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Russia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the constitution prohibits such practices, numerous credible reports indicated law enforcement officers engaged in torture, abuse, and violence to coerce confessions from suspects, and authorities only occasionally held officials accountable for such actions.

There were reports of deaths because of torture (see section 1.a., above).

Physical abuse of suspects by police officers was reportedly systemic and usually occurred within the first few days of arrest in pretrial detention facilities.  Reports from human rights groups and former police officers indicated that police most often used electric shocks, suffocation, and stretching or applying pressure to joints and ligaments because those methods were considered less likely to leave visible marks.  The problem was especially acute in the North Caucasus.  According to the Civic Assistance Committee, prisoners in the North Caucasus complained of mistreatment, unreasonable punishment, religious and ethnic harassment, and inadequate provision of medical care.

There were reports that police beat or otherwise abused persons, in some cases resulting in their death.  Police used excessive force and harsh tactics to encircle and detain protesters during countrywide protests in late January and early February calling for the release of Aleksey Navalny, who was detained on January 17 upon his return to Russia and sentenced to prison on February 2 (see section 1.d.).  On April 26, the online news outlet Meduza published an article detailing multiple instances of excessive use of force and harsh treatment against detainees held in custody during the April 21 protests in St. Petersburg.  In one example, police detained a protester for filming the arrests and shocked him with a taser on the way to the police van, “triggering symptoms of cardiac arrythmia,” according to Meduza.

There were reports that law enforcement officers used torture, including sleep deprivation, as a form of punishment against detained opposition and human rights activists, journalists, and critics of government policies.  For example, on March 31, Navalny initiated a hunger strike to protest authorities’ failure to provide him a requested medical examination and treatment for pain and loss of mobility in his legs after he was transferred on March 15 to the Penal Colony No. 2 (IK-2) in the Vladimir region (see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest and Detention).  Prison authorities also subjected Navalny for months to hourly wake-ups through the night by prison authorities on the pretense that he was a “flight risk.”  Navalny likened this treatment to torture through sleep deprivation.  On April 23, he ended his hunger strike after being permitted access to outside medical care.  On June 28, a Moscow district court rejected Navalny’s request to be removed from the “prone to escape” list.  Navalny continued to be treated as a flight risk until October 11, when he was instead designated an extremist and a terrorist.

Several activists affiliated with Navalny and his political activities or the Anticorruption Foundation also reported being tortured or abused by security officials while in their custody.  Alena Kitayeva, a volunteer for Navalny associate Lyubov Sobol, who was issued a 12-day administrative arrest in February, accused police officers of torture after they placed a bag over her head and threatened her with a stun gun if she did not provide them her cell phone password.

In several cities police reportedly subjected members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious group banned without basis under antiextremism laws, to physical abuse and torture during and following their arrest.  For example, on October 4, during coordinated home raids by Interior Ministry and National Guard forces targeting members of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Irkutsk, four members of the group alleged that they were severely beaten, one of whom additionally alleged he was tortured.  One member, Anatoliy Razdabarov, was allegedly kicked in the head and kidneys and threatened with rape, while his wife Greta was dragged by her hair before being beaten.  Nikolay Merinov was hit in the face with a blunt object, breaking one of his teeth and knocking him unconscious.  When he regained consciousness, an officer was sitting on him and beating him.  Merinov’s wife Liliya reported she was also dragged by her hair and physically assaulted.

There were reports of the FSB using torture against young “anarchists and antifascist activists” who were allegedly involved in several “terrorism” and “extremism” cases.

In the North Caucasus region, there were widespread reports that security forces abused and tortured both alleged militants and civilians in detention facilities.  For example, on October 24, newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on the case of Salman Mukayev, a Chechen man who was detained and allegedly tortured in 2020 because security forces, based on a text message, believed him to be gay.  The officers reportedly suffocated Mukayev with a bag, kicked him, subjected him to electric shocks for hours and attempted to co-opt him to identify members of the LGBTQI+ community in Chechnya.  After his release, Mukayev fled Russia.

There were reports of authorities detaining defendants for psychiatric evaluations to exert pressure on them or sending defendants for psychiatric treatment as punishment.  Prosecutors and certified medical professionals may request suspects be placed in psychiatric clinics on an involuntary basis.  For example, on January 27, authorities forcibly hospitalized Siberian shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev after he renewed his 2019 calls to “expel” Vladimir Putin from power and missed a court-mandated appointment related to his May 2020 detention (see Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Russia for 2020).  In mid-March the Yakut psychiatric hospital declared Gabyshev insane.  On July 26, the Yakutsk City Court ruled that Gabyshev be confined indefinitely to a psychiatric hospital for compulsory intensive treatment.

Reports of nonlethal physical abuse and hazing continued in the armed forces.  Activists reported such hazing was often tied to extortion schemes.  On May 27, the online media outlet 29.ru published an article describing the abuse of a 21-year-old conscript, Dmitriy Lapenkov, who was serving in the city of Yurga in Kemerovo Oblast.  Lapenkov’s mother told the outlet he was subjected to severe hazing, including being forced to take an unknown tablet and call relatives to ask for large sums of money.  He was subsequently transferred to a psychiatric hospital in the city of Novosibirsk in an incoherent state.  His mother claimed he had sustained a brain injury because of beating.

There were reports that Russia-led forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region and Russian occupation authorities in Crimea engaged in torture (see Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Ukraine).

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces.  In most cases where law enforcement officers or other government officials were publicly implicated in human rights abuses, authorities denied internal and external requests for independent investigation and engaged in disinformation campaigns or other efforts to obfuscate such allegations.  The government’s propensity to ignore serious human rights allegations along with the uneven application of the rule of law and a lack of judicial transparency resulted in impunity for most perpetrators.

The few investigations into official abuses that were conducted often concerned allegations of torture in detention and pretrial detention facilities that were exposed by whistleblowers or independent media.  For example, on June 28, the Kanavinskiy District Court of Nizhny Novgorod sentenced former police officers Aleksey Khrulev and Nikolay Atamashko to two and one-half years in prison for abuse of office with violence.  In 2015 the officers detained and beat Leonid Murskiy until he signed a confession for selling drugs.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and detention centers varied but were often harsh and life threatening.  Overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, limited access to health care, food shortages, and inadequate sanitation were common in prisons, penal colonies, and other detention facilities.

