Russia Sets More Modest National Projects Goal for 2030; Exports of Gold Surpass Exports of Natural Gas; Ceasefire Takes Effect in Donbass

Monument of Peter the Great, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Russian government has been forced to moderate its goals for the National Projects, with Putin having signed a “July Decree”on the 21st that set 2030 as the new date to accomplish a scaled back version of the program. According to BNE Intellinews:

They outline five development goals: 1) maintaining the population, its health and wellbeing; 2) creating possibilities for self-fulfilment and development of talents; 3) comfortable and safe living environment; 4) effective labour and successful entrepreneurship; 5) digital transformation.

One of the previous goals, to make Russia one of the five largest global economies, has been removed. The new decree also omits clear targets on labour productivity but maintains the goal of halving poverty levels from the current 12.3%.

The government will now have to adjust the National Projects platform to the new decree by October 30 and come up with a consolidated 2030 economic development plan.

TASS provided more details of parts of the plan:

According to the document, life expectancy, which was 73.4 years in 2019, should reach 78 years in ten years’ time….The document also sets other important goals. These include plans to make sure that the number of workers employed in small and medium-sized businesses climbs to 25 m[illion], and that capital investment expands by at least 70% compared to 2020. Similar expectations cover non-commodity and non-energy exports, too.

The executive order signed by Putin can be viewed here.

Remember when the late John McCain said that Russia was just a gas station masquerading as a country? Some of you may also be aware that Rising! co-host Saagar Enjeti recently referred to Russia on social media as a “third-rate dying petro-state.” Which goes to show that strident anti-Russia sentiment is truly bi-partisan. According to statistics from the Russian government, Russia made more money this past spring from exporting gold than exporting natural gas. RT reported:

According to the statistics, in April and May, Russian mining companies sold 65.4 tons of gold abroad worth $3.55 billion. Russian gas exports for the same period stood at $2.4 billion. According to the CBR’s preliminary assessment, in general, for the second quarter of 2020, exports of gas brought Russia $3.5 billion in revenue – less than that from gold exports in just two months.

Last week, the Kiev government and the rebels in east Ukraine reached a ceasefire agreement that has now reportedly gone into effect. The OSCE SMM reported the following terms:

Issuance and enactment from 00:01hrs (Kyiv time) on 27 July 2020  by the leadership of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the leadership of the armed formations of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of, and compliance with, for the whole period until full comprehensive settlement of the conflict, the respective ceasefire orders containing the following ceasefire support measures:

  1. ban on offensive, reconnaissance and sabotage operations, as well as ban on operation of any types of aerial vehicles of the sides;
  2. ban on firing, including sniper fire;
  3. ban on the deployment of heavy weapons in and around settlements, primarily at civilian infrastructure, including schools, kindergartens, hospitals and public premises;
  4. the effective use of disciplinary actions for ceasefire violations and notification of them to the TCG Coordinator who shall inform all of its participants about it;
  5. creation and involvement of a coordination mechanism for responding to ceasefire violations through the facilitation of the JCCC in its current setting;
  6. retaliatory fire responding to an offensive operation* is only permissible if it occurs at the order made by the respective leadership of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the leadership of CADLR armed formations after an unsuccessful attempt to make use of the above-mentioned coordination mechanism. The TCG shall be notified of the issuance of such orders.
  7. the above-mentioned measures may not be, fully or in part, disavowed by any other orders, including secret ones.

The agreement was lauded by Europe and Pope Francis.

Another Day, Another “Russia is Up to Something Evil” Story That Soon Falls Apart

Putin contemplating his latest plot to undermine the U.S.

They seem to come in waves. Every time I think there might be a respite in the “Russia is up to something evil narrative,” here comes another story of how Putin and those dastardly Ruskies are undermining America’s peaceful paradise from the basement of the Kremlin. It seems Putin can always spare time away from overseeing his own hellhole country to obsess about how to screw with the U.S.

