Putin Signs Bill Granting Lifetime Immunity To Former Presidents

Putin Signs Bill Granting Lifetime Immunity To Former Presidents

As Russian President Putin has made himself immune from prosecution for lifetime, let us look at the new provision and its implications.

Crux of the Matter

Permanent Immunity To Presidents
Russia President Vladimir Putin has signed new legislation that grants lifetime immunity to former presidents after they leave the post. It does so by making former Presidents members of the Senate for a lifetime.

What’s More To It?

  • Also protects their families from prosecution for crimes of their entire lifetime.
  • Exempted from police investigations and arrests.
  • Previously, former Presidents were immune to prosecution only for the crimes done while in office.
  • Immunity can now be revoked only in serious cases like treason and requires an overwhelming majority of the upper House, which has been called ‘impossible’ by analysts.

The new law is a part of constitutional amendments recently brought by Putin. One major Amendment allows Putin to continue as the President till 2036, who would have been otherwise required to leave in 2024.

One more Bill is awaiting Putin’s signature, which would make information of employees of “judicial system, law enforcement, and regulatory and military bodies” confidential. The move came 1 day after opposition leader Alexei Navalny claimed to have “tricked” an agent into admitting that the Government had tried to poison him.

Navalny, Putin’s staunchest critic, was poisoned in August allegedly by Russian agents. Navalny later revealed the agent’s number, which would now be illegal according to the new provision.

Immunity To President In India

  • Article 361 of the Constitution says that the President “shall not be answerable to any court” for exercising “powers and duties of his office”.
  • The President is also immune from criminal proceedings and arrests during his/her office.
  • However, she/he is impeachable under Article 61, which has to be preferred by either House of the Parliament.

  • A law, first adopted in 2012, allows Russian authorities to label foreign-funded NGOs engaged in political activity “foreign agents“, a term that carries negative Soviet-era connotations. Despite the backlash, the bill was passed in the upper house with an overwhelming majority.
  • A duma is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative functions. The term comes from the Russian verb ‘dumat’ meaning “to think” or “to consider”. Since 1993, the lower house has also been known as the state duma.
  • Russian writer Sergei Kalenik began an online comic series in 2011 named “Superputin” – in which the Russian President saves his nation by judo-chopping terrorists. Putin is depicted as a superhero who fights the twin evils of public protest and terrorism.

Unusual Nominees of Nobel Peace Prize 2020

Unusual Nominees of Nobel Peace Prize 2020

As Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, let us look at the 2 ‘peace advocates’ and their corresponding actions. Let us also have a look at the recent nominations of UN Human Rights Council.

Crux of the Matter

Nobel Peace
World Food Programme won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020. However, several unusual nominees were present for the Prize including Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
US President Trump was nominated for “contribution for peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)”. Israel and UAE established official relations on 13 August, 2020, where Trump acted as a mediator.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was nominated reportedly for “participation in resolving the Syrian conflict and trying to stop the US military invasion of Syria”.

Trump-Putin Peace Advocates
Both nominations have drawn strong disapproval from critics for several reasons.

In May 2020, protests started after a black man George Floyd was killed by white cop Derek Chauvin, who bent his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes 40 seconds. Instead of reassuring people, Trump threatened to deploy military against the protesters and said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. In the recent Presidential debate against Joe Biden, Trump refused to condemn the White Supremacist groups accused of inciting violence in protests.

Alexei Navalny, a long time critic of President Vladimir Putin, was recently poisoned in Russia. He was evacuated to Germany, where doctors and experts from Germany, France, etc confirmed that he was poisoned. Similarly, Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Magnitsky, and several other critics of Putin have been killed in recent years, with methods like shooting, poisoning using radioactive substances, police custody assault, etc being used.

UN Human Rights Council
Russia, China, Pakistan, Cuba, Uzbekistan, and Nepal were recently elected to the UN Human Rights Council (UHRC) Board, where Saudi Arabia was also among the nominees. The mentioned nations have been elected for a 3-year term starting from January 2021.

An NGO named UN Watch compared the situation to “making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade”.

