Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest Russia-related news and analysis from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Photo Of The Week
In The News:
Putin’s Visit To Syria
Call For Cease-Fire In Libya
Putin’s Visit To Turkey
News in Brief: Putin’s Telephone Conversation With Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi; Putin’s Telephone Conversation With Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince; Putin’s Telephone Conversation With Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani
Putin’s Visit To Syria
Vladimir Putin visited the command post of the Russian Armed Forces in Syria. The Russian President and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad heard military reports on the situation in various regions of the country. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
At the Great Mosque of Damascus. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
At the Orthodox Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On January 7, on Orthodox Christmas day, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Syria. From Damascus Airport, Putin travelled to the command post of the Russian Armed Forces group in Syria, where he was met by Bashar al-Assad. The two leaders heard military reports on the situation in various regions of the country.
Later that day, a bilateral meeting was held between the Russian and Syrian delegations. During his talks with Bashar al-Assad, the President of Russia noted that it was now safe to praise the long distance travelled on the way to restoring Syria’s statehood and territorial integrity.
Bashar al-Assad expressed gratitude to Russia and the Russian military for their assistance in the fight against terrorism and the restoration of peaceful life in the republic.
After visiting the command post, the Presidents visited the Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. Vladimir Putin presented the mosque with a 17th century Quran as a memory of his visit. Afterwards, the President of Russia visited the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus, where he spoke with Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East.
(Kremlin.ru, January 7, 2020)
Meeting with President of Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad
Assad to Putin: ‘You Are Very Well Aware Of The Efforts Undertaken By The Russian Army In Conjunction With The Syrian Forces To Reach Their Objectives And To Liberate A Large Part Of Syria’
Putin: “Mr President, allow me first of all to thank you for your invitation to visit Damascus…
“As for Syria, your efforts and our joint work have dramatically changed things. Not only is there a dramatic change, we are witnessing the restoration of Syrian statehood, of Syria as a unified nation.
“There are many more issues to resolve, however in the north of the country, in the east, in the north-west and in the south. But what I was greatly pleased to see while being driven around Damascus was that life was coming back to the streets, which were actually bustling. There are a lot of cars on the roads; shops are open along with cafes and restaurants. But much is yet to be done to rebuild the Syrian economy…”
President of Syria Bashar al-Assad: “Thank you very much, Mr President. It is a pleasure to see you today here in the city of Damascus.
“On this holy day of Christmas, I would like to extend my greetings to you, your family and the entire Russian people.
“Just two years ago, only a few months ago, we drove through that district and here, where you are now, and we were constantly shelled.
“You are very well aware of the efforts undertaken by the Russian army in conjunction with the Syrian forces to reach their objectives and to liberate a large part of Syria.
“Now you have arrived, you have seen it with your own eyes. You do not need a current operational map; you can see that the country is returning to peace, which is the best measure of military success.
“We can see civilians, but we cannot see those who have helped bring about peace, because sadly, many of them have died, and many are still fighting on the frontlines.
“As I have said, whenever we advance and achieve success, the situation becomes more complicated, unfortunately, due to repeated attempts to bring back and elevate terrorists and terrorism.
“For that reason, I believe that your visit today is very important for us to be able to discuss the obstacles and difficulties that are hindering a political settlement and what we can do to coordinate our efforts to ensure continued success in our fight against terrorism.
“Once again, I welcome you and thank you for being here.”
(Kremlin.ru, January 7, 2020)
Speeches During Visit To Command Post Of Russian Armed Forces In Syria
Putin: ‘I Want To Emphasize Once Again That Here In Syria, You Are Not Only Helping The Syrian People… You Are Defending Your Home Country’
Putin: “Comrades, good afternoon.
“I sincerely greet all personnel of the Russian forces in Syria on the New Year and Christmas.
“You are celebrating these holidays far away from you families, your homes, and your country. And it is far away from home that you are defending our country and continuing the fight against terrorism.
“Much has been done over the past year. Military police are effective in the Golan Heights, in Palmyra, Aleppo, and other important regions of Syria. Pilots of the Russian Aerospace Forces conduct reconnaissance and provide air support to the Syrian army.
“Joint operations help eliminate the more dangerous terrorist commanders, which is what the Special Operations Forces have successfully accomplished.