Physical Conditions:  Prison overcrowding remained a serious problem.  While the law mandates the separation of women and men, juveniles and adults, and pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners in separate quarters, anecdotal evidence indicated not all prison facilities followed these rules.  In March 2020 Amnesty International stated that prisons’ overcrowding, poor ventilation, and inadequate health care and sanitation led to a high risk of COVID-19 infection among prisoners and detainees.  According to a Council of Europe report released on April 8, the mortality rate of the Russian prison population in 2019 increased by more than 12 percent, compared with the previous year.

Physical and sexual abuse by prison guards was systemic.  For example, on February 8, media outlets reported that the Russian Investigative Committee brought charges of torture and extortion against the former head and staff of detention center No. 1 in Makhachkala.  According to an investigation conducted from 2015 to 2019, the former head of the center, Daud Davydov, and two of his subordinates regularly beat a former investigator of the Investigative Committee, who was himself accused of torture and illegal imprisonment.  The detention center officials faced charges of abuse of power with the use of violence, extortion, fraud with the use of an official position, and bribery by a group of persons.  As of October no date was set for the court case.

Prisoner-on-prisoner violence was also a problem.  For example, the lawyer of Pavel Sheremet, a detainee in the regional tuberculosis hospital No. 1 in Saratov, told media that inmates at the facility beat and sexually assaulted Sheremet on June 3.  Media outlets reported that the prosecutor’s office of the Saratov Region initiated an investigation into the allegations, although as of October no further information was available on the outcome of the case.

There were reports prison authorities recruited inmates to abuse other inmates.  For example, on March 3, authorities detained the head of the Irkutsk penal colony No. 6 (IK-6) after reports emerged that he condoned the rape and beating of prisoner Takhirzhon Bakiyev by prison staff.  According to media reporting, on January 20, after transferring to IK-6 from another facility, Bakiyev was placed in a “torture squad,” where, with the knowledge and complicity of the prison guards, his cellmates then proceeded to rape and beat him before tying him up.  Videos obtained by the NGO Gulagu.net in October documented numerous cases of prisoners in the Saratov region being enlisted or coerced by prison officials to abuse and in some cases rape other inmates.

Overcrowding, ventilation, heating, sanitation, and nutritional standards varied among facilities but generally were poor.  Opportunities for movement and exercise in pretrial detention were minimal.  Potable water was sometimes rationed, and food quality was poor; many inmates relied on food provided by family or NGOs.  Access to quality medical care remained a problem.  For example, in early April the former governor of Khabarovsk Kray, Sergey Furgal, contracted COVID-19 while detained in the Lefortovo pretrial detention center, according to his lawyer.  NGOs reported that approximately 50 percent of prisoners with HIV did not receive adequate treatment, with treatment provided only to inmates with a CD4 white blood cell count below a certain level.  NGOs reported the supplies of some antiretroviral drugs were occasionally interrupted.

There were reports that political prisoners were placed in particularly harsh conditions and subjected to punitive treatment within the prison system, such as solitary confinement or punitive stays in psychiatric units.  For example, on March 2, the New York Times reported that prisoners in the isolation unit of penal colony IK-2, including Aleksey Navalny, were forced to stand for hours with their hands clasped behind their backs and were forbidden from making eye contact with prison guards.  Former political prisoners described having to carry out meaningless tasks multiple times a day and being sent to the “punishment brigade” for minor infractions, conditions that one prisoner described as psychologically harrowing.  In March media outlets reported that authorities issued 20 violations to Navalny in his first month of prison, including for getting out of bed 10 minutes before the scheduled “wake up” command.  On January 20, Navalny filed a complaint to the ECHR concerning the poor conditions of his detention center, which he characterized as a “friendly concentration camp.”  On April 16, the ECHR gave the government of Russia notice it should respond by July 12.  No public announcement concerning Russia’s response had been made by year’s end.

During the year media coverage of multiple allegations of torture at several penal colonies and testimony from victims and their family members prompted investigations by the Federal Penitentiary System.  In one example, on February 23, the Investigative Committee opened an investigation into abuse of power after media published two videos of abuse at penal colony No. 1 (IK-1) in Yaroslavl.  Staff at the prison had previously been convicted of torture-related crimes stemming from a separate 2018 video depicting the abuse of an inmate.  In May media outlets reported that the Investigative Committee had detained 10 staff members of the IK-1 prison, although as of July, no information was available on the outcome of the investigation.  On October 5, after the release of numerous videos depicting the torture and rape of inmates in the Saratov regional tuberculosis hospital No. 1, the Federal Penitentiary System opened an investigation into abuses at the facility.

Administration:  While prisoners may file complaints with public oversight commissions or with the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson, they often did not do so due to fear of reprisal.  Prison reform activists reported that only prisoners who believed they had no other option risked the consequences of filing a complaint.  Complaints that reached the oversight commissions often focused on minor personal requests.

Convicted inmates and individuals in pretrial detention have visitation rights, but authorities may deny visitation depending on circumstances.  By law prisoners with harsher sentences are allowed fewer visitation rights.  The judge in a prisoner’s case may deny the prisoner visitation.  Authorities may also prohibit relatives deemed a security risk from visiting prisoners.  Some pretrial detainees believed authorities sometimes denied visitation and telephone access to pressure them into providing confessions.

Independent Monitoring:  Authorities permitted representatives of public oversight commissions to visit prisons regularly to monitor conditions.  According to the Public Chamber, there were public oversight commissions in almost all regions.  Human rights activists expressed concern that some members of the commissions were individuals close to authorities and included persons with law enforcement backgrounds.

By law members of oversight commissions have the right to videotape and photograph inmates in detention facilities and prisons with their written approval.  Commission members may also collect air samples, conduct other environmental inspections, conduct safety evaluations, and access prison psychiatric facilities.  The law permits human rights activists not listed in public oversight commissions to visit detentions centers and prisons.  The NGO Interregional Center for Women’s Support, working with detained migrants, noted that only after a specific detainee submits a request and contacts the NGO may the organization obtain permission to visit a given detention center.

Authorities allowed the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture to visit the country’s prisons and release some reports on conditions but continued to withhold permission for it to release all recent reports.

