The recent years have seen growing tension between Russian authorities and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Since accepting the Court’s jurisdiction in 1998, Russia has often only partially complied with its judgments. However, from the early 2010s the country’s authorities began voicing constitutional concerns over the ECtHR role. These concerns culminated in 2020 with the adoption of constitutional amendments, which allow domestic courts to effectively overrule ECtHR judgments. At the same time, Russia does not appear to seek exit from the ECtHR jurisdiction. Instead, as evidenced by the recent inter-state application against Ukraine, Russian authorities are keen to use the Court’s legal machinery to advance their agenda.
There is a growing body of literature focusing on relationship between the ECtHR and its member states. However, less attention is paid to balance of power among domestic actors determining the compliance with the ECtHR judgments. This is especially true when it comes to competitive authoritarian regimes such as Russia, leaving a gap in the scholarship. I address this gap, based on my personal experience in Russian judiciary and political-legal analysis. I will argue that representation before the ECtHR and implementation of its judgments allow institutionally weak actors to empower themselves. I am going to illustrate this argument with the examples of the Constitutional Court and the Prosecutor’s General Office.