Read more about the Human Rights issues in these countries here: Mockery Of Human Rights By UNHRC Members

  • The World Food Programme is the food-assistance branch of the UN and the world’s largest humanitarian organization focused on hunger and food security. The World Food Programme launched its first programmes in 1963 through the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN General Assembly on a three-year experimental basis, supporting the Nubian population.
  • Leopold II was the second King of the Belgians and the owner & absolute ruler of the Congo Free State from 1865 to 1909. Leopold’s administration of the Congo was characterised by atrocities, including torture and murder, resulting from notorious systematic brutality. Modern estimates range from 1 million to 15 million deaths.
  • Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group—in whole or in part. A term coined by Raphael Lemkin in his 1944 book “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe”.

Putin And Crackdown On Opposition

Putin And Crackdown On Opposition

Russia added to its history of crackdown on opposition against President Putin as opposition leader Alexei Navalny was allegedly poisoned, who later found medical asylum in Germany.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Case
Alexei Navalny, a Russian politician, recently fell ill and was flown to Germany for treatment. Navalny has been a long time critic of President Vladimir Putin, calling the latter “the tsar of corruption”. He also criticized the recent Amendment which allows Putin to contest 2 more times and be the President of Russia till 2036.

Navalny fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, and his supporters have claimed that his tea was “poisoned”. He was first treated in Omsk where his flight made an emergency landing after he fell ill, with the Omsk doctors claiming that they saved his life and no poison was detected. However, the Omsk doctors reportedly delayed his “medical evacuation” to Germany by claiming that he was not fit to travel. Navalny’s wife Yulia reportedly claimed that Russian authorities were stalling to make any evidence in his blood disappear. Afterward, the German NGO ‘Cinema for Peace’ funded his flight to Germany, where he is currently being treated in the capital Berlin.

On 24 August, the doctors treating Navalny in Germany confirmed that he was poisoned.

Navalny And Opposition To Putin

  • Navalny was the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation in Russia.
  • He was arrested in 2011 for urging voters to vote anyone except United Russia (ruling party).
  • He was jailed in 2013 for embezzlement and was convicted a second time in the 2017 retrial.
  • He was placed under house arrest in 2014, for which The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stated that his rights were violated.
  • The 2017 conviction barred him from contesting 2018 Presidential elections, with several critics labeling cases against Navalny “fake” which were levied only to stop him from contesting elections.
  • He was jailed for 30 days in 2018 for protesting against pension reforms.

World Reaction

  • France assured Navalny of support and offered an asylum if required.
  • Germany assured Navalny of all assistance and called for a “transparent” investigation in the case.
  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated he was “deeply concerned” over the situation.
  • US Presidential candidate Joe Biden termed the situation “unacceptable”, declaring that he would “stand up to autocrats like Putin” if elected.

Silencing Of Putin’s Opposition

  • Boris Nemtsov (2015)
    Nemtsov occupied the position of ‘First Deputy Prime Minister’ from 1997 to 1998. He died from 4 gunshots in 2015, just hours after gathering a protest against the Russian military involvement in Ukraine.
  • Boris Berezovsky (2013)
    Berezovsky was a businessman who exiled in the United Kingdom after a conflict with Putin. He was a staunch critic of Putin and accused him of getting Alexander Litvinenko, a whistleblower, killed. Berezovsky was found dead in his bathroom in the UK, with initial reports claiming that he committed suicide. However, the Court declared an ‘open verdict’ due to insufficient evidence.
  • Sergei Magnitsky (2009)
    Magnitsky was a lawyer who was later working on a large scale tax fraud case against the Government. He died in 2009 after being assaulted in police custody with no medical aid being provided afterward.
  • Alexander Litvinenko (2006)
    Litvinenko was a KGB agent who later became a vocal critic of Putin after leaving the agency. He had claimed that the Putin government was behind the series of apartment bombings in 1999. He died in London after drinking tea containing Polonium-210 (one of the most radioactive substances).
  • Anna Politkovskaya (2006)
    Politkovskaya was a journalist and staunch critic of Putin, accusing him of making Russia a “police state”. She was murdered in the elevator of her building. 5 convictions of contract killing were made in the case, but the identity of the people who ordered remains unsolved.
  • Viktor Yushchenko (2004)
    The ex-President of Ukraine survived a poisoning attempt reportedly done by Russian agencies after he contested elections against a pro-Russia candidate.
  • Paul Klebnikov (2004)
    Klebnikov was the chief editor of Forbes magazine (Russian edition) who investigated corruption in Russia. Forbes magazine released the top 100 richest people list under him which drew criticism from the Russian Government as the financial details of officials are kept in secrecy. He was shot 4 times outside his office but survived initially. However, he died after reaching the hospital, where the elevator failed and the ambulance carrying him had no oxygen bottles.
  • Sergei Yushenkov (2003)
    Yushenkov was a liberal and free-market politician. He was assassinated just hours after registering his party in the elections.
  • “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin” is a book by Steven Lee Myers. The book is a narrative of Putin’s rise to power.
  • Tsar is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean “emperor” in the European medieval sense of the term. The first ruler to adopt the title tsar was Simeon I of Bulgaria. 
  • Vladimir Putin scored at least eight goals in an exhibition ice hockey game with former National Hockey League players in 2019. He played on the Legends team alongside Russian hockey stars such as Hall of Famers Slava Fetisov and Pavel Bure.