There were reports of authorities prosecuting journalists and activists for reporting torture.  For example, Vladimir Taranenko, an employee of the human rights organization Siberia Pravovaya detained in pretrial detention facility No. 1 of the Kemerovo region on extortion charges, told media on July 6 that he had been tortured by prison authorities who sought access to the Siberia Pravovaya YouTube channel.  Siberia Pravovaya provides legal assistance to convicts and prisoners and publishes accounts of prison abuse on its YouTube channel, and human rights defenders alleged that Taranenko was prosecuted on fabricated charges because of his activism.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The law provides for freedom of assembly, but local authorities restricted this right.  The law requires organizers of public meetings, demonstrations, or marches by more than one person to notify the government, although authorities maintained that protest organizers must receive government permission, not just provide notification.  Failure to obtain official permission to hold a protest resulted in the demonstration being viewed as unlawful by law enforcement officials, who routinely dispersed such protests.  While some public demonstrations took place, on many occasions local officials selectively denied groups permission to assemble or offered alternate venues that were inconveniently or remotely located.  Many public demonstrations were restricted or banned due to COVID-19 measures.  Each region enforced its own restrictions.

Although they do not require official approval, authorities restricted single-person pickets and required that there be at least 164 feet separating protesters from each other.  By law police officers may stop a single-person picket to protect the health and safety of the picketer.  In December 2020 President Putin approved amendments to the law that placed further restrictions on single-person pickets as well as multiperson protests, rallies, or demonstrations.  The amended law imposes financial reporting requirements, prohibits protests or public demonstrations near agencies that perform “emergency operational services” (such as law enforcement agencies), and imposes further restrictions on journalists covering these events.  In addition, the law prohibits “foreign sources of funding” financing public demonstrations and treats single-person pickets, if held in the general vicinity of other picketers, as “mass demonstrations without a permit,” which are banned.  Authorities regularly detained single-person picketers.  For example, on February 9, Yekaterinburg police arrested Galina Gastrygina, a 79-year-old woman, for holding a placard stating, “Navalny is a hero of our time.”  A court subsequently fined her 1,000 rubles ($13.50) on February 19.  Her lawyer reported that guards pushed witnesses and journalists out of the courtroom during what was to have been a public hearing.  In another example, on May 25, St. Petersburg police detained civil activist Yevgeniya Smetankina for having held a single-person picket in support of the feminist activist Yuliya Tsvetkova (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

The law requires that “motor rallies” and “tent city” gatherings in public places receive official permission.  It requires gatherings that would interfere with pedestrian or vehicle traffic to receive official agreement 10 days prior to the event; those that do not affect traffic require three days’ notice.  The law prohibits “mass rioting,” which includes teaching and learning about the organization of and participation in “mass riots.”  The law allows authorities to prohibit nighttime demonstrations and meetings and to levy fines for violating protest regulations and rules on holding public events.

Following an amendment to the criminal code signed by President Putin in December, the law imposes a fine for destroying infrastructure facilities and blocking roads and a 10-year prison sentence in the case of death of more than one person.  During demonstrations early in the year, authorities charged dozens of individuals countrywide under the new law penalizing the blocking of roads.  For example, on January 24, the Ministry of Interior opened a criminal case for “blocking roads and sidewalks” during a rally on Pushkin Square in central Moscow.  Under the pretext of its investigation, the Ministry of Interior raided the homes of 30 individuals suspected of involvement and seized their equipment and files, purportedly as evidence.

The law provides heavy penalties for engaging in unsanctioned protests and other violations of public assembly law.  Protesters convicted of multiple violations within six months may be fined substantially or imprisoned for up to five years.  The law prohibits “involving a minor in participation in an unsanctioned gathering,” which is punishable by fines, 100 hours of community service, or arrest for up to 15 days.  On June 18, Novaya Gazeta reported that several cities filed lawsuits against the supposed organizers of the January and February demonstrations in their areas in a stated effort to recuperate costs incurred by the Ministry of Interior staff and local authorities who worked on the day of the demonstrations.  In the Kemerovo region, authorities sought 700,000 rubles ($9,500) in compensation from former employees of Navalny’s regional headquarters.

Arrests or detentions for organizing or taking part in unsanctioned protests were common.  Ahead of the January 23 demonstrations, which were unauthorized, authorities preemptively detained Navalny associates, including his spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, and his Anticorruption Foundation’s lawyer, Lyubov Sobol, and investigator, Georgiy Alburov.  Ten Navalny associates, including Yarmysh, Sobol, and Navalny’s brother Oleg, were subsequently arrested on January 28 and charged with violating COVID-19-related public health rules in connection with the January 23 demonstration and placed under house arrest through June 23.  Independent media outlets characterized the arrests as an effort to prevent the political opposition from participating in the September Duma elections.  On June 7, a Moscow court extended movement and communications restrictions for Sobol and Oleg Navalny until November, and on July 21, the courts separately extended Yarmysh’s house arrest until January 2022.  Memorial considered the 10 activists of the “sanitary case” to be political prisoners.

According to an FSB internal report leaked to media, approximately 12,000 individuals, including 761 minors, were detained nationwide during the January 23 and 31 demonstrations on charges that included violations of COVID-19 preventive measures, violence against persons in authority, incitement of minors, and organization of an unauthorized protest.  Media outlets reported that of those detained, 1,200 were sentenced to administrative arrest and 2,490 were fined for their participation in the demonstrations.  The independent human rights media project OVD-Info reported that an additional 1,788 individuals were detained on April 21 during countrywide demonstrations after Navalny declared a hunger strike to seek medical care (see section 1.c.).

On February 11, the Ministry of Interior reported that it had opened 90 criminal cases for crimes committed during the demonstrations, with most cases to “illegal actions targeting police officers” or “repeated participation in an unauthorized protest.”  For example, on March 3, a court in the Volga region sentenced a man to 18 months of forced labor for attacking a police officer during the January 23 protest after the man pleaded guilty to the charge.  Based on information provided by the court reporter to OVD-Info, the man intervened in the detention of another protest participant, “causing the latter physical pain and bodily injury.”

Police often broke up protests that were not officially sanctioned, at times using disproportionate force.  OVD-Info registered at least 140 reports of police brutality against demonstrators and monitored the initiation of 90 criminal cases against demonstrators.  For example, in one instance filmed on January 23, police officers kicked a woman in the stomach, causing her to collapse and require medical assistance.  On February 5, members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights released a statement urging officials to end the use of riot control weapons during the detention of peaceful demonstrators and to investigate “cases of excess of authority and hindrances to the activity of lawyers and journalists.”

There were reports that the government penalized employees for their participation in or support of unsanctioned assemblies.  For example, at least 40 employees of the Moscow metro were dismissed in May for their participation in or support of the January and February protests.  On May 14, Moscow City Duma deputy Mikhail Timonov reported that metro management ordered the dismal of employees whose names or whose relatives’ names appeared in a leaked database of Navalny supporters.

