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Russia Country Report

Country Risk Level

Medium

Overview

Executive Summary

A government reshuffle in January 2020 and constitutional amendments indicate transitional arrangements to extend President Vladimir Putin's rule beyond 2024, when his current term expires. Perceived security considerations of the ruling elites are likely to be prioritised in key policy decisions over economic growth, even if this means significant economic sacrifices for the general public. Russia will aim to project its power – militarily, politically, culturally, and economically – outside its borders, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East.Existing Western sanctions – likely to become increasingly permanent – combined with the threat of new restrictions, especially by the US, and retaliatory domestic regulatory restrictions, will continue to damage the operational environment for doing business in Russia across multiple sectors into 2021, with firms linked to the Kremlin the most likely targets for potential new sanctions. Tax and regulatory inconsistency is likely to increase further in 2020–21 because of the government's anti-crisis programme in response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.Despite the renewed economic contraction and significant spending cuts in certain areas, protests are likely to be relatively small, insignificant, and geographically isolated. Terrorism, mostly manifested via small-scale attacks by individual Jihadists or by small cells, is likely to remain geographically localised in the Muslim-majority republics of the North Caucasus, targeting mostly government assets such as police stations or military bases.The triple shock from collapsed crude oil demand, a 23% oil production reduction under the OPEC+ deal, and deep declines in private consumption and fixed investment due to lockdowns will lead to an 5.9% contraction of Russia’s real GDP in 2020, followed by a modest 2.4% rebound in 2021. Annual inflation will decelerate owing to weak consumer spending due to contracting real income and high unemployment. Some inflationary risks will build up from supply-side delays and increased costs for retailers linked to the anti-pandemic measures.

Operational Outlook

Corruption, in the form of bribe extortion, remains a major problem across all levels, but is especially pronounced in energy, construction, defence sectors, and judiciary. The government has launched high-profile anti-graft campaigns, but these remain highly selective in their implementation, and mostly serve political purposes. The hostile relations between Russia and the West often lead to regulatory demands, fines, and inspections of international firms operating in Russia. Labour activism among the Russian workforce is likely to increase in 2020-21 due to growing unemployment, and geographically localised labour strikes will be likely across multiple sectors.

Terrorism

The risk of IED, small-arms, stabbing, or vehicle-impact terrorist attacks against soft targets in Moscow, St Petersburg, and other large cities is elevated, owing to Russian military involvement in Syria since September 2015. However, most attempted attacks are likely to be concentrated in the Muslim-majority republics of North Caucasus, especially Dagestan, and target mostly state security forces and associated assets. Jihadist groups' substantially reduced capabilities and problematic recruitment and the counter-terrorism effort by the security services are likely to reduce terrorism risks further in 2020-21, with most attempted assaults being low-capability attacks, mostly focusing on government assets such as police stations and military bases.

Crime

The domestic organised crime situation in Russia has improved slightly in recent years, especially around the FIFA World Cup in 2018. Although the law enforcement agencies are undergoing an overdue reform process, they are still relatively inefficient, underfunded, and often corrupt. Traditional organised crime groups in Russia (the 'Russian mafias') still remain strong; although they are less prone to the overt gangsterism, they still regularly use targeted murders of rivals, business people, and officials. However, the ongoing economic weaknesses forced some gangs back into street crime since 2014 as their business activities become less profitable. Additionally, Russia has become a hub for transnational crime, in particular the trafficking of illicit drugs (especially from Central and South Asia), weapons, and people, raising additional security concerns.

War Risks

Although the risk of an actual foreign military attack against Russia remains exceedingly low due to Russia’s nuclear arsenal, its military spending has risen in recent years to match the Kremlin's increasingly assertive foreign policy. For 2020, Russia allocated USD45.5 billion or 2.64% of GDP to defence – figures similar to those of India. Russian military involvement in Ukraine since 2014 elevated the risks of the Donbass conflict unintentionally spilling into the Rostov region of Russia. Russian military assertiveness in the Baltic and Black Sea areas elevates the risk of unintended marine or aviation incidents, including with NATO vessels or aircraft, especially during military exercises.

Social Stability

The frequency and size of protests in Russia are likely to decrease in 2020 owing to continued opposition disunity and the government's increasingly repressive response. However, largely non-violent occasional anti-government protests with turnout in the tens of thousands are still likely in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as smaller rallies in other large cities. Their disruptive potential is likely to be mitigated by a heavy police presence and a clampdown on unsanctioned protests, including by detentions and issuing large punitive fines. Outside these cities, isolated, smaller peaceful protests against local, mostly economic and environmental, grievances, like those seen recently in the Moscow and Arkhangelsk regions, are still likely in 2020.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Tick-Borne Encephalitis: For stays in rural zones and for hiking enthusiasts (for children over the age of one).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

Finally, this vast country is also vulnerable to natural disasters. The Kuril Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula experience significant seismic and volcanic activity. Siberia, as well as a variety of western regions, also experience occasional flooding (mainly in spring). Large-scale forest fires are known to occur in summer months, such as the 2010 Moscow region fires, fueled by temperatures in excess of 35°C [95°F]), and dangerously high levels of pollution. Air quality near affected areas may deteriorate due to heavy smoke. In case of forest fires, follow instructions issued by local authorities and monitor local media for up-to-date information. Moscow and central Russia are also known to experience violent thunderstorms in summer months. In May 2017, thunderstorms killed at least seven people and injured 69 others in Moscow.

Winters in most of Russia can be particularly harsh. In blizzard conditions, temperatures in Moscow can drop to as low as -31˚C (-24˚F). Power outages and transportation disruptions should be expected in snowy conditions.

Transportation

Road Safety

Road safety standards in Russia are often below the level of other European countries. Unlicensed taxis should be avoided. The death rate on roads in Russia is significantly higher than in other European countries: around ten times higher than that in Poland and 60 times higher than that of Great Britain.

Driving outside of main cities can be difficult due to poorly maintained roads. Conditions during the winter are significantly worse due to ice and snow. Furthermore, travelers driving during winter should ensure that vehicles are in optimum condition before departing and travel with basic spare parts.

Police road checks occur frequently, even in the absence of a suspected offense. Some criminals set up fake checkpoints to rob drivers. An official traffic inspector can be identified by their black uniforms, and silver-red badges, with clearly-displayed name and badge number. Furthermore, they should always provide their name and rank. In event of a road check, individuals should be prepared to provide proper identification, answer basic questions about their travel, and follow any instructions issued by local authorities.

Rail Network

The Russian rail network is relatively well developed. Trains generally arrive on time but are often slow. Theft on trains, especially overnight trains, is frequent.

Taxis

Individuals are advised against using unmarked, unlicensed taxis. Passengers in unregulated vehicles have been victims of robberies, kidnappings, and extortion. When possible, ask your hotel to call a taxi for you. Many major cities also provide a regulated service through the Yandex Taxi smart phone application.

Practical Information

Climate

Russia has a continental climate. In the west of the country, winters are long and very cold while summers are mild (17°C), stormy, and short (June to August). In the Moscow region, temperatures can fluctuate considerably from one day to another or even within a single day. In the east, the winter lasts from October until May and summers are short and often cool. In April, the country is often muddy due to melting snows.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +7
Police: 02
Fire Dept.: 01
Ambulance: 03

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal