Head of state: Dmitry Medvedev
Head of government: Vladimir Putin
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 140.4 million
Life expectancy: 67.2 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 18/14 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 99.5 per cent
Human rights defenders and independent journalists continued to face threats, harassment and attacks, and investigations yielded few concrete results. Freedom of assembly and expression continued to come under attack, including through the banning of demonstrations, their violent dispersal and the prosecution of individuals under anti-extremism legislation. The security situation in the North Caucasus remained volatile. Attacks by armed groups and persistent human rights violations, including killings, enforced disappearances and torture, continued to affect the region. Across Russia, there were frequent reports of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.
At the end of the year, Russia seemed to have weathered the economic crisis without major social, economic or political upheaval. There was some improvement in relations with a number of neighbouring and western countries.
The leadership continued to stress its commitment to modernization, including by strengthening the rule of law and reforming the justice system. However, pervasive corruption and the ineffective separation of powers were widely perceived as obstructing this agenda.
The year was marked by the activities of various social movements across the country, often at a very local level, on a range of issues including violations of civil and political rights, environmental concerns and pressing social needs. Protests in Moscow, St Petersburg and elsewhere were mostly peaceful, though several unauthorized actions were dispersed by law enforcement officials using excessive force.
There were concerns about the strong political bias in the broadcast and printed media, but electronic media displayed more pluralism. Digital video and online social networks were used creatively to mobilize social activism and expose human rights violations. State media, in particular television, was frequently employed as a vehicle for discrediting opposition politicians, neighbouring leaders and civil society activists.
The Russian authorities failed to further investigate human rights violations carried out by armed forces in the August 2008 conflict with Georgia. Russia and the de facto authorities in South Ossetia failed to co-operate with investigations by the Council of Europe into the fate of missing people, or to provide access for the EU Monitoring Mission to the conflict-affected areas in South Ossetia.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Reports of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, often allegedly with the purpose of extracting confessions or money, remained widespread. Corruption and collusion between the police, investigators and prosecutors were widely perceived as undermining the effectiveness of investigations and obstructing prosecutions. Detainees frequently reported unlawful disciplinary punishments and the denial of necessary medical care.
- On the night of 31 August, 17-year-old Nikita Kaftasyev and a friend were stopped by the police in Kstovo in the Nizhnii Novgorod region. Nikita Kaftasyev alleged that he and his friend were beaten by the police. They were held overnight at the police station, where the beatings continued. Nikita Kaftasyev suffered serious injuries to his genitals. The next morning he reported that the police took him home, and then tried to make his mother sign a statement that she had no claims against the police.
Judicial reform continued to be presented as a government priority. However, reforms remained piecemeal and had only a limited impact on the underlying structural deficiencies. Major causes of these were the widespread corruption within, and political influence on, the justice system.