25 June. Lithuania 18 June banned transit of EU sanctioned goods through its territory, cutting off Russian exclave Kaliningrad; Russia warned Lithuania of tough retaliatory measures. Russian hacking group Killnet 27 June claimed responsibility for cyberattack on Lithuania’s govt agency websites.

May 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Amid ongoing crackdown on anti-war protesters, Ukrainian forces continued cross-border shelling, and West and allies imposed more sanctions. Authorities continued heavy crackdown on dissent, charging dozens of citizens for propagating “fakes” about army. Notably, court in Moscow 18 May arrested in absentia founder of Conflict Intelligence Team; Russian human rights group OVD-Info mid-month reported 15,445 people have been detained at anti-war rallies since invasion. Russian human rights group Agora late month reported that 53 criminal cases have been opened in 27 regions for spreading false information about Russian army; by 22 May Russian courts had heard 2,029 administrative cases accused of discrediting the armed forces. Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Nalvany 31 May said investigators brought new charges against him for “creating an extremist group”. Meanwhile, authorities reported continued shelling of border regions from Ukraine. Notably, governor of Kursk region 19 May said one person killed and several wounded from shelling in Tetkino village, marking second civilian death in border regions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on 24 Feb (see Ukraine). Governor of Belgorod region 27 May reported one person killed in Zhuravlevka village in third reported civilian casualty on Russian territory since invasion of Ukraine began. In indication govt may be preparing for long war in Ukraine, Russian parliament 25 May approved bill to abolish age limit for military service, greatly expanding range of potential contract servicemen eligible to fight in war. During month, nine arson attacks targeted military conscription offices in various regions, bringing total of such attacks since Feb to at least 14. Western states and their allies during month imposed various sanctions and visa restrictions on over 2,600 citizens of Russia and Belarus in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine; Russian foreign ministry 21 May published list of 963 U.S. citizens banned from entering country. Russia 24 May imposed sanctions against 154 members of UK parliament’s House of Lords.

April 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Amid ongoing heavy crackdown on dissent, authorities accused Ukraine of cross-border attacks, which injured dozens and reportedly killed one soldier. As Russia continued to attempt to control narrative over war in Ukraine (see Ukraine), authorities targeted scores of activists; NGO OVD-Info 14 April reported at least 993 administrative cases and 84 criminal cases across country on account of discrediting Russian armed forces. Notably, authorities 15 April charged head of Yabloko party’s north-western Pskov branch in Pskov city; 17 April detained Yabloko deputy in Pskov city; 22 April arrested politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, one of founders of Russian Anti-War Committee in capital Moscow; 27 April arrested journalist Maria Ponomarenko in St Petersburg city. Ministry of Justice 8 April also revoked registration of 15 international organisations, including Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Amnesty International, forcing them to close offices in Russia. Meanwhile, authorities during month reported shelling of border regions with Ukraine, which injured at least 25 people according to state media; notably, two Ukrainian helicopters 14 April allegedly conducted airstrikes on village in Bryansk region, injuring seven people. Authorities 23 April reported checkpoint in Kursk Oblast came under fire from Ukraine. Explosions 25 April broke out at oil storage facility and ostensible military facility in Bryansk region. Fires 27 April broke out at ammunition depot in Kursk region and were reported in Belgorod and Voronezh regions. Local media 28 April reported first soldier killed inside Russia in Belgorod region, reportedly due to Ukrainian shelling on 19 April. Defence ministry 20 April successfully tested Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile; President Putin said nuclear-capable projectile will make Moscow’s enemies “think twice”. Internationally, Western states and their allies imposed new sanctions. U.S. 6 April extended sanctions against banking sector and President Putin’s daughters; next day suspended normal trade relations and prohibited energy imports with Russia and Belarus. EU 8 April imposed fifth package of sanctions; notably, EU expanded embargo on all Russian coal imports, starting 10 Aug, affecting 25% of all Russian coal exports. UK, Switzerland, Montenegro, Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand also imposed sanctions during month.

