Law of the Week. Law granting immunity to former Russian presidents enters into force

Week-ending 8 January 2021

A law granting immunity to former Russian presidents came into force on 2 January 2021. From that day, for a former president to lose immunity, the State Duma would need to bring charges that individual for high treason or other serious crimes and the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court would then need to confirm these charges before the Federation Council voted on whether to withdraw immunity.


TASS, 2 January 2021: A law granting immunity to former Russian presidents comes into force on January 2. The law was approved by the Russian State Duma on December 9, by the Federation Council on December 16, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 22, 2020 and published on the same day. The law enters into force ten days after its publication. Under the document, in order to deprive an ex-president of immunity, the State Duma (lower house) would have to put forward accusations of high treason or gravely serious felonies. However, they would have to be confirmed by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Based on these accusations, the Federation Council would have to decide on revoking an ex-president’s immunity.

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The Moscow Times, 5 January 2021: In Russia’s staid parliament, the dying days of 2020 were marked by unusually frenzied lawmaking activity, most of it centering on civil rights. Over the course of a few days in late December, the State Duma passed a flurry of bills introducing sweeping new restrictions on political protests, legalizing censorship of social media and cementing broad new guidelines under which the government can designate individuals as “foreign agents.” They have already been signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. To many observers of Russia’s political scene, the new legislation — coming on the heels of the August poisoning of opposition activist Alexei Navalny — represents a pronounced hardening of Russia’s authoritarian system ahead of parliamentary elections in the fall. “The state is waging war on civil society,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow in Russian domestic politics and political institutions at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “This is the natural evolution of authoritarianism.”

Meduza, 8 January 2021: The principles of Russian politics changed beyond recognition last year. In-person voting held over multiple days (first introduced as a temporary pandemic measure) was codified and made permanent, supposedly for voters’ convenience, guaranteeing victory for the authorities’ candidates (even in regions where protest sentiment is high). The State Duma hastily adopted a series of repressive laws that complicated election monitoring, campaigning, and peaceful forms of protest. The authorities tried to remove society from political participation and distance the public from any decision-making, as the country prepares for new parliamentary elections in 2021. At first glance, these efforts have been a success, so far.

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