I’ve noted the phases in which anti-Russia propaganda has tended to skyrocket. It started to get serious after Putin’s speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. The fact that Putin called out Washington’s hypocrisy and skulduggery in world affairs really got the U.S. political class’s knickers in a knot. The following year, Hillary Clinton, during her first failed run for the presidency, said that Putin had no soul because he’d been a KGB agent. John McCain, who had a front row seat to Putin’s speech, dismissed Putin as simply a corrupt KGB autocrat during his failed 2008 presidential run. McCain also had neocon Russia-hater Robert Kagan on board as a foreign policy adviser to his campaign.

There was another upswing of anti-Russia propaganda toward the end of 2013. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that some influential and self-important people in the U.S. had decided that Putin was getting too much good PR at the time: the diplomatic success of getting Syrian president Assad to give up his chemical weapons to avert any excuse for an attack from western powers, his oped published in the New York Times which was generally well-received by readers, the upcoming Sochi Olympics, etc.

This pattern of good will on behalf of Russia and its leadership apparently needed to be brought to a screeching halt. Suddenly all of the western media in lockstep started blowing up a story about a law in Russia prohibiting “homosexual propaganda” to minors. The fact that so many of the politicians and public officials who expressed their outrage at this law had a history of not saying boo about our “ally” Saudi Arabia’s habit of publicly beheading homosexuals on a regular basis (in addition to other “crimes” that would be considered minor transgressions in the west) proved that these people didn’t care one whit about the plight of homosexuals in Russia or anywhere else, but were using this as a convenient political weapon with which to beat on Russia.

Right after the Sochi Olympics, of course, is when the crisis in Ukraine – abetted by Washington – really intensified. The narrative weaved by the US/UK media was one in which Putin was the uber-villain who just woke up one day and decided to “invade” Crimea and destabilize the country on his border. Some of these attempts by the media to “prove” that Russian military forces had invaded Ukraine were debunked within days of publication. The MSM – led by the lionized NYT – also continually repeated false accusations by the State Department and US military officials of a Russian invasion or imminent invasion.

And then there was the Russiagate shitshow that we have been subjected to since 2016.

But the mainstream corporate media and the political class it represents just cannot let go of the anti-Russia narrative, no matter how many times these stories fall apart. A couple of weeks ago, it was the assertion from unnamed sources that Russia had paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, reported on by NYT and breathlessly repeated by Washington Post and other outlets. This story, too, has been thoroughly debunked by Scott Ritter, Barbara Boland, and Gareth Porter, among others.

The Russophobes, however, are still not deterred. Now there are reports that the Russian baddies are trying to steal research on a potential Covid vaccine from western countries. This is ridiculous on its face due to the fact that Russia has now gone into human trials for their own vaccine, so there is absolutely no reason for them to steal anything from anyone.

I’m beginning to wonder if the staff at the NYT and other major outlets are having an actual contest to see who can write the most absurd stories about Russia and still be able to walk around in pubic without having a pie thrown in their face.

Russia’s Behind the Scenes Diplomacy Helped De-Escalate Tensions Between India & China; Iran & China Sign Ground-Breaking Deal

In mid-June, Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in a deadly skirmish in a disputed area along the Himalayan border between the two countries. As journalist Finian Cunningham described it:

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed earlier this week in hand-to-hand fighting with Chinese forces. It was the deadliest incident in more than half a century since the two Asian powers fought a brief war in 1962 over similar border dispute. There are dozens of casualties also reported on the Chinese side, but Beijing has not officially confirmed numbers…

….Reports say hundreds of soldiers were engaged in a pitched battle using rocks, clubs and knives after opposing units became involved in a brawl in the high-altitude Galwan Valley. Many soldiers were thrown to their deaths from treacherous slopes.

Indian and Chinese forces patrol the disputed 3,500-km Line of Actual Control between the two countries with competing territorial claims. A bilateral agreement stipulates that the rival units are unarmed in order to reduce risk of conflict.

Confrontations have increased in recent years with both sides accusing the other of encroachment. Following a border skirmish in May, Indian and Chinese army commanders negotiated a de-escalation deal earlier this month. Now both sides are accusing each other of bad faith.