Media reported several instances in which authorities charged individuals for their alleged participation in or other support of the demonstrations even when the individual charged was already detained or the statute of limitations for that particular charge had expired.  For example, an employee of Navalny’s political organization, Aleksandr Kopyev, was charged on February 19 for his alleged participation in a January 31 pro-Navalny demonstration, even though he had already been detained for his earlier involvement in a demonstration on January 23.

The courts occasionally acknowledged violations of citizens’ rights to assemble.  For example, on March 3, the Smolninskiy District Court of St. Petersburg ordered the Ministry of Internal Affairs to pay compensation for moral damage to Sergey Dumtsev, who was detained for holding a single-person picket in 2019.  The court found that the police had no right to stop the picket or to detain the activist and keep him in the police office for more than three hours.  In another example, during the spring the Supreme Court of Tatarstan awarded compensation for moral damages to three activists from Naberezhnye Chelny after the executive committee refused their 2018 request to hold a rally against raising the retirement age.

Freedom of Association

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government did not respect it.  Public organizations must register their bylaws and the names of their leaders with the Ministry of Justice.  The finances of registered organizations are subject to investigation by tax authorities, and foreign grants must be registered.

The government continued to use the “foreign agents” law, which requires NGOs that receive foreign funding and engage in “political activity” to register as “foreign agents,” to harass, stigmatize, and, in some cases, halt their operation, although fewer organizations were registered than in previous years.  As of December 7, the Ministry of Justice’s registry of organizations designated as “foreign agents” included 75 NGOs.  The Ministry of Justice maintained separate registries of 111 media outlets and journalists designated as foreign agents as well as 49 “undesirable organizations” (see sections 2.a., Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom and Cultural Events).  NGOs designated as “foreign agents” are banned by law from observing elections and face other restrictions on their activity.

For the purposes of implementing the “foreign agents” law, the government considered “political activities” to include:  organizing public events, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets; organizing and conducting public debates, discussions, or presentations; ‎participating in election activities aimed at influencing the result, including election observation and forming commissions; public calls to influence local and state government bodies, including calling for changes to legislation; disseminating opinions and decisions of state bodies by technology; and attempting to shape public political views, including public opinion polls or other sociological research.

To be delisted, an NGO must submit an application to the Ministry of Justice proving that it did not receive any foreign funding or engage in any political activity within the previous 12 months.  If the NGO received any foreign funding, it must have returned the money within three months.  The ministry would then initiate an unscheduled inspection of the NGO to determine whether it qualified for removal from the list.

The law requires that NGOs on the foreign agents list identify themselves as “foreign agents” in all their public materials.  Authorities fined NGOs for failing to disclose their “foreign agent” status on websites or printed materials.  For example, on April 13, the Kuybyshevskiy District Court of St. Petersburg fined the Center for the Development of Nonprofit Organizations and its director, Anna Orlova, for failure to label social media posts appropriately.

Organizations the government listed as “foreign agents” reported experiencing the social effects of stigmatization, such as being targeted by vandals and online criticism, in addition to losing partners and funding sources and being subjected to smear campaigns in the state-controlled press.  At the same time, the “foreign agent” label did not necessarily exclude organizations from receiving state-sponsored support.

The law requires the Ministry of Justice to maintain a list of “undesirable foreign organizations.”  The list expanded during the year to 49 organizations as of December 7.  The Ministry of Justice added three German NGOs involved in efforts to develop relations with Russia, three United Kingdom (UK) affiliates of opposition activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russian Foundation, a French NGO involved in educational exchange, a Czech NGO promoting freedom of information, a foreign college, two Church of Scientology organizations, the investigative outlet Proyekt, the International Partnership for Human Rights, four evangelical Christian groups, and the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations.

By law a foreign organization may be found “undesirable” if it is deemed “dangerous to the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, its national security, and defense.”  Authorities did not clarify what specific threats these “undesirable” NGOs posed to the country.  Any foreign organization deemed “undesirable” must cease its activities.  Any money or assets found by authorities may be seized, and any citizens found guilty of continuing to work with the organization in contravention of the law may face up to seven years in prison.  On June 29, President Putin signed into law a bill that prohibits Russian citizens in any country from taking part in the work of NGOs designated as undesirable in Russia and from transferring money to Russia from certain countries under monitoring by the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, regardless of the transferred amount.  The law became effective on October 1.

Authorities imposed criminal penalties for purported violations of the law on “undesirable foreign organizations.”  On February 18, a court in Rostov-on-Don convicted political activist Anastasiya Shevchenko of violating the “undesirable organizations” law for her work with the UK-based NGO Open Russia.  The court sentenced her to four years of parole and ended her house arrest.  Shevchenko was the first person criminally charged under the “undesirable organizations” law.  Amnesty International considered her a prisoner of conscience.

On March 13, law enforcement authorities detained all 194 participants at a forum for municipal and city council members organized by the unregistered political movement United Democrats.  Authorities charged the detainees with administrative violations for allegedly “cooperating with an undesirable foreign organization,” even though United Democrats had not formally been recognized as such.  Attendees, including anti-Kremlin analyst and activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, prominent municipal council members Ilya Yashin and Yuliya Galyamina, and former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeniy Roizman, had gathered at a hotel in greater Moscow to exchange ideas and undergo training to enhance city and municipal governance.  While those detained were released pending court hearings in subsequent months, the courts fined a number of the forum participants, including Galyamina, Roizman, and Yekaterinburg city deputy Konstantin Kiselyov.  The Council of Deputies of the Timiryazevskiy district of Moscow announced its decision March 25 to deprive Galyamina of her status as a municipal deputy due to her repeated participation in unauthorized rallies; a Moscow City Court had sentenced Galyamina to two years’ probation for this offense in December 2020.

Citing the pending changes to legislation regarding “undesirable” organizations, director of the Russia-based Open Russia, Andrey Pivovarov, announced on May 27 that the organization would close all branches and annul memberships to prevent the criminal prosecution of its supporters.  Even though the Open Russia organization was declared “undesirable” in 2017, the Russian political advocacy group with the same name had not been banned as of July.  Despite his announcement, on May 31, Russian security forces boarded a flight prior to its departure from St. Petersburg and arrested Pivovarov.  The Investigative Committee subsequently charged Pivovarov for participating in the activities of an “undesirable organization,” detaining him for two months in a pretrial detention facility in Krasnodar.  On June 1, authorities also searched the premises of, detained, and opened criminal cases against other prominent Open Russia members, including former director Aleksandr Solovyov.  A court in St. Petersburg fined Pivovarov for the production and distribution of materials of an organization acting as a foreign agent, without indicating its status on July 19.  The opposition politician told media that he believed authorities were persecuting him for political reasons.  On July 21, a court in Krasnodar extended Pivovarov’s pretrial detention through the end of October.  He faced up to six years in prison if convicted on the charge of belonging to an undesirable organization.  Memorial considered Pivovarov a political prisoner.