“Off the coast of Syria, the Navy personnel are continuing to successfully defend our national interests in the Mediterranean…
“I want to emphasize once again that here in Syria, you are not only helping the Syrian people by liberating them from terrorist groups. Here, in Syria, you are defending your home country by preventing terrorists from reaching Russia and its neighboring countries.
“I wish you courage, happiness, and health. Thank you for your service.”
(Kremlin.ru, January 7, 2020)
Putin’s Visit To Turkey
Launch ceremony for TurkStream gas pipeline. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On January 7, Vladimir Putin arrived in Istanbul from Syria, where he met with Bashar al-Assad, and visited the command post of the Russian Armed Forces group in Syria.
On January 8, Putin attended the ceremony for launching the TurkStream gas pipeline and met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two sides discussed the prospects for developing Russian-Turkish cooperation and the situation in Syria and Libya.
The TurkStream project is a gas pipeline consisting of two lines with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas per year each. The first line is to ship Russian gas to Turkish consumers, the second one, to the countries of southern and southeastern Europe.
The ceremony was also attended by President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov.
(Kremlin.ru, January 7-8, 2020)
Speech At The Ceremony To Launch The TurkStream Gas Pipeline
Putin: ‘I Am Grateful For The Political Will Shown By The Turkish Leaders In Implementing Projects Of National Importance’
On January 8, during the speech at the ceremony in Instanbul to launch the TurkStream gas pipeline, Putin said: “… All those present at the official launch of the new gas pipeline, TurkStream, are witnessing a very important event not only for Russia and Turkey, but also for the states of southern Europe, for the entire European continent…
“The successful implementation of this grand joint project, a trans-Black Sea gas pipeline, clearly shows that the Russian-Turkish strategic partnership is producing significant, tangible results.
“Interaction between Russia and Turkey is growing steadily in almost every area. Despite the complex international situation, and the attempts of a number of global players to hinder the expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries, our work is proceeding steadily.
“I would like to note that Russia has been exporting gas to Turkey for 30 years, even though not everyone knows about it. It was initially shipped through the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline, then through the direct, transit-free Blue Stream pipeline. Last year alone, 24 billion cubic meters of fuel was delivered to our Turkish partners.
“Now Russian gas will be shipped to Turkey via a new route, the TurkStream. This is in many ways a unique deep-sea gas transportation system, unprecedented in some parameters. Two parallel lines with a capacity of almost 16 billion cubic meters of gas each have been built. This involved laying over 1,800 kilometers of pipes, some of them at a more than two kilometer depth. This was difficult, hard work. It is also a high-tech project because the gas pipeline runs at tremendous depth, as well as in a very hostile environment.
“The first line will deliver gas from the fields in western Siberia directly to our Turkish partners. The second one will cross Turkey to the Balkans, carrying fuel to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece.
“Again, the supply of Russian gas through TurkStream will undoubtedly be of great importance for not only the Turkish economy and the Black Sea region, but will also have a positive impact on the development of many south European countries, and will contribute to improving Europe’s overall energy security…
“Thanks to your high professionalism and your excellent dedicated work the TurkStream project was implemented with high-quality and in a timely manner. And, of course, I would like to express my gratitude to the Turkish government, the President of Turkey for the timely issuance of all the permits and licenses required for the pipeline’s construction. I just want to repeat what I said last time I was here: I am grateful for the political will shown by the Turkish leaders in implementing projects of national importance and meeting the national interests of their country.
“I am certain that in the future, Russia and Turkey will implement many more mutually beneficial joint projects, both in energy and in other fields. Together we can attain any complex and ambitious goal for the benefit of our two countries, our peoples, and for the benefit of our neighbors and partners. (Applause)
“I would like to say one more thing in conclusion: we live in a complicated world, and unfortunately in the region where we are located, we are seeing more indications that the situation is being further aggravated. But Turkey and Russia are modelling completely different behavior – an example of interaction and cooperation for the benefit of our peoples and the peoples of Europe, and the whole world. I know that we will act in the same way in the future and will achieve new successes.”
(Kremlin.ru, January 8, 2020)
Call For Cease-Fire In Libya
During the Putin-Erdogan meeting in Istanbul, the two leaders agreed for a cease-fire in Libya by midnight on January 12.