Russia, which has had good relations with both countries for years now, was already scheduled to hold a summit with India and China on June 22nd. The foreign ministers of all three countries met by video conference. According to an article in the Economic Times of India, Russia “quietly” took steps to help reduce tensions between the world’s two most populous nations, facilitating the release of 10 Indian soldiers that had been taken prisoner by China:

The capture of the army men had cast a shadow on the RIC [Russia-India-China] meet, with India finding it difficult to attend the meet under those circumstances.

Moscow used its good offices in various capitals to convey a message to China to show gestures to reduce tensions, sources indicated. “All three sides had stakes in reducing tensions. Based on Russia’s relations with India and China, it tried to create a situation that does not derail the RIC meet. But the idea was not to intervene in a bilateral dispute, rather it was to use quiet diplomacy,” a source quipped.

Publicly, the Kremlin, Russian foreign minister and the Russian envoy to India gave statements after June 15, mentioning that Moscow is watching with great attention what is happening along LAC and urged for restoring predictability and stability in the region.

It may be recalled that ahead of the RIC meet on June 23, intense negotiations through diplomatic and military channels led to the release of 10 Indian soldiers.

And now for a sharp counterpoint in how not to do foreign policy. The Trump administration has managed to push Iran even deeper into China’s embrace. Apparently Trump doesn’t understand that tearing up diplomatic agreements – partly on behalf of Israel’s interests – followed by ham-fisted attempts to bully the other nation into total submission is likely to blow up in his face, Wiley Coyote style.

As analyst Tom Luongo reminds us:

Trump was warned by both Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that Iran would ‘rather eat dirt’ than submit to him on nuclear weapons, support for Hezbollah, Iraq and President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The blowback came recently in the form of a 25-year economic and security agreement that Iran signed with China. The agreement provides for China investing hundreds of billions of dollars to develop Iran’s oil and gas sector, transportation and manufacturing. Additionally, the deal allows for both Russia and China to sell upgrades to Iran’s air force and anti-air defenses. As Luongo sums it up:

The bottom line is that this deal cements the Russian/Chinese/Iranian axis as an unbreakable thing. For nearly four years Trump’s team has pushed him to try and break this alliance up, but did so with tactics which only pushed them closer together.

All stick and no carrot after decades of the same treatment while showing no capability of abiding by any deal struck was never a recipe for driving a wedge between these people.

Good job, guys!

Leader of DPR Says Donbas Residents Won’t Consider Reunification with Kiev, Russia Denies Any Plans to Allow Donbas to Become Part of Russia; What’s Behind Russia’s Citizenship Plan for Ukraine?; Kiev Government Gets Green Light from NATO to Move Anti-Tank Missiles to Front Line

Denis Pushilin, Leader of DPR

On July 3rd, Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said in a radio interview that the residents of the Donbas are not considering reunifying with Kiev-controlled Ukraine, citing the Kiev government’s inability to decisively win a military victory over the Donbas in its illegal war:

The Donbass residents are not planning to return to Kiev. The Russophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Ukraine is foreign to us, we have a different attitude towards moral standards, traditions and historical values. The future of the Donbass is linked to Russia. Today we are aiming to strengthen the integration processes with the Russian Federation, the prospects for a return to Ukraine are zero.

Ukraine is openly demonstrating that it is not going to take constructive steps towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict. This position is convenient for the Kiev authorities. By covering themselves with military actions, which, incidentally, were triggered by the Ukrainian leadership, they are hiding their political failures and concealing their own ineffectiveness,” he said.

Donbass Insider reported that the “interview follows a statement by former Verkhovna Rada deputy Yevgeny Murayev, who said that Kiev was afraid of recovering the Donbass because, according to him, the authorities would then have to pay the pensions owed to the region’s residents, as well as seek financial reserves to restore the territory.”

Three days later, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, tried to quash any notion that the DPR and the LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic) would be integrated into the Russian Federation:

“As for their practical steps towards becoming part of Russia, I know nothing about it, I don’t have any information,” Peskov said, when asked to comment on media reports on the matter.