NGOs engaged in political activities or activities that purportedly “pose a threat to the country” or that received support from U.S. citizens or organizations are subject to suspension under the 2012 “Dima Yakovlev” law, which prohibits NGOs from having members with dual Russian-U.S. citizenship.

In February, President Putin signed into law new regulations and restrictions regarding “foreign agents” and those who disseminate information about them.  The Ministry of Justice subsequently announced the creation of a new registry of “foreign agents,” consisting of unregistered NGOs or loosely defined “public associations” that purportedly receive funding from foreign sources and are engaged in political activity in Russia.  Under the new law, individuals and NGOs who meet the criteria of a “foreign agent” are obliged to register or face criminal liability, with penalties of a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($4,000), compulsory labor for up to 480 hours, or up to two years of correctional labor or prison.  Under the law the Ministry of Justice may also assign the “foreign agent” status directly to individuals or associations.  On August 18, the election-monitoring group Golos became the first association to be included in the list.  On March 1, when the penalties under the law entered into force, prominent human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov announced the closure of the For Human Rights organization, an unregistered group of human rights activists established in 2019 after a Supreme Court ruling to liquidate his rights monitoring and advocacy organization with the same name.  Ponomaryov, who was designated a “foreign agent” in December 2020 (see section 2.a.), filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 3, demanding his removal from the registry.

On March 3, the Ministry of Justice designated the independent trade union Alliance of Doctors as a “foreign agent,” citing its “repeated receipts of foreign funding, as well as the implementation of political activities.”  Anastasiya Vasilyeva, the leader of the trade union and an associate of Navalny, was one of the activists charged as part of the “sanitary case” for violating COVID-19 protocol in the organization of the January 23 protest (see section 2.b.).  Memorial considered her a political prisoner.

Authorities continued to misuse the country’s expansive definition of extremism to stifle freedom of association.  On June 4, President Putin signed a law that prohibits members of “extremist” organizations from participating in elections at all levels – municipal, regional, and federal.  An organization’s founders and leaders are barred from running for elected office for five years from the date of the organization’s ban, while members and others “involved in its work” are barred for three years.  In addition to direct membership, a person may be considered by the courts to be “involved” in the organization if that individual makes a statement of support for the group, including on social media, transfers money to it, or offers any other form of “assistance.”  The ban may also be applied retroactively, barring individuals from running for office if they were involved with the group up to three years prior to the extremist designation.  Experts and both “systemic opposition” (effectively progovernment) and independent politicians decried the law as politically motivated and unconstitutional, citing the law’s retroactive nature and ability to disenfranchise thousands of individuals as evident violations of the constitution.

On June 9, a Moscow city court designated Navalny’s Anticorruption Foundation, his political operations, and the affiliated Citizens’ Rights Protection Fund as “extremist” in a move that experts said was designed to prohibit those affiliated with Navalny and the Anticorruption Foundation from running for office.  In April the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office had filed a lawsuit seeking the organizations’ designation as “extremist,” which led to an injunction to freeze the organizations’ bank accounts and the suspension of their activities.  Experts characterized this designation and legislative changes to the “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations” legislation as targeted political repression against opposition groups ahead of the September elections (see section 3).

In multiple cases authorities arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted civil society activists in political retaliation for their work (see section 1.e.).

There were reports authorities targeted NGOs and activists representing the LGBTQI+ community for retaliation (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

Authorities misused antiterrorism and antiextremism laws, as well as other measures to label wrongfully peaceful religious groups and their practices “terrorist,” “extremist,” and “undesirable.”  Among those designated without any credible evidence of violent actions or intentions were two foreign-based Church of Scientology organizations, four Protestant groups from Latvia and Ukraine, a regional branch of Falun Gong and seven Falun Gong-associated NGOs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Fayzrakhmani Islamic community, Tablighi Jamaat, followers of the Muslim theologian Said Nursi, and Hizb ut-Tahrir.  These designations effectively banned their worship and activities, and members were subject to prolonged imprisonment, harsh detention conditions, house arrest and house raids, discrimination, harassment, and criminal investigation for participating in the activities of a “banned extremist organization” (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/).

There were reports civil society activists were beaten or attacked in retaliation for their professional activities and that in most cases law enforcement officials did not adequately investigate the incidents.  For example, on July 1, an ecological activist in Tambov Oblast, Roman Gerasimov, was attacked and stabbed three times by assailants after he filmed a video for President Putin’s annual call-in press conference requesting that a planned new landfill not be built in his region.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but in some cases authorities restricted these rights.

In-country Movement:  Although the law gives citizens the right to choose their place of residence, adult citizens must carry government-issued internal passports while traveling domestically and must register with local authorities after arriving at a different location.  To have their files transferred, persons with official refugee or asylum status must notify the Ministry of Internal Affairs in advance of relocating to a district other than the one that originally granted them status.  Authorities often refused to provide government services to individuals without internal passports or proper registration, and many regional governments continued to restrict this right through residential registration rules.

Authorities imposed in-country travel restrictions on individuals facing prosecution for political purposes.

Foreign Travel:  The law provides for freedom to travel abroad, but the government restricted this right for certain groups.  The law stipulates that a person who violates a court decision does not have a right to leave the country.  A court may also prohibit a person from leaving the country for failure to satisfy debts; if the individual is suspected, accused, or convicted of a crime; or if the individual had access to classified material.  The law allows for the temporary restriction of the right to leave the country for citizens with outstanding debts.

The government restricted the foreign travel of millions of its employees, prescribing which countries they are and are not allowed to visit.  The restriction applies to employees of agencies including the Prosecutor General’s Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Federal Prison Service, Federal Drug Control Service, Federal Bailiff Service, General Administration for Migration Issues, and Ministry of Emergency Situations.  On July 7, media outlets reported that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree stating that prior to traveling abroad, his deputies and ministers must obtain his written permission.  The travel restriction would also apply to lower-ranking officials, such as heads of agencies, who must obtain permission from their supervisors before travel.

