The Russian Federation has a highly centralized, authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin. The bicameral Federal Assembly consists of a directly elected lower house (State Duma) and an appointed upper house (Federation Council), both of which lacked independence from the executive. State Duma elections in September 2016 and the presidential election in 2012 were marked by accusations of government interference and manipulation of the electoral process.
Security forces generally reported to civilian authorities, except in some areas of the North Caucasus.
The occupation and purported “annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula continued to affect the human rights situation significantly and negatively. The government continued to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside, forces in eastern Ukraine. Credible observers attributed thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, as well as widespread abuses, to Russian-led forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region and to Russian occupation authorities in Crimea. Authorities also conducted politically motivated arrests, detentions, and trials of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, many of whom claimed to have been tortured. Human rights groups asserted that numerous Ukrainian citizens remained in Russia as political prisoners.
The most significant human rights issues in Russia included extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; torture that was systematic and sometimes resulted in death and sometimes included punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; political prisoners; severe interference with privacy; severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media; severe restrictions on the rights of peaceful assembly; increasingly severe restriction on freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement of those charged with political offenses; refoulement; severe restriction on the right to participate in the political process, including restrictions on opposition candidates’ ability to seek public office and conduct political campaigns, and on the ability of civil society to monitor election processes; and widespread corruption at all levels and in all branches of government.
Significant human rights issues in Crimea included disappearances; torture, including punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh prison conditions, including removing prisoners to Russia; arbitrary arrest and detention; a complete lack of judicial independence; political prisoners; interference with privacy; severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including closing outlets and violence against journalists; restrictions on the internet including blocking websites; gross and widespread suppression of freedom of assembly; severe restriction of freedom of association, including barring the Crimean Tatar Mejlis; onerous restrictions on freedom of movement; restrictions on participation in the political process; systemic rampant corruption; and violence against ethnic Ukranians and Crimean Tatars.
The government failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity.