Widespread demonstrations. On January 23rd there were demonstrations across Russia in support of Alexey Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner. Navalny called for these after publishing a video alleging corruption by the President and his associates.
EU goes by the book. The list of individuals sanctioned by the EU appears as highly formalistic and based on a textbook understanding, or misunderstanding, of Russian politics. With the possible exception of FSB Director Bortnikov, it is hard to rationalize why any of those sanctioned would actually have been involved.
United Russia governor candidates do well. The candidates for governor positions who had been publicly blessed by President Putin all won in the Russian regional elections. The only non-United Russia governor who won is Alexei Ostrovsky, the LDPR governor in Smolensk, but he was also officially “blessed”. Both turnouts and majorities were healthy.
Constitutional changes pass. The popular vote on the changes to the Constitution – not a referendum or a Constitutional vote – passed, with turnout of 68%. The yes vote was 78%, the no vote was 21%.
Major Constitutional change. The Duma on March 10th voted through the “Tereshkova amendment” to the Constitution which will allow President Putin to serve another two terms in office after the amendments to the Russian Constitution are passed. Voting on the changes to the Constitution is scheduled for April 22nd.
Government buys Sberbank stake. The Ministry of Finance has announced that the National Wealth Fund (NWF) will buy the Central Bank of Russia’s (CBR) controlling stake in Sberbank. The action will release funds from the NWF to finance spending promises.
Same policies, new executives. The new Russian government consists of about half of the previous team. Its average age has fallen from 55 to 45. The changes have been made to better execute the National Projects than its predecessor as well as to deliver President Putin’s promise of higher social spending. The trend is to appoint technocrats who can efficiently execute existing policy.
Case ready to go to trial. The Investigative Committee has concluded its investigation of fraud accusations against the management of Baring Vostok Capital Partners (BVCP) and delivered the materials to the defendants. The allegation has been downgraded from fraud to embezzlement, but the defendants insist they are innocent of both charges.
Yandex announces creation of public board. The Russian internet giant Yandex announced governance changes on November 18th that would transfer certain decisions to a Public Interest Board (PIB), made up of management and representatives of various universities. This seems to bring to a close the dispute over control of Yandex that started when a group of Duma deputies introduced a bill in July that would restrict the activities of internet companies with more than 20% foreign ownership.
Annual Election Day. On September 8th, Russia held its annual single day of voting across the country. The pre-election demonstrations in Moscow were widely reported internationally as are the ongoing court proceedings involving many of those arrested. A widely held view is that the elections either signal a major shift in public support for the President and his government or even the start of a new more serious movement for political change. In reality, excepting the mixed picture from Moscow, in the country as a whole the elections turned out relatively well for the regime.