March 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Authorities deepened crackdown on dissent amid widespread but largely small-scale protests against invasion of Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 Feb (see Ukraine), authorities detained at least 15,107 people at anti-war protests held in more than 150 cities nationwide, while opening 60 criminal cases. Small-scale protests took place every weekend during month: notably, authorities 6 March detained 4,640 people in 65 cities and 13 March detained 866 people in 37 cities. Govt 4 March passed laws criminalising opposition to war, for instance punishing spreading false information about Russian military with up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Govt 4 March blocked Facebook and 14 March Instagram; NGO Roskomvoboda 22 March estimated govt had blocked 769 websites and links since 24 Feb. Authorities also piled pressure on last remnants of legal opposition, including 5 March seizing office equipment of opposition party Yabloko and independent newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya. In Bashkiria region, Federal Security Service (FSB) 25 March detained communist member of regional parliament and four left-wing activists accused of plotting violent change of constitutional order. In sign of govt efforts to mobilise support for war, President Putin 16 March warned that Western countries “will try to bet on [...] national traitors” and urged “natural and necessary self-purification of society”. On anniversary of 2014 Crimea annexation, authorities 18 March organised rallies and concerts, with largest rally in capital Moscow attended by 200,000 people. Western states continued sanctions. EU 9 March extended third package of sanctions and 15 March introduced fourth package of sanctions; notably, EU imposed ban on imports of iron and steel products from Russia. U.S. 8 March announced ban on supplies of oil, gas and coal from Russia, and UK same day announced that it would abandon purchase of oil and gas from Russia until end of 2022. Separately, court 22 March sentenced opposition leader Alexey Navalny, imprisoned since Jan 2021, to nine additional years in prison and to pay fine of 1.2mn rubles; U.S. and EU same day condemned “politically motivated” ruling.

February 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Invasion of Ukraine sparked countrywide protests and opposition as Western states imposed unprecedented sanctions; authorities brought new charges against imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (see Ukraine), thousands rallied at anti-war demonstrations in 103 cities countrywide, resulting in police arresting 6,640 people; most people were detained in capital Moscow (3,126) and in Saint-Petersburg city (2,084). In notable instances of dissent, girl 24 Feb threw Molotov cocktail in direction of security forces on Pushkin Square in Moscow; man 27 Feb drove car with anti-war slogans into roadblock on Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square and then set car on fire. EU and member states, UK and U.S. late Feb imposed range of crippling and unprecedented economic sanctions, while also blocking Russian planes from accessing much of European airspace. U.S. 28 Feb approved departure of all non-emergency staff from U.S. embassy in Moscow, citing “security and safety issues” regarding war in Ukraine. Following allegations of fraud in Dec 2020 and contempt of court in May 2021, authorities 15 Feb initiated two new criminal cases against jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Pokrov penal colony in Vladimir region. Supreme Court 28 Feb upheld ban of human rights organisation Memorial under foreign agents law. In North Caucasus, Chechen officials, including Chechen Vice-PM Abuzaid Vismuradov and other high-level officials, 1 Feb threatened to kill and behead family of Abubakar Yangulbayev, former lawyer of human rights organisation Committee Against Torture, in social media video circulated by Vismuradov. European Court of Human Rights 14 Feb ordered Russia to provide information every two weeks about health of Zarema Musayeva, wife of former federal judge and mother of Yangulbayev; security services reportedly abducted Musayeva in Jan.

January 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Crackdown on opposition supporters and other forms of dissent continued across country. Govt financial agency Rosfin monitoring 14 Jan included opposition leader Alexei Navalny associates Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov on extremist and terrorist organisations list, blocking their bank accounts; Rosfin 25 Jan also listed Navalny and 11 of his associates. Interior ministry 26 Jan issued wanted notice for Oleg Navalny, younger brother of Alexei Navalny, after authorities asked court to replace Oleg Navalny’s suspended sentence with real one. One-year anniversary of Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia 17 Jan saw rallies in multiple countries including U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and France to demand his release; EU same day reiterated condemnation of “incomprehensible” prosecution, and called for release of Navalny as well as ex-chief of Navalny Support Group Lilia Chanysheva, detained last Nov. Armed men from Chechnya 20 Jan abducted Zarema Musayeva, wife of former federal judge and mother of lawyer working for human rights organisation Committee against Torture, from flat in Nizhny Novgorod city; Musayeva was told she was witness in fraud case and taken to Chechnya, where she was detained for 15 days. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov 21 Jan declared that “this family is waiting either in prison or underground”, and declared entire family “terrorist accomplices”; EU 22 Jan demanded release of Musayeva, “end to the prosecution of human rights defenders” and investigations into violations such as extrajudicial executions and torture.