Citizenship:  There were reports that the government revoked citizenship on an arbitrary or discriminatory basis.  For example, in April 2020 the Internal Affairs Ministry stripped the citizenship of Feliks Makhammadiyev and Konstantin Bazhenov, two members of Jehovah’s Witnesses convicted of “extremism” on the basis of their religious beliefs.  Makhammadiyev was left stateless as a result.  In January authorities deported Makhammadiyev to Uzbekistan.  Media outlets reported that authorities revoked the residency permits of several foreign nationals who had participated in the January and February protests in support of Aleksey Navalny and the people of Belarus, including individuals married to Russian citizens.

In another example, on October 26, authorities deported Tajikistan-born Bakhtiyor Usmonov, separating him from his wife and children.  Usmonov’s deportation followed his successful case in the ECHR against the Russian state, which annulled his citizenship and held him in a detention center for foreign citizens for two years.  The ECHR ordered the Russian government to restore Usmonov’s citizenship and to pay him compensation in the amount of 11,000 euros ($12,700).

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated the country was home to 1,230 internally displaced persons (IDPs) as of December 2020.  Of these, the center asserted that 130 IDPs were displaced due to weather-related events, such as floods, and 1,100 were displaced because of conflict and violence.

According to the government’s official statistics, the number of “forced” migrants, which under the government’s definition includes refugees, asylum seekers, and IDPs, decreased from 9,485 in 2019 to 5,323 in January 2020 and again in January 2021 to 2,512.  The government indicated that most forced migrants came from Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

Reliable information on whether the government promoted the safe, voluntary, dignified return, resettlement, or local integration of IDPs was not available.  According to the independent NGOs Civic Assistance Committee and Memorial, most IDPs in the country were displaced by the Ossetian-Ingush conflict of 1992 and the Chechen wars in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.  The Ossetian-Ingush conflict displaced Ingush from the territory of North Ossetia-Alania, and the Chechen wars displaced Chechens.  The government provided minimal financial support for housing to persons registered as IDPs.  The Civic Assistance Committee criticized the government’s strict rules for qualifying for assistance and long backlog of persons waiting for housing support.

f. Protection of Refugees

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported it had a working relationship with the government on asylum, refugee, and stateless persons problems.  The Civic Assistance Committee reported, however, that the government failed to provide protection and assistance to IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.  On April 5, President Putin signed a law adopting the charter of the International Organization for Migration, which promotes the organized movement of migrants and refugees.

Access to Asylum:  The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.  NGOs reported applicants commonly paid informal “facilitation fees” of approximately 33,000 rubles ($445) to General Administration for Migration Issues adjudicators to have their application reviewed.  Applicants who did not speak Russian often had to pay for a private interpreter.  Human rights organizations noted that nearly all newly arrived asylum seekers in large cities, particularly Moscow and St. Petersburg, were forced to apply in other regions, allegedly due to full quotas.  NGOs also noted difficulty in applying for asylum due to long queues and lack of clear application procedures.  The General Administration for Migration Issues approved only a small percentage of applications for refugee status and temporary asylum, with exception of applications from Ukrainians, who had a much higher chance of approval.

Human rights organizations noted the government’s issuance of refugee and temporary asylum status decreased over the previous few years, pointing to the government’s systematic and arbitrary refusal to grant asylum.  NGOs reported that authorities encouraged applicants to return to their countries of origin.

Authorities reportedly also had blanket authority to grant temporary asylum to Syrians, but local migration experts noted a decrease in the number of Syrians afforded temporary asylum, suggesting that the General Administration for Migration Issues had not renewed the temporary asylum of hundreds of Syrians and, in some cases, encouraged applicants to return to Syria.

Refoulement:  The concept of nonrefoulement is not explicitly stated in the law.  The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of persons to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.  The responsible agency, the General Administration for Migration Issues, did not maintain a presence at airports or other border points and did not adequately publicize that asylum seekers may request access to the agency.  Asylum seekers had to rely on the goodwill of border guards and airline personnel to call immigration officials.  Otherwise, they faced immediate deportation to neighboring countries or return to their countries of origin, including in some cases to countries where they may have had reasonable grounds to fear persecution.

According to Memorial, on March 23, Russian authorities rejected the asylum request of Rozgeldy Choliyev, a citizen of Turkmenistan facing prosecution for public criticism of his home country’s government.  Choliyev had arrived in Moscow from Istanbul and spent three weeks in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport waiting for a response to his request before being deported back to Turkey because all flights from Moscow to Ashgabat were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.  Memorial said that Choliyev faced extradition from Turkey to Turkmenistan, where he could be prosecuted for his public criticism of the government.

Human rights groups continued to allege that authorities made improper use of international agreements that permit them to detain, and possibly repatriate, persons with outstanding arrest warrants from other former Soviet states.  This system, enforced by informal ties among senior law enforcement officials of the countries concerned, permitted authorities to detain individuals for up to one month while the Prosecutor General’s Office investigated the nature of the warrants.  For example, on July 21, a Russian court ruled that Alyaksey Kudzin, world champion kickboxer and outspoken critic of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, could be extradited to face charges for assaulting a security officer during prodemocracy protests in Belarus in August 2020.  Despite an earlier ECHR opinion that banned his extradition over concerns that he may be politically persecuted and tortured, Kudzin was handed over to Belarusian authorities and sentenced on August 11 to two and one-half years in prison.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees:  NGOs reported that police detained, fined, and threatened migrants and refugees with deportation.

In some cases temporary asylum holders who received refugee status from third countries were not granted exit visas or allowed to depart the country.

Employment:  Employers frequently refused to hire applicants who lacked residential registration.  UNHCR reported that employers frequently were not familiar with laws permitting employment for refugees and asylum seekers without work permits and refused to hire them.  NGOs reported that refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants were vulnerable to exploitation in the form of forced labor because of the lack of proper documents and insufficient Russian language skills.

Access to Basic Services:  By law successful temporary asylum seekers and persons whose applications were being processed have the right to work, to receive medical care, and to attend school.  The government considered Ukrainian asylum seekers to be separate from asylum seekers from other countries, such as Afghanistan, Georgia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.  NGOs reported authorities provided some services to Ukrainian asylum seekers, but there were instances in which applicants from other countries were denied the same service, including access to medical care and food banks.

