The President of the Russian Federation is the head of state and guarantor of the Constitution and of human and civil rights and freedoms.
The President is elected for a 6-year term by the Russian Federation’s citizens on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.
“In performing my duties as the President of the Russian Federation, I pledge to respect and protect the rights and liberties of every citizen; to observe and protect the Constitution of the Russian Federation; to protect the sovereignty and independence, security and integrity of the state and to serve the people faithfully.”
The status of the President of the Russian Federation is defined in chapter four of the Constitution.
The President shall be the head of state and the guarantor of the Constitution and of civil and human, rights and liberties. He shall take measures to protect the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, its independence and integrity, and to ensure the concerted functioning and interaction of all bodies of state power.
The President shall define the basic domestic policy guidelines of the state.
The President shall define the basic foreign policy guidelines of the state.
The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The President shall resolve issues of citizenship of the Russian Federation award state decorations, and grant pardons.
Under the Constitution, civil rights and liberties are to determine the purpose, content and application of the country's laws, as well as the activities of all governmental bodies. The observation of these rights and liberties is to be ensured by the justice system. The Constitution assigns the President a special role in this sphere. The words about his duty to protect and uphold the Constitution, respect and protect civil rights and liberties and to serve the people faithfully are an important part of the text of the presidential oath, which the President takes before the people at his inauguration.
In order to ensure that civil and human rights and liberties are respected, all governmental bodies must perform their constitutional duties within the bounds of their authority. The President is to ensure that this is the case. For this purpose, the Constitution grants him special powers to ensure the concerted functioning and interaction of all governmental bodies.
In protecting civil and human rights and liberties, the President relies on the entire system of state power. His role as the guarantor of human and civil rights and liberties presupposes a constant concern for the effectiveness of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of power, without direct interference in the areas of their jurisdiction.
Being officially distanced by law from all branches of power, the President drafts and issues legal regulations, discharges leadership duties, settles disputes and ensures that the Constitution is observed. In order to fulfill his responsibility to protect civil and human rights and liberties, the head of state interacts with the Government (the Cabinet and federal governmental bodies of the executive branch), federal courts, the public prosecutor’s office, law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The President is responsible for ensuring that the constitutions and legislation of Russia's constituent territories do not contravene the Constitution of the country, federal laws or the aim of ensuring and protecting civil and human rights and liberties. If they do, the President shall have the right to demand from any governmental body of the Russian Federation or one of its constituent territories that it respect civil and human rights and liberties and, if they are violated, that they be restored in full. In doing so, the President has the right to take the most forceful measures at his disposal, including the issuance of obligatory executive orders.
The President exercises his authority as the guarantor of civil and human rights and liberties through his right to submit draft legislation. In addition, he issues decrees protecting the legal rights of both individuals and specific groups and ensuring all individual, political, social and economic rights.
The power of the President is limited by the Constitution. Many Russian citizens interpret the President’s duty to protect the Constitution and human and civil rights very broadly. They often appeal to him with their complaints, for example, about the decisions of law-enforcement agencies or even court rulings. The President, however, in accordance with the constitutional separation of powers, has no right to act as a substitute for the functions and powers of these bodies. The general scope of the President’s authority is determined by the principle of the separation of powers and the constitutional stipulation that the decrees and orders of the President may not contravene the Constitution and federal laws.
The protection of the nation's independence, sovereignty and integrity, the prevention of aggression against Russia and its allies and ensuring the peaceful, democratic development of the country are fundamental national interests. State sovereignty is upheld by the authorities through their federal governmental bodies.
The President is the guarantor of the nation's sovereignty. He defines basic military policy guidelines, endorses the National Security Concept and the Military Doctrine and heads the Armed Forces, other troops and military units, as well as agencies and forces that ensure national security. The President also conducts negotiations and signs international treaties ensuring Russia's sovereignty.
The President sanctions measures to guarantee national security. The President forms, reorganizes and abolishes national security agencies and forces that are subordinate to him. In the event of aggression against the Russian Federation or an immediate threat thereof, the President shall introduce total or partial mobilization, martial law and statutory acts of wartime; shall form governmental bodies with executive powers for the period of wartime; and, as the Commander in Chief, shall give orders to conduct military operations.
As the guarantor of the state's integrity, the President shall ensure that the constitutions, laws and regulations of Russia's constituent territories do not contravene the country's Constitution or federal laws. The President has the right to suspend laws and regulations issued by the executive bodies of Russia's constituent territories if such laws and regulations contravene the country's Constitution, federal laws or international obligations.
The constitutional legal status of the head of state predetermines the scope of his authority in ensuring a uniform and stable system of state power and its effective functioning on the basis of its separation into three independent branches: legislative, executive and judicial. The President shall ensure that all governmental bodies execute their constitutional duties within the bounds of their authority. The active coordinating role of the President is realized both in the system of checks and balances — which ensure a balance of power among federal governmental bodies — and in the relations between governmental bodies of the Russian Federation and those of its constituent territories. Being officially distanced by law from all branches of power, the President drafts and issues legal regulations, discharges leadership duties, settles disputes and ensures that the Constitution is observed. The procedures for exercising such authority are specified in federal constitutional laws and federal laws.