Putin to Stay Put as President Till For Foreseeable Future

Russian President Vladamir Putin made amendments to the Constitution in order to make his powers invulnerable. The removal of the words “in row” will allow Putin to dust off his previous two-terms and like a renewed contract allow him to contest two more elections.

Crux of the Matter

Putin’s Political Powerplay
For 20 years now, Russia’s political landscape has been dominated by Putin. Here is a look at the timeline of his political career.

  • 1999-2000: Vladimir Putin served as the Prime Minister and acting President of Russia.
  • 2000-2004: Putin served as the President of Russia.
  • 2004-2008: Putin was re-elected as the President.
  • 2008: Putin stepped down as the President to allow Dmitry Medvedev to become the President because the Russian Constitution did not allow more than 2 consecutive Presidential terms. There is no upper cap on the number of terms that a President may serve.
  • 2008: Russia increased the Presidential tenure from 4 to 6 years.
  • 2008-2012: Putin served as the Prime Minister of Russia.
  • 2012-present: Putin is serving as the President of Russia.

More Power Brings More Responsibility (and Power)
Russian Federation will undergo a referendum next month for the amended articles of the Russian Constitution. To remain in power, he has proposed the following constitutional amendments:

  • In the Article that regulates the maximum terms for a President would be amended by removing the words “in row”. Before amendment comes into force, all the previously held offices of Presidents will be chalked off.
  • A Presidential candidate ought to have lived in Russia for at least 25 years.
  • Citizens who hold positions to safeguard national interests must not have foreign citizenship or foreign residence permit during their tenure, and in case of President, and at any time during or after the tenure.
  • Russian Constitution would take precedence over any other national or international legislation.
  • State Duma, the Lower House of the Parliament, would have the right to give consent and approval to the candidacy of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Federal Ministers. President cannot refuse their appointment but can remove them from office in certain situations.
  • One amendment outlaws same-sex marriage.

Many Russians signed a petition challenging Putin’s move as “politically, legally and ethically unacceptable”. However, Russia’s Constitutional Court has said that the amendment is legally correct.

Build-up of Power Concentration

  • 19 December 2019 – In a press conference, Putin announced possible amendments to the Constitution.
  • 15 January 2020 – Putin proposed the amendments in the Parliament. On the same day, the 32-Minister Cabinet led by former President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned.
  • 20 January 2020 – Putin submitted the draft Bill of the amendments to the Lower House, State Duma.
  • 11 March 2020 – State Duma approved the Bill.
  • 16 March 2020 – The Constitutional Court of Russia approved the amendments and said that they were not illegal.
  • 22 April 2020 – A nationwide referendum to clear the Bill might be held on this day, which marks Lenin’s 150th Birth Anniversary. The date might change due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Putin’s KGB Career – In 1975, Putin joined the KGB and trained at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. After training, he worked in the Second Chief Directorate (counter-intelligence), before he was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where he monitored foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad. In September 1984, Putin was sent to Moscow for further training at the Yuri Andropov Red Banner Institute. From 1985 to 1990 he served in Dresden, East Germany, using a cover identity as a translator. Masha Gessen, a Russian-American who has authored a biography about Putin, claims “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB”. According to Putin’s official biography, during the fall of the Berlin Wall that began on 9 November 1989, he burned KGB files to prevent demonstrators from obtaining them. Putin resigned from the KGB in 1991, following the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, as he did not agree with what had happened and did not want to be part of the intelligence in the new administration. More Info