The Kremlin spokesman pointed out that many residents of the self-proclaimed republics had obtained Russian citizenship. “The decision to provide them with Russian citizenship was made solely for humanitarian reasons, after these people had been abandoned by their own government and were put at risk of being killed,” he explained.

As others have pointed out, given the influence of the Neo-Nazi element in Ukraine, including within government circles, there would be a danger for the DPR and LPR to be reintegrated into Ukraine proper. But it is also against Russia’s interests to absorb these republics. One reason is that there would be no countervailing force within Ukraine to oppose ambitions for NATO membership.

As for the citizenship policy implemented by Russia, Igor Zevelev has written an informative and contextual analysis of it for the Kennan Institute:

In 1991, it wasn’t just the Soviet Union that collapsed, but a centuries-old Russian empire that disappeared from the political map overnight. However, that empire did not disappear from the mental maps of many people in Russia. Russians had a difficult time recognizing the newly independent neighboring states, Ukraine and Belarus in particular, as separate nations. This prompted a deep national identity crisis in 1991, and it lingers to this day. One serious consequence of this crisis is the ambiguous set of ideas about Ukraine in the Russian national discourse.

Today, Russians view Ukraine in many different ways. It is considered a neighboring independent state, an emerging European country, a culturally close Slavic country, a part of a historic Russia, a potential member of a hostile military alliance (NATO), and a state that continues to hold (illegally) certain pieces of land that belong to Russia. All of these conflicting images and visions coexist in the public and political discourses-and politicians, policymakers, and public intellectuals employ many of them simultaneously. Abstract conceptions and historic images make their way to concrete policymaking in Russia with remarkable ease.

Politics of national identity and citizenship

In most countries, politics, as well as bureaucratic politics, are essential processes that connect abstract thinking about national identity with foreign policy.[4] In Russia, there are important internal intellectual and political divisions within the elite over the essence of Russian statehood and nationhood. The multi-layered and contested political and intellectual environment explains why Moscow’s actions toward Ukraine are often inconsistent and hard to predict: the perception of Ukraine is intimately related to Russian national identity, an identity that is still being formed. Policy outcomes in Russia rarely result from open political struggle. Instead, there is a bargaining game behind closed doors among a relatively small and tight-knit group of governmental actors.

The internal bureaucratic fight over whether to grant Russian citizenship to millions of Ukrainians originated in the mid-1990s and simmered until 2017, when a gradual process of easing naturalization procedures for Ukrainians started. This process accelerated in 2020. Both the long battle and recent seminal decisions over the citizenship policy reflect the coexistence of different visions of Russia and Ukraine within the Russian elite.

Read the full article here.

Meanwhile, Washington and NATO appear to be up to their old trick of being provocative. As reported by The National Interest on July 8th:

In an interview, Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Ruslan Khomchak said that following the advice of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) advisors, Ukraine’s American-supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles would be moved up to Ukraine’s front lines in their conflict against separatists in the country’s east-though the missiles would have to be used only defensively….

…Originally designed in the late 1980s, the Javelin is a relatively light-weight and man-portable anti-tank weapon. Boasting a nearly three-mile range (almost five kilometers) the Javelin is a powerful anti-armor missile. Against armored targets like tanks or armored personnel carriers, the Javelin uses a top-attack flight profile in which the vehicle’s thinner top armor is targeted. It can also use a direct-attack flight mode for buildings, helicopters, or other unarmored targets.

Ukraine received their first tranche of Javelins in 2018. Their second tranche was infamously delayed by the Trump administration in 2019, a part of the White House’s infamous quid-pro-quo scandal.

Caitlin Johnstone: This Russia-Afghanistan Story Is Western Propaganda At Its Most Vile

By Caitlin Johnstone, Caitlinjohnstone.com, 6/28/20

All western mass media outlets are now shrieking about the story The New York Times first reported, citing zero evidence and naming zero sources, claiming intelligence says Russia paid out bounties to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan for attacking the occupying forces of the US and its allies in Afghanistan. As of this writing, and probably forevermore, there have still been zero intelligence sources named and zero evidence provided for this claim.

