March 6, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 7928

After Threatening The U.S., Russian State-Owned Media Say It Was All 'A Joke'

March 6, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 7928

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin's February 20, 2019 speech at the Federation Council, 20, there was an increase in belligerent broadcasts from Russia.[1]

It should be noted that in his speech, Putin commented on the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty, and warned Washington against deploying medium- and short-range missiles in Europe: "I am saying this directly and openly now, so that no one can blame us later, so that it will be clear to everyone in advance what is being said here. Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapons that can be used not only in the areas from which we are directly threatened, but also in areas that contain decision-making centers for the missile systems threatening us."[2]

A few days later, on February 23, the St. Petersburg Concert Choir performed a song about a nuclear submarine preparing to bomb the U.S, titled "On the Wages of Servicemen." The performance took place at St. Isaac's Cathedral in the city, and was part of Defender of the Fatherland Day celebrations. The song, written in 1980 by Andrei Kozlovsky, states: "On a submarine with a nuclear motor – yes, with a dozen 100-megaton bombs... I called to the gunner: 'Set the target to Washington city'... In the skies is my friend Vovochka… and his hatches aren't empty... I'm sorry, America... Five hundred years ago, you were discovered in vain... Burn in half the land of adversary!"[3]

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Meanwhile, Russian TV anchor Dmitry Kiselev said, in a segment titled "Target Selected" on the Vesti Nedeli show, that American medium-range missiles deployed in Europe could reach Russia in 10 to 12 minutes and that in the event of an attack, Russia would attack not the country where the missiles are deployed but the decision-making centers on U.S. soil. Pointing out the Pentagon, Camp David, Fort Ritchie, McClellan AFB, and the Jim Creek Navy installation on a map of the U.S., Kiselev explained that Russia could strike these locations in four minutes and 36 seconds from Russian submarines armed with Russian Zircon hypersonic missiles. The missiles, which can fly at Mach 9 (over 7,000 miles per hour) and have a range of 600 miles, are deployed 250 miles from the American coasts, outside the 200-mile-wide U.S. exclusive economic zone. Addressing the U.S., he asked: "Do you really need to deploy missiles in Europe that are aimed at us?"

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below

The same week, Russian state-owned TV aired other shows mentioning a strike against the U.S. However, less than a week later, the channel backed down from its anti-U.S. rhetoric, after realizing it had sparked an uproar in Russian and international media. In early March, Russia-24 TV aired a lengthy story on the St. Petersburg Concert Choir's performance, stating that it was all a joke; the song's writer, Andrei Kozlovsky, was a guest on the show. The program host criticized the West and Russian liberals for having no sense of humor. Another Russia-24 TV host on the show, Anton Podkovenko, stressed that this was simply Cold-War-era humor.

Even Dmitry Kiselev stated that his "Target Selected" segment on Vesti Nedeli had not been meant as a threat, and added that the enumeration of possible U.S. targets for the Russian missiles was "an anti-military statement." On the choir's song, he added: "They were joking. Well, let's joke. What else should we do? Should we remain grimly serious and wait for war? No, we are calm. We can afford to make such jokes."

Below is the transcript of the story by Russia's state-owned Russia-24 TV on the St. Petersburg Concert Choir's performance of the song "On the Wages of Servicemen."[4]

Russia-24 Host: "Maybe Someone Just Has No Sense Of Humor?"

Russia-24 host: "We are beginning with cultural news, in a sense. This is the video everyone is talking about today: It features St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg and a music performance scheduled to coincide with Defender of the Fatherland's Day... They sing perfectly, coherently, and beautifully... Meanwhile, everyone is arguing about the content [of the lyrics].

"Deacon Andrey Kuraev was among the first to post [the video] on his Livejournal. He's been recently specializing in lay life, not clerical life, and is actively looking for negative moments in Russian reality. He resents the cultural capital's applauding of the streetwise proletariat and 'first to hit' approach. Moreover, he unequivocally hinted at the Third Reich and Hitler Youth songs. He said that their spirits are similar, and there were comments on standards, propaganda, and brainwashing... But everything is different in reality. Anton Podkovenko has the details. Hello, Anton."