Under the procedure stipulated by the Constitution, the President exercises his right to submit draft legislation, as well as the right to sign federal draft legislation into law or to veto it. This ensures the effectiveness of the President's role in lawmaking. The decrees and orders of the President shall be binding throughout the Russian Federation. The President shall ensure the uniformity of the system of executive power as it pertains both to the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and to the joint jurisdiction of federal and regional government. If the Government issues resolutions or executive orders that contravene the Constitution, they may be repealed by the President.
The President's constitutional powers to ensure the concerted functioning and interaction of all governmental bodies involve nominating candidates for official state positions, who must ultimately be appointed by parliamentary vote. The President shall submit to the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, nominations for judges of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Arbitration Court, as well as for Prosecutor General. A proposal to relieve the Prosecutor General of his duties must also be submitted to the Federation Council. The President shall submit to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, nominations for appointment to the office of the Chairman of the Central Bank, and shall likewise submit to the State Duma any proposal to relieve the Chairman of the Central Bank of his duties.
As the guarantor of the Constitution and the entire system of constitutional law, the President shall ensure that the constitutions, laws and regulations of the constituent territories of the Russian Federation be in full compliance with the country's Constitution and federal laws.
The President shall have the right to suspend laws and regulations issued by executive bodies of Russia's constituent territories if such laws and regulations contravene the Constitution, federal laws or international obligations of the Russian Federation, or violate human and civil rights and liberties, pending the resolution of the issue in an appropriate court.
In order to settle differences between governmental bodies of the Russian Federation and governmental bodies of the constituent territories of the Russian Federation, and also between governmental bodies of two or more constituent territories of the Russian Federation, the President may apply conciliatory procedures. If no decision is agreed upon, the President may turn the dispute over for review to an appropriate court of law.
The constitutional powers of the President in defining the basic domestic policy guidelines follow from the President's status as the head of state, who ensures the concerted functioning and interaction of all bodies of state power. The legal framework of this presidential prerogative is conditioned by the fact that basic policy guidelines must be in compliance with the Constitution and federal laws.
Under the Constitution, the President is not empowered to determine the full range of short-, middle- and long-term objectives and targets of domestic policy, but only its basic guidelines. They are to be implemented both by the President himself and by the governmental bodies of the Russian Federation within the bounds of their authority. The extent to which the President may give direct orders on implementing his domestic policy guidelines is indissolubly linked with the principle of the separation and independence of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of power.
The President's right to give direct orders on implementing domestic policy is most fully realized in his relations with the Government. The President has the authority to determine the composition of the Government and the procedures adhered to in its work. As the head of state, the Commander in Chief and the Chairman of the Security Council, the President has the right to preside over meetings of the Government and to give orders to the Government and to federal bodies of executive power in charge of defense, security, domestic and foreign policy, preventing emergency situations and providing disaster relief. The President shall also present annual messages on the budget to the Government.
The implementation of the basic domestic policy guidelines set by the President is much more complicated and multilayered as it pertains to the Federal Assembly. Like the Government, the parliament plays an active part in defining the basic domestic policy guidelines: It adopts federal laws, resolutions, statements and declarations.
The President's fundamental positions on domestic policy issues are expressed in his written decisions regarding draft federal constitutional laws and draft federal laws, as well as his letters explaining the reasons for rejecting draft federal laws. The President may veto legislation passed by the chambers of the Federal Assembly. To override a presidential veto the chambers must reconsider the legislation and approve it by a majority specified by law.
Within the bounds of the authority granted to the head of state by the Constitution and other laws, the President also shapes the basic domestic policy guidelines by issuing legal regulations and through organizational and regulatory activity, such as issuing decrees and executive orders. The President's position on basic state policy guidelines is laid out in a key document, the Address to the Federal Assembly. The Constitution stipulates that the President shall present annual statements to the Federal Assembly on the situation in the country and on the basic directions of state policy.
Since 1994 the President has annually addressed members of the Federation Council and deputies of the State Duma, presenting his assessment of the situation in various spheres of public life and formulating his views on fundamental aspects of state policy. The priorities outlined in the address are important guidelines for the Federal Assembly and the Government. The President's position on issues of domestic policy is taken into account by both the parliament and the Government in planning law-making activities, and by lawmakers in determining their positions on draft legislation. The President's assessments and priorities as formulated in his address significantly affect public opinion on key aspects of domestic policy. According to existing practice, the President formulates basic domestic policy guidelines not only in decrees and addresses, but in other public appearances as well. These texts are available on the President's official web site.
To help the President exercise his constitutional authority in defining domestic policy, the State Council, a permanent advisory body, has been established.
The President is invested with extensive rights to implement the state's foreign policy. It is the head of state who largely determines Russia's position in international affairs. The President represents the Russian Federation in international relations, conducts negotiations and signs ratification documents. In practice, the President's constitutional authority in the realm of foreign policy is exercised in the form of various ongoing activities. First and foremost this involves negotiations with the heads of other countries during their visits to Russia and the President's visits abroad. An accepted practice has become ”comparing notes“ on various international policy issues with foreign partners over the telephone. Another active means of international communication is the exchange of messages. All these activities are the result of painstaking work, through which Russia's foreign policy positions are drawn up.