As we discussed yesterday, the only correct response to unsubstantiated claims by anonymous spooks in a post-Iraq invasion world is to assume that they are lying until you’ve been provided with a mountain of hard, independently verifiable evidence to the contrary. The fact that The New York Times instead chose to uncritically parrot these evidence-free claims made by operatives within intelligence agencies with a known track record of lying about exactly these things is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. The fact that western media outlets are now unanimously regurgitating these still 100 percent baseless assertions is nothing short of state propaganda.

The consensus-manufacturing, Overton window-shrinking western propaganda apparatus has been in full swing with mass media outlets claiming on literally no basis whatsoever that they have confirmed one another’s “great reporting” on this completely unsubstantiated story.

“The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have confirmed our reporting,” the NYT story’s co-author Charlie Savage tweeted hours ago.

“We have confirmed the New York Times’ scoop: A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan,” tweeted The Washington Post‘s John Hudson.

“We matched The New York Times’ great reporting on how US intel has assessed that Russians paid Taliban to target US, coalition forces in Afg which is a pretty stunning development,” tweeted Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold.

All three of these men are lying.

John Hudson’s claim that the Washington Post article he co-authored “confirmed the New York Times’ scoop” twice uses the words “if confirmed” with regard to his central claim, saying “Russian involvement in operations targeting Americans, if confirmed,” and “The attempt to stoke violence against Americans, if confirmed“. This is of course an acknowledgement that these things have not, in fact, been confirmed.

The Wall Street Journal article co-authored by Gordon Lubold cites only anonymous “people”, who we have no reason to believe are different people than NYT’s sources, repeating the same unsubstantiated assertions about an intelligence report. The article cites no evidence that Lubold’s “stunning development” actually occurred beyond “people familiar with the report said” and “a person familiar with it said“.

The fact that both Hudson and Lubold were lying about having confirmed the New York Times‘ reporting means that Savage was also lying when he said they did. When they say the report has been “confirmed”, what they really mean is that it has been agreed upon. All the three of them actually did was use their profoundly influential outlets to uncritically parrot something nameless spooks want the public to believe, which is the same as just publishing a CIA press release free of charge. It is unprincipled stenography for opaque and unaccountable intelligence agencies, and it is disgusting.

None of this should be happening. The New York Times has admitted itself that it was wrong for uncritically parroting the unsubstantiated spook claims which led to the Iraq invasion, as has The Washington Post. There is no reason to believe Taliban fighters would require any bounty to attack an illegitimate occupying force. The Russian government has denied these allegations. The Taliban has denied these allegations. The Trump administration has denied that the president or the vice president had any knowledge of the spook report in question, denouncing the central allegation that liberals who are promoting this story have been fixated on.

Yet this story is being magically transmuted into an established fact, despite its being based on literally zero factual evidence.

Outlets like CNN are running the story with the headline “Russia offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill US troops“, deceitfully presenting this as a verified fact. Such dishonest headlines are joined by UK outlets like The Guardian who informs headline-skimmers that “Russia offered bounty to kill UK soldiers“, and the Murdoch-owned Sky News which went with “Russia paid Taliban fighters to attack British troops in Afghanistan” after “confirming” the story with anonymous British spooks.

Western propagandists are turning this completely empty story into the mainstream consensus, not with facts, not with evidence, and certainly not with journalism, but with sheer brute force of narrative control. And now you’ve got Joe Biden once again attacking Trump for being insufficiently warlike, this time because “he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law”.

You’ve also got former George W Bush lackey Richard Haas promoting “a proportionate response” to these baseless allegations.

“Russia is carrying out covert wars vs US troops in Afghanistan and our democracy here at home,” Haas tweeted with a link to the New York Times story. “A proportionate response would increase the costs to Russia of its military presence in Ukraine and Syria and, using sanctions and cyber, to challenge Putin at home.”

Haas is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a wildly influential think tank with its fingers in most major US news outlets.