December 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Repression of dissent continued, notably with dissolution of longstanding human rights group Memorial; authorities reported arresting dozens of “pro-Ukrainian neo-Nazi group” members. Supreme Court 28 Dec ordered liquidation of prominent human rights group Memorial after lawsuit filed by Prosecutor General’s Office alleged systematic violations of law on foreign agents. In joint statement, EU, U.S., Australia, Canada and UK 31 Dec deplored court decision. Police 28 Dec detained former coordinators and employees of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s local headquarters in several Russian cities. Kislovodsk City Court 15 Dec imposed between seven and a half and nine years imprisonment on leaders of organisations in North Caucasus’s Ingushetia for their role in Oct-Dec 2018 and March 2019 protests against change to administrative boundaries between Ingushetia and Chechnya; those sentenced included leaders of Ingush People Council of Teips, Ingush branch of Russian Red Cross, NGO Choice of Ingushetia, Council of Youth Organizations, association Opora Ingushetia and NGO Memorial. Nenets Autonomous Region court 19 Dec sentenced Yury Zhdanov, father of former director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, to three years suspended imprisonment; authorities accused leaders of creating extremist community and organising attacks on law enforcement. Meanwhile, Federal Security Service 13 Dec reported detention of what it described as 106 supporters of “Ukrainian neo-Nazi group M.K.U.” in 37 Russian regions, including two suspected of preparing attacks on educational institutions.

November 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Authorities continued pressure on dissenting political voices and human rights groups, while counter-terrorism operation killed two suspects in North Caucasus. Harassment of supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny persisted. Notably, on 9 Nov, police conducted house searches of several Navalny supporters including in Kemerovo and Bashkiria regions, and detained ex-chief of Navalny Support Group Lilia Chanysheva on charges of establishing an “extremist community”; international NGO Amnesty International 11 Nov dubbed arrest “arbitrary” and “beginning of a new, large-scale crackdown”. Meanwhile, also on 9 Nov, authorities interrogated former State Duma candidate Denis Shakin and searched apartment of opposition activist Fyodor Reguzov in Novokuznetsk city in south-western Siberia. As Prosecutor General’s Office notified human rights group Memorial that prosecutors had asked to liquidate it due to alleged violation of controversial foreign agents law, Memorial 11 Nov rejected any wrongdoings, said move “politically motivated”; Supreme Court 25 Nov began considering lawsuit, with new hearing planned on 14 Dec. In North Caucasus, amid longstanding dispute over border demarcation between Chechnya and Ingushetia, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov 26 Nov warned peoples of both republics against confrontation over borders between republics, citing attempts of “a bunch of provocateurs from the neighbouring republic who are trying to drive a wedge between the two brotherly nations, using the issue of borders as a tool”. Security forces 26 Nov reported killing two suspected militants during counter-terrorist operation in Karachay-Cherkessia. Southern District Military Court same day sentenced Astrakhan resident Artur Satemirov, accused of joining Islamic State and planning attack on police department in April 2020, to 13 years in strict regime colony.

October 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Authorities detained dozens of suspected Islamist militants across country, and harassment of opposition leader Sergei Navalny’s associates continued. Law enforcement agencies 4 Oct detained two leaders and six supporters of international jihadist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir in capital Moscow and wider capital region for allegedly disseminating terrorist ideology. Agencies 14 Oct detained four Central Asian nationals in Vladimir region suspected of affiliation with extremist group Katibat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Authorities 14 Oct detained 14 individuals suspected of engaging in financing activities for Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Moscow, North Caucasus and other regions. In North Caucasus republic Karachay-Cherkessia, law enforcement 19 Oct detained five individuals associated with banned At-Takfir wal-Hijra organisation. Authorities 29 Oct reported detention of members of extremist right-wing radical community in Buryatia region who were planning actions against authorities and migrants. Meanwhile, Moscow court 14 Oct sentenced head of Alliance of Doctors trade union Dr Anastasia Vasilyeva, who treated Navalny, to one-year restriction of freedom for allegedly calling for demonstrations in support of opposition leader. Forty-five countries 5 Oct also questioned Russia via Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) regarding Aug 2020 poisoning of now-imprisoned Navalny; govt 7 Oct provided response, which UK Delegation to OPCW 20 Oct argued “makes no attempt to answer the questions”. Eighteen govts, including U.S., UK, France and Germany, 28 Oct issued joint statement condemning “the Russian government’s targeting and harassment of independent journalists and media outlets”.

