20 years under Putin: a timeline

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1. Public Opinion Polls

“Attitudes and Beliefs in Russian-supported ’de Facto’ States and Eastern Ukraine in the Wake of the Crimean Annexation” (Professor John O’Loughlin and Professor Gerard Toal, February 2015)

  • The survey was conducted in December 2014 at the request of John O’Loughlin, professor of geography at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Gerard Toal, professor of government and international affairs at Virginia Tech.
  • O’Loughlin and Toal argue that Crimea joining Russia was an “illegal act under international law.” At the same time, the vast majority of Crimea’s population supported the move.
  • Eighty-five percent of respondents said Crimea was “moving in the right direction” (a similar survey conducted by the International Republican Institute in May 2013 showed that 22 percent of Crimeans believed the region was moving in the right direction).
  • Asked whether the decision to join Russia was correct, 84 percent of respondents said it was “absolutely right.”
  • Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed said they consider Crimea part of the Russian world. The vast majority of Crimeans do not perceive themselves as European.
  • The only exception to this overall pattern was the Crimean Tatar population—only 28 percent said they believed Crimea was moving in the right direction.

“Social and Political Attitudes of Crimea Residents” (Free Crimea project/GfK Ukraine, February 2015)

  • This survey consisting of 800 interviews with Crimea residents was conducted by German market research institute GfK for the Free Crimea project.
  • Eighty-two percent of Crimeans said they fully supported Crimea joining Russia, 11 percent said they mostly supported it, and 4 percent of respondents did not approve of the decision. Older residents expressed the highest level of support (56 and older — 90%; 36-55 years old — 81%; 18-35 years old — 74%).
  • The majority of respondents said they believed large-scale military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia was unlikely.
  • Forty-two percent of respondents said they considered military conflict in eastern Ukraine their main issue of concern.
  • The majority of respondents said they watch Russian TV channels. However, only 10 percent said they trust the information.
  • Young and middle-aged people said they trust social media most of all, while older people said they trust Crimean radio, newspapers, and TV channels.


2. Reports

“Human Rights Abuses in Russian-Occupied Crimea” (Freedom House and Atlantic Council, March 2015)

  • The report says the number of human rights violations on the peninsula has increased dramatically since Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
  • The report describes cases of discrimination against representatives of certain ethnic, religious, and national groups, including Crimean Tatars, who largely opposed the annexation. The broader public is not aware of many of these violations, the report says, because of increased state control over the media.
  • Report author Andrei Klymenko argues that until recently, the human rights situation in Crimea “differed little from that in the rest of Ukraine.” Everything changed, however; with the “Russian invasion [that] introduced extensive repression on the peninsula.”
  • The report suggests that “for the most part, residents of the peninsula enjoyed freedom of speech and assembly” before the annexation, and NGOs freely organized protests and rallies against various actions by the government.
  • The report cites a survey conducted by the Razumkov Center, an independent policy institute in Kiev, which says that in 2011, a majority of Crimeans (71.3%) considered Ukraine to be their homeland (66.8% of ethnic Russians said they considered Ukraine their homeland).

“Russia — Country of Concern” (U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, March 2015)

  • The report, part of a study titled “Human Rights and Democracy Report 2014,” is based on findings of international human rights organizations that emphasize the deterioration of human rights in Russia.
  • According to the report, problems with the rule of law in Russia are cause for particular concern. In particular, the report cites the cases of Alexei and Oleg Navalny, Yevgeny Vitishko, Nadezhda Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov, and Eston Kohver.
  • As the economy has worsened and the Ukrainian crisis has grown more acute, state control over opposition activities has increased.
  • In Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, Russia fell from 127th to 136th out of 175 countries surveyed.
  • The report predicts that the human rights situation in Russia will continue to deteriorate in 2015.

“The Russian Economy: Will Russia Ever Catch Up?” (European Parliamentary Research Service, March 2015)

  • Russia is one of the world’s most resource-rich countries. According to the report, the total value of the country’s natural resources is estimated at $75.7 trillion.
  • Natural resources are the foundation of Russia’s economy. However, the country has developed an “unhealthy dependency” on these resources.
  • Despite calls by Russia’s leaders to diversify and modernize the economy, serious economic reforms have not been undertaken, primarily because “the continued flow of gas and oil money has removed the incentive” for reform.
  • The Soviet Union was among the world’s leaders in scientific achievement at various points in time, a fact that reflected the country’s high level of investment in the field. For example, in 1990, expenditures on research and development amounted to around 5% of GDP. Now, Russia’s R&D spending is estimated at 1.12% of GDP.
  • Over the past 25 years, Russia has undergone significant economic changes, but economic growth has been limited due to structural issues.
  • The report supports the thesis of former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar of a “stable 50-year time lag between Russia and Western Europe.” It is very likely that the development gap will continue in the foreseeable future.
  • The report concludes that “higher oil prices and the easing of economic sanctions could help Russia recover from its current difficulties.” However, structural problems will slow down modernization.

“Russia Economic Report: The Dawn of a New Economic Era?” (The World Bank, April 2015)

  • World Bank analysts project that the Russian economy will contract by 3.8 percent in 2015 and see a much more modest decline of 0.3 percent in 2016.
  • Investment is projected to contract as well. According to the report, weak investment demand resulting from deep structural problems in the Russian economy was an important cause of Russian growth slowing in 2014, and this was compounded by geopolitical uncertainties and economic sanctions.
  • Michal Rutkowski, world bank country director for Russia, said: “As lessons from international experience demonstrate, economic sanctions could well alter the structure of the Russian economy and the ways in which Russia integrates with the rest of the world. And going forward, risks arising from a lower oil price and continued economic sanctions environment will need to be managed.”
  • In the medium term, the investment deficit will be the main risk to economic growth in Russia.
  • Previous achievements in reducing poverty in Russia are currently under threat. In 2001-2010, the poverty rate decreased from 40 percent to about 10 percent. In 2015-2016, poverty is projected to increase to 14.2 percent.