While federal law provides for education for all children, regional authorities occasionally denied access to schools to children of temporary asylum and refugee applicants who lacked residential registration or who did not speak Russian.  The Civic Assistance Committee reported that approximately one-third of the children of refugees were enrolled in schools.  When parents encountered difficulties enrolling their children in school, authorities generally cooperated with UNHCR to resolve the problem.

Temporary Protection:  The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees.  As of January 1, a total of 19,817 persons, 92 percent of whom were citizens of Ukraine, held a certificate of temporary asylum in Russia.  A person who does not satisfy the criteria for refugee status, but who for humanitarian reasons could not be expelled or deported, may receive temporary asylum after submitting a separate application.  There were reports, however, of authorities not upholding the principle of temporary protection.

g. Stateless Persons

According to the 2010 population census, the country was home to 178,000 self-declared stateless persons.  Official statistics did not differentiate between stateless persons and other categories of persons seeking assistance.  UNHCR data showed 60,185 stateless persons, including forcibly displaced stateless persons, in the country at the end of 2020.  Law, policy, and procedures allow stateless persons and their children born in the country to gain nationality.  The Civic Assistance Committee noted that most stateless persons in the country were elderly, ill, or single former Soviet Union passport holders who missed the opportunity to claim Russian citizenship after the Soviet Union broke up.  The NGO reported various bureaucratic hurdles as obstacles to obtaining legal status in the country.  On February 24, President Putin signed a law authorizing temporary identity certificates for stateless persons that would be valid for 10 years or until the holder receives citizenship or a residence permit in another country.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that workers may form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes.  The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, but it does not require employers to reinstate workers fired due to their union activity.  The law prohibits reprisals against striking workers.  Unions must register with the Federal Registration Service, often a cumbersome process that includes lengthy delays and convoluted bureaucracy.  The grounds on which trade union registration may be denied are not defined and can be arbitrary or unjustified.  Active-duty members of the military, civil servants, customs workers, judges, prosecutors, and persons working under civil contracts are excluded from the right to organize.  The law requires labor unions to be independent of government bodies, employers, political parties, and NGOs.

The law places several restrictions on the right to bargain collectively.  For example, only one collective bargaining agreement is permitted per enterprise, and only a union or group of unions representing at least one-half the workforce may bargain collectively.  The law allows workers to elect representatives if there is no union.  The law does not specify who has authority to bargain collectively when there is no trade union in an enterprise.

The law prohibits strikes in the military and emergency response services.  It also prohibits strikes in essential public-service sectors, including utilities and transportation, and strikes that would threaten the country’s defense, safety, and the life and health of its workers.  The law additionally prohibits some nonessential public servants from striking and imposes compulsory arbitration for railroad, postal, and municipal workers, as well as public servants in roles other than law enforcement.

Laws regulating workers’ strikes remained extremely restrictive, making it difficult to declare a strike but easy for authorities to rule a strike illegal and punish workers.  It was also very difficult for those without a labor contract to go on a legal strike.

Union members must follow extensive legal requirements and engage in consultations with employers before acquiring the right to strike.  Solidarity strikes and strikes on matters related to state policies are illegal, as are strikes that do not respect the onerous time limits, procedures, and requirements mandated by law.  Employers may hire workers to replace strikers.  Workers must give prior notice of the following aspects of a proposed strike:  a list of the differences of opinion between employer and workers that triggered the strike; the date and time at which the strike is intended to start, its duration, and the number of anticipated participants; the name of the body that is leading the strike and the representatives authorized to participate in the conciliation procedures; and proposals for the minimum service to be provided during the strike.  In the event a declared strike is ruled illegal and takes place, courts may confiscate union property to cover employers’ losses.

The Federal Labor and Employment Service (RosTrud) regulates employer compliance with labor law and is responsible for “controlling and supervising compliance with labor laws and other legal acts which deal with labor norms” by employers.  Several state agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor’s Office, RosTrud, and Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for enforcing the law.  These agencies, however, frequently failed to enforce the law, and violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining provisions were common.  Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those under other similar laws related to civil rights.

Employers frequently engaged in reprisals against workers for independent union activity, including threatening to assign them to night shifts, denying benefits, and blacklisting or firing them.  Although unions were occasionally successful in court, in most cases managers who engaged in antiunion activities did not face penalties.

In March the medical professional trade union Alliance of Doctors was put on a “foreign agent” list.  Anastasiya Vasilyeva, the head of the union, had previously treated Aleksey Navalny.  Vasilyeva was detained again in January and again in September.  In October, Vasilyeva was convicted of breaching COVID-19 safety protocols for joining protests demanding Navalny’s release, which resulted in one year of restrictions, including a curfew and travel limitations.

In April and May, an estimated 200 workers with the Moscow Metro subway system were fired for registering online to participate in a protest in support of Aleksey Navalny.  As of August, 42 of the workers had sued the company and at least two of the workers had been reinstated.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor but allows for it as a penal sentence, in some cases as prison labor contracted to private enterprises.

The government did not effectively enforce laws against forced labor, although prescribed penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other serious crimes.  Compulsory prison labor occurred, which in some cases was used as punishment for expressing political or ideological views.  Human rights groups expressed concern regarding the prison system being used in the construction sector in remote regions, due to insufficient numbers of Central Asian migrant workers.  Instances of labor trafficking were reported in the construction, manufacturing, logging, textile, and maritime industries, as well as in sawmills, agriculture, sheep farms, grocery and retail stores, restaurants, waste sorting, street sweeping, domestic service, and forced begging (see section 7.c.).  Serious problems remained in protecting migrant laborers, particularly from North Korea, who generally earned 40 percent less than the average salary.  Migrant workers at times experienced exploitative labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, nonpayment for services rendered, physical abuse, unsafe working conditions, and extremely poor living conditions.

Under a state-to-state agreement, North Korean citizens worked for many years in the country in a variety of sectors, including the logging and construction industries in the Far East.  To comply with the 2017 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting the employment of North Koreans, Russia had largely eliminated from the workforce North Korean laborers working in the country legally and continued to affirm its commitment to do so.  Many North Korean laborers, however, continued to enter the country via fraudulent channels to work informally, for example by obtaining tourist or student visas.  Authorities failed to screen departing North Korean workers for human trafficking and indications of forced labor.

