Sida's work in Russia
On 24 February, Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine. Sida has adapted its work and continues to support democracy and human rights. No funds go to state actors; only independent actors who clearly oppose the war in Ukraine receive support. Russia has been moving in an authoritarian direction for a long time, and in both 2021 and 2022 the human rights situation deteriorated sharply. The country has major environmental problems.
Sida's cooperation in Russia 2022
Development cooperation in Russia
Sida exclusively supports civil society and media that take a stand against the war. Many of them cannot continue to operate in the country because they are actively taking a stand against the war. The media are blocked and many human rights activists have fled the country.
Continued support for human rights work, and in particular freedom of expression, is essential for building peace in the future. Sida supports actors who defend democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The aim is to increase the chances of democratic change in Russia in the long term.
Democracy, human rights, the rule of law and gender equality
Russia’s development began to move in an authoritarian direction at the turn of the millennium. In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Ukrainian Crimea and on 24 February 2022 launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. No presidential election in Russia has been free and democratic since the 2000 elections, according to international observers.
Since the outbreak of war, freedom of expression and assembly has been severely restricted. Criticism of the armed forces can carry long prison sentences. Speaking out in private can also be punished. Corruption has long been widespread, as has discrimination against minority groups.
Society is characterised by traditional stereotypical gender norms. Thousands of women lose their lives every year due to violence by a man close to them and many perpetrators go unpunished. Experience shows that war generally has a negative impact on gender equality. Women become more vulnerable as they have to carry the entire family’s burden of support, and gender-based violence increases when traumatised men return from the front. The widespread abuse of civilians by Russian forces in Ukraine is expected to lead to a sharp increase in gender-based violence in Russia in the coming years.
LGBT people have long been discriminated against and since 2013 there has been a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” aimed at children. The law and the negative image of homosexuals spread by both state-controlled media and politicians have created a difficult situation for LGBTQI people. In December 2022, the law was extended to adults, which could mean a total ban on speaking about homosexuality in public.1
Supporting civil society working for human rights
Sida supports organisations working for democracy and human rights in Russia. We support democracy campaigners and human rights defenders, including those working for the human rights of women and LGBTQI people. Those who fight for equality and against discrimination are oppressed in the same way as other human rights defenders. Many of them take great risks in order to continue their work. The possibilities of achieving concrete results are increasingly limited. Civil society continues to spread knowledge about human rights, to help the vulnerable and to document human rights violations.
Supporting freedom of expression
Much of the remaining independent Russian media were forced out of the country as early as 2021. They continue to operate from other countries and reach out to the Russian population with information on the situation in both Russia and Ukraine. The Russian state’s disinformation about Ukraine and the West has laid the groundwork for the population to accept the war. Countering disinformation that increases antagonism is important for achieving peace in the long term. That is why support for independent Russian media is important.
Climate, environment and sustainable energy
Protecting and managing natural resources has long been a low priority in Russia. Millions of people live in areas heavily affected by environmentally harmful industrial emissions. Since the outbreak of war, environmental standards have been lowered in favour of short-term economic development.2
Sida has been involved in environmental issues in Russia for many years, but most of its efforts were terminated after Russia’s large-scale attack on Ukraine. Sida’s climate and environment assistance has been successful, including a significant reduction in nutrient discharges into the Baltic Sea. After the outbreak of war in February 2022, Sida decided to put all environmental interventions in municipal infrastructure in Russia on hold.
Russia’s carbon dioxide emissions have fallen sharply since 1990 and remain the fourth highest in the world, after China, the US and India.7 Russia has large oil and gas reserves. This reduces the incentive to switch to renewable energy sources. Waterways and air are being degraded by emissions from industry, agriculture and communities. 97% of the Baltic Sea is flooded.
Supporting climate and environment
Sida continues to support actors working at the intersection of human rights and the environment. We also continue to support freedom of expression. Independent media play a key role in exposing environmental crimes, not least those engaged in investigative journalism.
Climate and environment results before 24 February 2022
Sida has for many years cooperated on environmental activities in Russia, including loans to rehabilitate municipal infrastructure in water and wastewater treatment.
All environmental activities in municipal infrastructure were put on hold after the outbreak of war in February 2022.
Contributed to the reduction of emissions in the Baltic Sea
Sida has contributed to the Helcom (Helsinki Commission) network, which includes all countries around the Baltic Sea. The aim of the support was to protect biodiversity and create a marine ecological balance in the Baltic Sea.
Sida has previously contributed to the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Kaliningrad and the renovation of a wastewater treatment plant near St Petersburg. Sida also helped improve wastewater treatment through the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) initiative, which has reduced nitrogen emissions in the Baltic Sea by over 6,700 tonnes per year, equivalent to untreated wastewater from more than 1.5 million people.
More efficient use of energy and reduced carbon emissions
Sida has supported several projects in cooperation with the Nordic Environment Bank Nefco to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. The funds in Russia were terminated in early March 2022 and the remaining funds will be repaid to Sida.
Sida has previously contributed to the reconstruction of the municipal district heating company in Gatchina to reduce carbon emissions. Another project we supported reduced black carbon emissions in the city of Ustyushna in Vologda. By burning locally produced biofuel in a new type of boiler with a filter, black soot emissions are minimised. The projects were carried out under the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) initiative.
Scope and governance of Sida's cooperation with Russia
The focus of the work is guided by the Government’s Strategy for Sweden’s support for democracy, human rights and the environment in Russia.
Strategy for Sweden’s support for democracy, human rights and the environment in Russia 2020–2024 on the Swedish government web page
Updated: January 12, 2023