I think that problem with Russian opponent in a game is that he presses you to counter him way to often. Your freedom to choose technologies is limited in a way that you must consider Russian tech pyramid in order to prevent Russian civ from gaining military or tech advance via army sacrifice method.
Example 1. Russia can produce a lot of low-level units and upgrade them for free just by stealing a tech for it from you in their movement phase. Although you also will be having the same upgrade technology, this is not that advantageous for you, if you have less units of that type. Also you loose your chance to have advantage over Russia in the next turn by having upgraded units. Plus Russia still gets to research a tech in Research phase. If the Russian opponent is going for military victory, it requires much less effort for him. Plus he always has a chance to gain a tech victory as a back-up, if the defence is too strong or there is a rival military strong player who is also going for military victory.
So you loose time, production (hammers) and opportunities either by withholding your tech progress in the desired way or dealing with Russian army figures. This is even a bigger concern if there are more than two players in the game.
Example 2. You can also counter the abovementioned Russian strategy by focusing on economic victory, which is most easily gained by controlling natural gold deposits, building banks and using certain great people and tech card abilities. Also, feudalism might help and certainly Panama canal wonder could (only that modern wonders are quite far away in the wonder card deck). But by doing so, particularly focusing on tech card abilities, you risk that other players might attack you, which will certainly happen once your aggresive opponents have noticed that you are close to economic victory. So you shouldn't forget about building and upgrading your army and defence system (walls, great generals, barracks, war academy, army figures, Himeji Castle, certain culture event cards and tech card abilities). However it requires certain technologies to upgrade your units and those tech cards are not the ones who can help you to gain economic victory.
It becomes even a greated challenge if there are 3 or 4 players in the game.
So my suggestion is that Russian army sacrifice ability should be replaced with something else or should be made more costly (e.g., 1 figures for level 1 tech, 2 figures for level 2 tech, 3 figures for level 3 tech and 4 figures for level 4 tech).