"We have decided to take the initiative and, as intermediaries, call on all parties in Libya to stop hostilities as of 00.00 hours on 12 January, declare a sustainable cease-fire, supported by the necessary measures to be taken for stabilizing the situation on the ground and normalizing daily life in Tripoli and other cities, and immediately come together around a negotiating table with a view to putting an end to the sufferings of the Libyan people and bring back peace and prosperity to the country," a joint statement issued by the two leaders said.
The joint statement also said:
"We reaffirm our strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya. Lasting peace and stability in the country can only be achieved by a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process based on sincere and inclusive dialogue among Libyans."
The two leader then declared their support for the Berlin Process, which "aims to create a conducive atmosphere to revitalize the U.N. facilitated political process, and remind that the Process can yield tangible results, with the involvement and commitment of Libyans and neighboring countries."
(Dailysabah.com, January 8, 2020)
On January 11, Putin held a telephone conversation with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the initiative of the Turkish side. The presidents continued their exchange of views on the situation in Libya based on Russian-Turkish agreements reached at their meeting in Istanbul on January 8. Russia and Turkey’s commitment was reaffirmed to comprehensively facilitate a political settlement of the Libyan conflict. Vladimir Putin briefed Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the results of his talks with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and his telephone conversations with a number of regional leaders. (Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020; read the full statement)
On January 12, the ceasefire in Libya and in the Idlib de-escalation zone in northern Syria introduced at the initiative of Russia and Turkey is largely holding, Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article)
The Libyan National Army (LNA) loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has declared a ceasefire in the western part of the country starting midnight on Sunday local time (01:00 Moscow time), the army’s spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari informed. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article)
Units of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord have violated the ceasefire several times since its declaration, commander of the Western district of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Mabrouk al-Gazavi stated. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article)
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj has declared ceasefire as part of an initiative proposed by Russia and Turkey, the cabinet said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article)
Vladimir Putin held talks in the Kremlin with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, who was in Russia on a working visit on January 11.
Putin said: “… The focus during the discussion of the international and regional agenda was on Libya where, unfortunately, large-scale hostilities are ongoing, terrorist activities are on the rise while the economy and the social sphere are in decline, to everyone’s regret. All that undermines security and stability not just in that region but also has negative implications for Europe. I mean illegal migration, smuggling, and arms and drug trafficking.
“It is crucial to put an end to the armed confrontation between Marshal Haftar’s Libyan National Army and the Government of National Accord of Mr Sarraj, to establish ceasefire and take steps to restart the political process with the ultimate goal of overcoming the split inside the country and forming national state institutions. It is these goals that we highlighted in the joint statement made recently by President of Turkey and me, calling on the conflicting sides in Libya to cease hostilities starting at midnight today. I gave a detailed account to the Federal Chancellor of the work we did in Istanbul.
“We consider Germany’s initiative to hold an international conference on Libya in Berlin to be timely. For the Berlin conference to yield solid results it is necessary to ensure the participation of the states that are really interested in helping the Libya settlement, and the key issue is that its decisions must be previously agreed on with the Libyan parties. Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya, should also play a role in that…”
(Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020)
Germany hails Russian-Turkish initiative to push for ceasefire in Libya. (Tass.com, January 10, 2020; read the full article)
News in Brief:
Putin’s Telephone Conversation With The President Of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
On January 10, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The two presidents continued to discuss the situation in Libya, including with consideration to the joint statement made by the Russian and Turkish leaders during Putin’s visit to Istanbul on January 8. Both sides stressed the need to step up international efforts with a view to resolving the crisis in Libya by peaceful means, by facilitating political dialogue between the sides to the conflict. (Kremlin.ru, January 10, 2020; read the full statement)
Putin’s Telephone Conversation With The Crown Prince Of Abu Dhabi
On January 11, Putin had a telephone conversation with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The conversation focused on the Libyan issues. Putin updated Mohammed Al Nahyan on the results of the talks with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and spoke in favor of accelerating efforts aimed at securing prompt ceasefire in Libya and facilitating the peace process between the parties to the conflict. (Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020; read the full statement)
Putin’s Telephone Conversation WithThe Emir Of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani
On January 11, Putin had a telephone conversation with Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The two leaders had a thorough exchange of opinions on the developments in Libya with due account of the agreements reached in Istanbul, and spoke in favor of the cessation of hostilities and initiating a peaceful settlement of the conflict. (Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020; read the full statement)