The list of power abuses in Putin’s Russia is quite long. Russian people have been systematically stripped of their basic rights, while dissenters are regularly jailed (there are currently 100 political prisoners in Russia, the highest number since Soviet times). Putin critics turn out dead, including former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya. 165 journalists have been killed in Russia over the last 17 years, many more have been assaulted or just went missing.
The Kremlin interference has ranged from waging hybrid wars all across Europe and former Soviet states; to weaponizing ‘soft power’; to hacking government infrastructures, media outlets, and even power grids. Hacking of the servers of the U.S. Democratic National Convention and consequent leaking of sensitive information cause a great stir in America, bring the Kremlin’s meddling into the spotlight. The Russian government also funds fringe parties with a goal to build what was called an Illiberal International and promote its authoritarian agenda. For instance, in 2014 France’s Front Nationale received a $9.8 million loan from a Russian bank.
Endemic corruption has penetrated almost every area of life in Russia--from politics to the justice and law-enforcement systems, from education to sports. In 2016, Transparency International ranked Russia 131st out of 176 countries in its Annual Corruption Perception Index, below Sierra Leone and Pakistan. Numerous investigations into high profile corruption cases, including last year’s Panama Papers, and Alexei Navalny reports, suggest that under Vladimir Putin’s rule Russia may have turned into a mafia state.
#ENOUGH FAKE NEWS
The Kremlin notorious propaganda machine has recently become one of the West’s gravest concerns. Generously funded by the Russian government to “tell the Kremlin’s side of the story,” it not only incorporates the RT network and Sputnik news agency, but also employs the so-called ‘army of trolls’ who frequently circulate “alternative narratives” and “fake news” on social media. The Kremlin’s disinformation campaign has been disrupting political, social, and economic processes across the world.
Vladimir Putin’s continuing support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russian intervention into Syria have exacerbated a vicious war in this country which has led to the displacement of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of casualties.
Following the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin waged a war in eastern Ukraine, providing funding, equipment, and troops to the pro-Russian rebels, at the same time denying its very presence in the region. According to the UN, the war has claimed over 9,900 lives, including all 298 on board flight MH17 which was shot down over the Donbas in 2014. The war has turned to “frozen conflict” with no clear prospect of being resolved anytime soon.