Russian Federation


Russian Federation Human Rights

General Overview

The Russian Federation has more territory than any other country in the world, spanning two continents and northern Eurasia. It has a population of 142 million people, 80% of whom are ethnic Russians. Russia remains a diverse country, however, with populations of over 150 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples living within its boundaries. Its political structures are governed by the constitution adopted in 1993 under Boris Yeltsin. Though nominally a democracy with periodic elections, this constitution granted to the Presidency extensive power over both the legislative process and the state's executive functions. In the 2000s, President Vladimir Putin exploited these institutional levers to gain the kind of authority usually associated with authoritarianism.

To understand many Russians' enthusiasm for Putin's heavy-handed rule, one must understand that most Russians experienced the collapse of Soviet power as a time of political chaos and economic hardship. Under Yeltsin's rule, Russian political institutions became quite weak, undermined by a lack of resources, widespread corruption and competing jurisdictions between governments at the central, regional and local levels. Fortunately, the figurative "war of sovereignties" escalated to genuine armed conflict only in Chechnya, but in the ensuing years the conflict has expanded increasingly into the North Caucasus and provoked terrorist actions within Moscow's city limits. Meanwhile, the Russian economy suffered a systemic collapse. Despite substantial immigration from former Soviet republics, Russia's population has declined by about six million since 1991. The life expectancy fell to about 63 years for a Russian man, and 74 years for a Russian women, and the birth rate declined to record lows for peacetime.

In this context, Putin's promise in 2000 to restore economic and political order was hugely popular. By the time he stepped down in 2008, the Putin administration had established control over most of the mass media, the regional leadership, the political parties and even civil society. His economic success, however, could be attributed in large part to the high price of oil. The economic crisis of 2008 hit Russia hard, and one is beginning to see some dissatisfaction among the Russian populatioin. Earlier in 2008, Putin stepped down from the Presidency in favor of his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, and accepted the position of Prime Minister instead. Since then, official rhetoric between the government and human rights workers and other activists has softened somewhat, but the general lines of policy remain the same. Meanwhile, it remains unclear precisely how power is shared in the "tandemocracy" of Putin and Medvedev, and whether or not the current relations between the two will remain as they are.


2008 Russia – Georgia Conflict

During the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008, Amnesty International USA acquired satellite imagery to analyze and document the destruction to Tskhinvali and 24 of its surrounding villages. Much of the observed damage occurred after the major hostilities of the first two days of the conflict.

Read More


Human Rights Issues

The greatest concerns for human rights in the Russian Federation concern the ongoing conflicts in the North Caucasus, where reports of enforced disappearances, the killings of civilians and torture remain commonplace. Related to this violence have been ongoing efforts to silence voices of dissent. Most famously, the outspoken advocate of human rights in Chechnya, Anna Politikovskaya, was murdered in her Moscow apartment building in 2006. But in 2009 alone, under President Medvedev, four other prominent human rights activists were assassinated, including Natalia Estemirova, Stanislav Markelov Marksharip Aushev and Ivan Khutorskii. It remains unclear who ordered these murders and for what reasons, as none of the perpetrators in these four cases have been brought to justice. Less dramatically, the regime has continued its harass oppositional leaders, human rights activists, and environmental activists, among others, under the guise of the struggle against extremism. Meanwhile, the exercise of justince continues to be selective and even arbitrary in many cases.

In addition to these concerns, other human rights issues in Russia include the treatment of prisoners in the Russian criminal justice system, incidents of racial violence against ethnic minorities and other foreigners living in Russia, the treatment of migrant workers, and domestic violence.

Russian Federation Newsroom

July 6, 2017 • Press Release

G20 summit: Trump-Putin meeting, a matter of life and death for the people of Syria

The lives of millions of Syrian civilians hang in the balance as the presidents of Russia and the U.S. prepare to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany on July 7, to discuss counter-terrorism initiatives and a political resolution to Syria’s war, said Amnesty International.

June 12, 2017 • Press Release

Russia: Mass arrests tighten authorities’ stranglehold on freedom of expression

A crackdown on peaceful protests across Russia in which hundreds of people were arrested and numerous others beaten by police demonstrates the authorities’ utter contempt for fundamental human rights, Amnesty International said today.

May 11, 2017 • Press Release

Knee-jerk repression as LGBTI activists arrested over Chechnya petition

Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, responds to today’s detention of five LGBTI activists as they were trying to deliver a petition to the Office of Russia's Prosecutor General on Chechnya.

March 27, 2017 • Press Release

Russia: Navalny jailed and hundreds arrested in violent clampdown

Russian opposition leader, Aleksei Navalny, and all the peaceful protesters detained after the mass demonstrations across Russia on Sunday, must be immediately released, said Amnesty International, after he was today sentenced to 15 days in jail.

January 19, 2017 • Press Release

Russia: Lawmakers must halt alarming plans to decriminalize domestic violence

Ahead of the second reading of a bill to decriminalize some forms of domestic violence in the Russian State Duma, Anna Kirey, Deputy Director for Campaigns for Russia and Eurasia at Amnesty International, said: “This bill is a sickening attempt to trivialize domestic violence, which has long been viewed as a non-issue by the Russian …

November 17, 2016 • Report

Agents of the people: Four years of foreign agents law in Russia

More than a hundred organizations have seen their funding shrink, their reputations tarnished, and their staff intimidated under Russia’s draconian “foreign agents” law, said Amnesty International ahead of the fourth anniversary of its coming into force on November 21, 2012.

November 3, 2016 • Press Release

Russia: Moscow authorities stonewall Amnesty International’s attempts to resolve office closure

While yesterday’s surprise sealing of Amnesty International’s long-term office by Moscow city authorities will hamper day-to-day work, its staff will continue to stand up against human rights violations and abuses committed in Russia and abroad, the organization said.    Attempts to resolve the issue have so far been stonewalled by municipal authorities, who falsely claimed …

November 2, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International Moscow office sealed

Staff at Amnesty International’s Moscow office arrived at work this morning to find their office unexpectedly sealed with a notice from municipal authorities warning people not to enter.

October 26, 2016 • Press Release

Russia: Ukrainians tortured to confess to Chechnya killings lose appeal against ‘grossly unfair’ jail sentence

Two Ukrainian men jailed in Russia after being tortured into confessing to a series of murders are the victims of a travesty of justice, Amnesty International said after they lost their appeals against lengthy prison sentences today. Stanislaw Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk were convicted of killing Russian soldiers in Chechnya in the 1990s, despite both …

September 6, 2016 • Press Release

Russia: Blogger jailed for playing Pokémon Go in a cathedral must be immediately released

The detention of Ruslan Sokolovsky, a Russian blogger from Yekaterinburg (Urals region) who was sentenced to administrative arrest for two months after posting a video of himself   playing Pokémon Go in a church is a farcical attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.   “The absurdity of the case of the Russian blogger …