There were reports of forced labor in the production of bricks, raising livestock, and at sawmills, primarily in Dagestan.  While both men and women were exploited for forced labor in these industries in the Northern Caucasus region, victims were primarily male job seekers recruited in Moscow.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all worst forms of child labor, explicitly prohibiting work in unhealthy or dangerous conditions, underground work, or jobs that might endanger a child’s health and moral development.  The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16 in most cases and regulates the working conditions of children younger than 18.  The law permits children at age 14 to work under certain conditions and with the approval of a parent or guardian.  Such work must not threaten the child’s health or welfare.  RosTrud is responsible for inspecting enterprises and organizations to identify violations of labor and occupational health standards for minors.  The government effectively enforced the law, although penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes.

There were no available nationally representative data on the prevalence of child labor in the country, although children reportedly worked in the informal and retail sectors.  Some children, both Russian and foreign, were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, forced participation in the production of pornography, and forced begging (see section 6, Children).

See the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, age, and refugee status, but does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, gender identity, or disability.  Although the country placed a general ban on discrimination, the government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other civil rights-related laws.

Discrimination based on gender in compensation, professional training, hiring, and dismissal was common, but very difficult to prove.  Employers often preferred to hire men to save on maternity and child-care costs and to avoid the perceived unreliability associated with women with small children.  The law prohibits employer discrimination in posting job vacancy information.  It also prohibits employers from requesting workers with specific gender, race, nationality, address registration, age, and other factors unrelated to personal skills and competencies.  Notwithstanding the law, vacancy announcements sometimes specified gender and age requirements or a desired physical appearance.

According to the Center for Social and Labor Rights, courts often ruled in favor of employees filing complaints, but the sums awarded were often seen as not worth the cost and time required to take legal action.

Women are restricted from employment in certain occupations in the chemical industry, metallurgy, oil production, coal mining, manufacturing of insulation, and some others owing to the harmful effects of certain compounds on women’s reproductive health.  In January an amended law went into effect that reduced the number of labor categories prohibited to woman from 456 to 98.  According to the Ministry of Labor, women on average earned 39 percent less than men in 2019.  The legal age requirements for women and men to access either their full or partial pension benefits are not equal.

Sexual harassment in the workplace continued.  The law does not prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, and there are no criminal or civil remedies for sexual harassment experienced in the workplace.

The law requires applicants to undergo a mandatory pre-employment health screening for some jobs listed in the labor code or when enrolling at educational institutions.  The medical commission may restrict or prohibit access to jobs and secondary or higher education if it finds signs of physical or mental problems.  The law prohibits discrimination of persons with disabilities, but they were often subjected to employment discrimination.  Companies with 35 to 100 employees have an employment quota of 1 to 3 percent for persons with disabilities, while those with more than 100 employees have a 2 to 4 percent quota.  An NGO noted that some companies kept persons with disabilities on the payroll to fulfill the quotas but did not actually provide employment for them.  Inadequate workplace access for persons with disabilities also limited work opportunities.

Many migrants regularly faced discrimination and hazardous or exploitative working conditions.  The COVID-19 pandemic more severely impacted migrant workers.  Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was a problem, especially in the public sector and education.  Employers fired LGBTQI+ persons for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or public activism in support of LGBTQI+ rights.  Primary and secondary school teachers were often the targets of such pressure due to the law on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation” targeted at minors (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

Persons with HIV or AIDS were prohibited from working in areas of medical research and medicine that dealt with bodily fluids, including surgery and blood drives.  The Ministry of Internal Affairs does not hire persons with HIV or AIDS, although persons who contract HIV or AIDS while employed are protected from losing their job.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hour Laws:  The law provides for a minimum wage for all sectors, which was above the poverty income level.  Some local governments had minimum wage rates higher than the national rate.

Nonpayment of wages is a criminal offense and is punishable by fines, compulsory labor, or imprisonment.  Federal law provides for administrative fines of employers who fail to pay salaries and sets progressive compensation scales for workers affected by wage arrears.  The government did not effectively enforce the law, and nonpayment or late payment of wages remained widespread.  According to the Federal State Statistics Service, Rosstat, as of November 1, wage arrears amounted to approximately 1.34 billion rubles ($18.1 million).

The law provides for standard workhours, overtime, and annual leave.  The standard workweek may not exceed 40 hours.  Employers may not request overtime work from pregnant women, workers younger than 18, and other categories of employees specified by federal law.  Standard annual paid leave is 28 calendar days.  Employees who perform work involving harmful or dangerous labor conditions and employees in the Far North regions receive additional annual paid leave.  Organizations have discretion to grant additional leave to employees.

The law stipulates that payment for overtime must be at least 150 percent for the first two hours and not less than 200 percent after that.  At an employee’s request, overtime may be compensated by additional holiday leave.  Overtime work may not exceed four hours in a two-day period or 120 hours in a year for each employee.

RosTrud is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws and generally applied the law in the formal sector.  The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law in all sectors.  Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, although there were significant restrictions on inspectors’ authority to inspect workplaces.  Experts generally pointed to prevention of these offenses, rather than adequacy of available punishment, as the main challenge to protection of worker rights.  RosTrud noted state labor inspectors needed additional professional training and that the agency needed additional inspectors to enforce consistent compliance.  Although the labor inspectorate frequently referred cases for potential criminal prosecution, few of these cases were instituted by the Prosecutor’s Office.  In addition, courts routinely cancel decisions and penalties imposed by labor inspectors.

The government made efforts to effectively enforce minimum wage and hour laws, although resources and inspectors were limited.  Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health:  Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate within the main industries.  The law establishes minimum conditions for workplace safety and worker health, but it does not explicitly allow workers to remove themselves from hazardous workplaces without threat to their employment.  The law entitles foreigners working in the country to the same rights and protections as citizens.

RosTrud is also responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health laws.  The government made efforts to effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws, although resources and inspectors were limited.  Serious breaches of occupational safety and health provisions are criminal offenses, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those of other similar crimes.

No national-level information was available on the number of workplace accidents or fatalities during the year.  According to Rosstat, in 2019 approximately 23,300 workers were injured in industrial accidents, including 1,060 deaths.

Informal Sector:  As of September an estimated 15 million persons were employed in the shadow economy, an 11.5 percent increase from the same period in 2020.  Employment in the informal sector was concentrated in the southern regions.  The largest share of laborers in the informal economy was concentrated in the trade, construction, and agricultural sectors, where workers were more vulnerable to exploitative working conditions.  Labor migrants worked in low-skilled jobs in construction but also in housing, utilities, agriculture, and retail trade sectors, often informally.  Labor law and protections apply to workers in the informal sector.

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