The President shall appoint and recall diplomatic representatives of the Russian Federation to foreign states and international organizations. These appointments are preceded by consultations with the respective committees or commissions of the chambers of the Federal Assembly. The President signs international treaties. International treaties of the Russian Federation are an integral part of Russia's legal system.
According to existing practice, the President formulates the basic foreign policy guidelines in his annual addresses to the Federal Assembly and in other public appearances. These texts are available on the President's official web site.
State honors of the Russian Federation are the highest form of official recognition given to individuals for service to the nation in the fields of defense, state-building, economics, science, culture, art, education, health care, public safety, rights advocacy and charity.
The state honors of the Russian Federation include the title of Hero of the Russian Federation, as well as orders, medals, emblems and honorary titles.
New state honors and awards are instituted by the President, who also presents these honors to the recipients.
The President has established a Commission for State Honors, which works on a voluntary basis, to objectively assess potential recipients.
The right to citizenship is an inalienable right of every individual and was recorded as such in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The Constitution of the Russian Federation and Russian legislation on citizenship fully ensure adherence to the principles and regulations of international law on citizenship and human rights. One manifestation of this is the fact that the Constitution entrusts the issues of citizenship and political asylum to the President — the guarantor of human and civil rights and liberties.
The President's powers in dealing with citizenship issues is set out in the federal law ”On Citizenship.“ The President ensures the development of a uniform state policy on citizenship, based on relevant legislation and the practical activities of governmental bodies responsible for these issues. The President shall hand down decisions on granting citizenship to foreign nationals and stateless persons, as well as restoring Russian citizenship or granting permission to relinquish it.
The President establishes a Commission for Citizenship Issues, drawing on representatives of federal authorities, scholars and public figures, working on a voluntary basis, to provide information and analysis on citizenship and asylum issues. The commission also submits proposals to improve relevant legislation and harmonize state policies on citizenship. Under the law, the commission reviews applications submitted to the President and provides him with proposals and draft decrees.
The procedure for granting political asylum to foreign nationals and stateless persons is defined in a statute approved by the President on July 21, 1997. Political asylum can be granted to a person who is being persecuted in his country of origin for social or political activities and/or beliefs that do not contradict the generally accepted democratic principles of the international community.
The right to request a pardon is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Criminal Code and the Criminal Law Executive Code, which governs prisons and other punishment for criminal offenses. Article 50.3 of the Constitution states: ”Anyone convicted of a crime shall have the right … to request a pardon or the commuting of a sentence.“ Article 71 of the Constitution states that pardons fall under federal jurisdiction. In other words, issues of pardons can be resolved only at the highest level of federal authority — specifically, by the President.
Under the Constitution, the President holds the exclusive right to grant a pardon. In accordance with Presidential Decree No. 1500, issued December 28, 2001, on setting up pardons commissions in the constituent territories of the Russian Federation, a pardon may be granted to: individuals who have been convicted by Russian courts for criminal offenses and are serving their sentences on Russian territory; individuals who have been convicted by foreign courts and are serving their sentences in Russia in accordance with international treaties to which the Russian Federation is a signatory; and individuals who have served a sentence but whose conviction remains on record.
As a rule, pardons are not granted to: convicts who have knowingly commited a crime while on parole; convicts who repeatedly violate prison rules or other regulations while serving their sentences; convicts who have previously gotten an early release from prison (or waiver of other court-imposed punishment); convicts previously released through amnesty; convicts who have previously.
Both in pre-revolutionary Russia and in the Soviet period, the head of state traditionally has been the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Today the President of Russia is also authorized to head the Armed Forces. In peacetime, the head of state exercises general political supervision of the Armed Forces, while in wartime he oversees the defense of the state and its Armed Forces in warding off agression. The President's powers as Commander-in-Chief are determined in the federal law ”On Defense“ (Articles 4 and 13).
In exercising political supervision of the Armed Forces, the President, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, endorses the Military Doctrine of Russia, the concept and plans for building the Armed Forces, economic mobilization plans, civil defense plans and other laws and regulations involving military organization. The head of state also endorses all arms-related regulations and the regulations of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff. The Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff are directly subordinate to the President. The President issues annual decrees concerning the draft and the reserves, and signs international treaties on joint defense and military cooperation.
Under the Constitution, the President is vested with the exclusive right to impose martial law. The legal basis of martial law is defined in the federal constitutional law ”On Martial Law“ of January 30, 2002. Under the Constitution, the approval of a presidential decree on the introduction of martial law falls under the jurisdiction of the Federation Council. If the Federation Council rejects the President's decree, such a decree is terminated the day after this resolution is passed by the Federation Council. Pursuant to Russia's international obligations concerning the introduction of martial law, the President shall notify the UN Secretary General and inform the Council of Europe about any deviation from Russia's obligations under international treaties resulting from temporary restrictions on the rights and liberties of Russian citizens.