And indeed, the unified campaign to shove this story down people’s throats in stark defiance of everything one learns in journalism school does appear to be geared toward advancing pre-existing foreign policy agendas which have nothing to do with any concern for the safety of US troops. Analysts have pointed out that this new development arises just in time to sabotage the last of the nuclear treaties between the US and Russia, the scaling down of US military presence in Afghanistan, and, as Haas already openly admitted, any possibility of peace in Syria.

“This story is published just in time to sabotage US-Russia arms control talks,” Antiwar‘s Dave DeCamp noted on Twitter. “As the US is preparing for a new arms race — and possibly even live nuclear tests — the New York Times provides a great excuse to let the New START lapse, making the world a much more dangerous place. Russiagate has provided the cover for Trump to pull out of arms control agreements. First the INF, then the Open Skies, and now possibly the New START. Any talks or negotiations with Russia are discouraged in this atmosphere, and this Times story will make things even worse.”

“US ‘intelligence’ agencies (ie, organized crime networks run by the state) want to sabotage the (admittedly very inadequate) peace talks in Afghanistan,” tweeted journalist Ben Norton. “So they get best of both worlds: blame the Russian bogeyman, fueling the new cold war, while prolonging the military occupation. It’s not a coincidence these dubious Western intelligence agency claims about Russia came just days after a breakthrough in peace talks. Afghanistan’s geostrategic location (and trillions worth of minerals) is too important to them.”

All parties involved in spreading this malignant psyop are absolutely vile, but a special disdain should be reserved for the media class who have been entrusted by the public with the essential task of creating an informed populace and holding power to account. How much of an unprincipled whore do you have to be to call yourself a journalist and uncritically parrot the completely unsubstantiated assertions of spooks while protecting their anonymity? How much work did these empire fluffers put into killing off every last shred of their dignity? It boggles the mind.

It really is funny how the most influential news outlets in the western world will uncritically parrot whatever they’re told to say by the most powerful and depraved intelligence agencies on the planet, and then turn around and tell you without a hint of self-awareness that Russia and China are bad because they have state media.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh.

_________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics onTwitter, checking out my podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following me on Steemit, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

Russians Vote to Pass Package of Amendments to Constitution

Exit polls showed that Russians voted overwhelmingly to pass the package of amendments to the constitution on July 1st. Here is an excerpt from a report from RT‘s Bryan MacDonald:

The main takeaway from Russia’s ‘national vote’ on a series of amendments to the constitution is one a lot of people won’t want to hear: Most Russians want the country to plow its own furrow, regardless of what outsiders think.

In the end, the margin was huge. Exit polls suggested around 70 percent of voters had said ‘yes’ to 206 amendments to their constitution, with close to 30 percent rejecting the changes. Official results eventually put the ‘yes’ vote at over 77 percent.

Even liberal political organizers in Moscow conceded their own exit polls showed support in the capital for Vladimir Putin’s proposals. What’s more, those tallies revealed a majority of voters in numerous Moscow districts usually favorable to the opposition had backed the winning side.

One thing forgotten in almost all Western speculation about the process (erroneously labeled a ‘referendum’ by some US/UK pundits) was that it wasn’t strictly necessary at all. The backing Putin obtained in spring from the Duma (parliament), the Constitutional Court, and all 85 federal subjects technically sufficed. However, the president decided to stage a ‘confirmatory plebiscite’ to obtain broad public legitimacy. Thus, the vote itself was mostly about establishing whether Putin still has a popular mandate to uphold his domination of Russian politics.

Read the full article here.

Russians Vote on Amendments to the Constitution

Plenary Session of Duma, March 2020

By Natylie Baldwin, Consortium News, 6/30/20

Voting in Russia began on Friday and will conclude Wednesday on a referendum over a series of constitutional changes that would enhance the powers of the presidency, including, most controversially, allowing President Vladimir Putin to potentially remain in office for 12 more years beyond the end of his term limit in 2024.

There is more to the proposed changes, however, that bear looking at.

In mid-January, Putin announced his proposals during his annual address to the Federal Assembly. Several days later, he submitted the initial draft law to the Duma, Russia’s lower house.