September 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Ruling United Russia party maintained constitutional majority in parliamentary elections. Ruling United Russia party won 324 of 450 seats in parliamentary elections held 17-19 Sept, slightly fewer seats than 2016 elections; Communist Party of Russian Federation secured second place by boosting seats from 42 to 57. Controversy surfaced after authorities 20 Sept announced results from electronic voters in capital Moscow, whose votes appeared to swing support from opposition candidates to United Russian candidates, prompting Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov same day to refuse to recognise “unacceptable” final results. Hundreds of Communist supporters 25 Sept rallied in protest of election results in central Moscow, resulting in police detaining 60 activists; smaller rallies were held in other cities. Election also prompted international criticism. EU 20 Sept claimed poll took place “in an atmosphere of intimidation of independent critics”, while EU, U.S., Turkey, UK and Georgia rejected recognition of parliamentary elections held in Crimea territory. Meanwhile, Russian Investigative Committee 28 Sept announced third criminal case against imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Navalny since Jan 2021; Navalny could face new sentence of up to ten years in prison for founding “extremist community”. Chair of Duma Commission for Investigating Foreign Interference Vasily Piskarev 19 Sept proposed to prosecutor general to label over 20 unknown foreign NGOs as undesirable on Russian territory for allegedly attempting “to influence the will of the Russian people”. Russia’s Federal Security Service 17 Sept reported detention in Moscow of two leaders and three members of terrorist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, including Russian, Kyrgyz and Tajik citizens. Authorities 22 Sept detained one Russian and four Tajik citizens allegedly preparing terrorist attacks in Yekaterinburg city, and 25 Sept detained five suspected neo-Nazis in Ufa city who were reportedly preparing attack on law enforcement officers.

August 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Ahead of Sept elections, authorities criticised regional body OSCE’s decision not to send electoral monitors, and continued to take steps restricting space for opposition. Ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 17-19 Sept, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) 4 Aug announced that it will not send election observers for first time since 1993, citing COVID-19-related restrictions on number of observers imposed by Russian authorities. FM Sergei Lavrov 9 Aug accused West of preparing group to challenge election results and using international organisations to complicate elections, while Head of Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Valery Fadayev 18 Aug accused OSCE of portraying elections as “unfair” and “illegitimate”. Ruling United Russia party 24 Aug held congress, attended by President Putin. Authorities continued to restrict space for opposition. Notably, court 3 Aug sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s associate to one-and-a-half years’ restrictive freedom for violating health regulations during unsanctioned protest in Jan; authorities 6, 16, 20 and 25 Aug indicted and sentenced six other Navalny associates on similar charges. Investigative Committee 11 Aug also brought new charges against Navalny, accusing him of founding non-profit organisation Anti-Corruption Foundation with aim of “popularising and spreading his convictions”; reports surfaced during month that police in capital Moscow visited citizens associated with his organisation. Marking one-year anniversary of Navalny’s poisoning, UK and U.S. 20 Aug announced sanctions on seven individuals “directly responsible for planning or carrying out the attack”. Human rights centre Memorial 18 Aug reported number of political prisoners had increased from 349 to 410 since early 2021. Meanwhile, security forces in Russian-annexed Crimea 18 Aug detained two leaders and three members of international jihadist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islam.

July 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Russia (Internal)

Authorities continued crackdown on independent media and opposition, and launched security operations against jihadist networks. Authorities continued to impose restrictions on independent media and NGOs operating inside country. Notably, Prosecutor General’s Office 15 July declared independent media outlet Proekt “undesirable organization”, making it first media outlet to receive status. Independent association of lawyers and journalists Team 29 18 July announced its closure, fearing criminal prosecution after authorities blocked its website; Team 29 had represented in court imprisoned oppositi