Anton Podkovenko: "Hello."

Russia-24 host: "Maybe someone just has no sense of humor?"


Anton Podkovenko: "It seems so. We spoke to the author of that song. It was written about 40 years ago. It is called 'On A Submarine.' This is the first line of the first verse. This is the irony of the times of the Cold War which shook up the modern media."

Andrey Kozlovsky, who wrote the song: "I wrote it when I was a second-year student at the Leningrad Forestry Academy in 1979-1980. It was like a merry marching song. It was a response to all those textbooks on fire and technical training. I don't understand what there is to criticize here, it's a joke."

Andrey Kozlovsky. (Source:

Anton Podkovenko: "And the media is filled with indignation. They are talking about the embodiment of Russian aggression."

Vladimir Begletsov, artistic director and chief conductor of the St Petersburg Concert Choir: "Those who are criticizing us for performing this song didn't find it appropriate to think that it is indeed a joke, first and foremost, and that they shouldn't look for any implications. Maybe some people don't get the joke, or don't like it. What can we do about it? Everyone is subjective."

Vladimir Begletso. (Source:

Vladimir Begletsov, artistic director of the Smolny Cathedral Chamber Choir. (Source:

Dmitry Kiselev: It Was "An Anti-Military Statement"; "They Were Joking – Well, Let's Joke"

Anton Podkovenko: "The song made it to the top because it was performed against the background of big politics, and the recent review of the capacities of the new Russian hypersonic missile Zircon on a federal program. They can reach American strategic command centers. It caused a major stir."

Dmitry Kiselev, Vesti Nedeli host: "It reminds me of the reaction to my statements about radioactive dust as a retaliatory blow. Actually, it was nothing new, for Americans nor for us. But for some reason, it was interpreted as a threat to America. I stressed that it was supposed to be a retaliatory blow, and that the statement wasn't meant to be a threat but an anti-military statement. Then, I urged to think about what Americans did. Now, the scenario is absolutely the same. I enumerated five decision-making centers; they were the same ones Putin mentioned in his address, and to which he pointed on the map. It turned out to be a very sensitive and painful issue for some reason. I think that it was an anti-military statement. That's a necessary clarification."

Dmitry Kiselev. (Source:

Anton Podkovenko: "About that song, they are also saying that joking in a church is blasphemy. So they understand that it's a joke. But they don't seem to understand what St. Isaac's Cathedral is. It's also a museum and a cultural space for concerts, for example. [The choir] is a classical choir that performed a repertoire chosen by its artistic director. But the program is usually agreed upon together with the memorial museum's director."

Yuri Mudrov, St. Isaac's Cathedral State Museum director: "This piece of music wasn't listed in the concert program. It was performed at the discretion of the artistic director, as an encore. I can't understand at all why the artistic director did such a stunt. I don't think there was a malignant intention to extremely politicize it. Well, I don't know."

Anton Podkovenko: "The program included many songs, from Vysotski to Pakhmutova. 'The Black Tulip' by Rosenbaum didn't confuse anyone, and this is a serious song about war. But they shouldn't have sung about a submarine..."

Mikhail Snelnikov-Orishak, political analyst: "The missile is slowly floating away. Don't expect to see it again. We feel a little sorry for America, Better things are yet to come, of course. I hope that I won't be accused of inciting an aggressive war. But this is our Soviet folklore. Do we need to ask for anybody's permission to sing those songs? Well, that's pretty weird. It's making a mountain out of a molehill."

Mikhail Snelnikov-Orishak. (Source:

Anton Podkovenko: "The St. Petersburg concert choir has been singing songs by Andrey Kozlovsky for the past 10 years. They performed this in the Grand Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic on the Day of Submarines, for example."

Dmitry Kiselev: "They were joking. Well, let's joke. What else should we do? Should we remain gravely serious and wait for war? No, we are calm. We can afford to make such jokes."

Anton Podkovenko: "Political and military-technical rivarly has escalated around the world. This is a fact. But it's unlikely to be a cause for treating a musical joke as a scenario for a third world war. Or a call to start it."

Russia-24 host: "That was Anton Podvorenko on aiming at Washington."

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