The first few paragraphs reiterated some of the changes he outlined in his speech, including restrictions for individuals running for president of Russia and other major federal offices such as prime minister, cabinet members, parliamentarians, regional governors and judges.

These include candidates’ restrictions on dual citizenship and residency and, for the president, a requirement of continuous residency in Russia for at least 25 years. As others have pointed out, these rules effectively prohibit the children of the current political class from running for major office in Russia since most of them have studied and/or lived in the U.S. or Europe and have therefore had long-term residency in a foreign country.

Another amendment will require that Russia’s constitution take precedence over international law if the two are in conflict. Putin’s draft law stated:

To protect national sovereignty, it is proposed in the draft law that the decisions of interstate bodies based on the provisions of international treaties signed by the Russian Federation shall not be implemented in Russia if their interpretation contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

With respect to the expanded responsibilities of the parliament – consisting of the Federation Council (upper chamber) and the Duma (lower chamber) – the draft law summary states:

To make interaction between the representative and executive branches of power more effective, to strengthen the role of the State Duma and parliamentary parties, as well as to enhance the responsibility of members of the Government, it has been proposed that the Constitutional provisions on the procedure for appointing the Prime Minister and deputy prime ministers of Russia be amended to stipulate that candidates for these posts are appointed by the President following their approval by the State Duma.

Interestingly, there is some debate on what kind of qualitative change this represents. Professor Paul Robinson has looked at the full Russian draft submissions and made some comparisons between what the current constitutional language is and what it will be changed to. It appears to amount to a distinction without a difference:

“The words that I have emphasized in the quotation … clarify the situation: ‘the name of the candidate for prime minister will be submitted ‘to the State Duma by the President of the Russian Federation.’ In other words, everything will remain as it was, only now the Duma ‘confirms’ the candidate rather than gives its ‘consent’.”

A Presidential Republic

Putin emphasized in his January address, and reiterated in subsequent remarks, that though there may be room to expand some of the parliament’s authority, it is appropriate for Russia to remain a presidential republic and not a parliamentary republic:

“I think that Russia, with its vast territory, with many faiths, with a large number of nations, peoples, nationalities living in the country – you can’t even count, someone says 160, someone 190, you know, needs strong presidential power.”

The draft law also gives the Federation Council authority to investigate and remove judges for incompetence or corruption if the president recommends it:

“In addition, the Federation Council is to have the power to terminate the powers of judges of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Russia, the judges of the courts of cassation and appeal upon the recommendation of the President of Russia, if they are found guilty of acts that defame the honour and dignity of judges, as well as in other cases described in the federal legislation according to which the said persons can no longer perform their duties.”

Furthermore, the draft law allows the Constitutional Court to review proposed legislation for constitutionality prior to passage into law:

“The role of the Constitutional Court is to be strengthened by giving it the power to analyse, at the request of the President of Russia, compliance with the Constitution of laws adopted by the two houses of the Federal Assembly before they are signed by the President.”

As promised the draft law codifies that the state is responsible for providing basic social justice measures:

“To protect the social rights of citizens and ensure equal opportunities for them throughout the country, Article 75 of the Constitution is to be complemented with provisions setting forth the minimum wage in the amount not lower than the subsistence minimum of the economically active population throughout the country, guaranteeing the indexation of pensions, social benefits and other social payments, and setting out the basic principles of nationwide retirement benefits.”

Russia currently has a minimum wage but this will codify into the constitution that the minimum wage must be indexed to reflect the current minimum cost of living; in other words, it cannot be below the recognized poverty line. 

Continue reading here.

Video Series: Putin Answers Questions on 20 Topics for 20th Anniversary of His Governance of Russia Now Available on YouTube with English Subtitles

The complete interview of Putin by TASS News Agency is now available on YouTube, broken own into clips by topic, with English subtitles. The playlist is available here:

This is the first clip on the list and each subsequent clip should automatically play after the other.

Analysis & Book Reviews on U.S. Foreign Policy and Russia

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