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.
Quotes Of The Week
Commenting on an Instagram post from Damascus by the secretary of the ruling United Russia Party’s General Council Andrey Turchak, Pskov Mayor Ivan Tsetsersky wrote:
"Dear Andrey Antolyevich, take care of yourself! There’s no reasoning with the fucking Yanks. They’re so full of shit that it would be easier to wipe them from the face of the Earth, but the Lord forbids it! Again, be careful! We need you! I need you!”
(Meduza.io, April 16, 2018)
The mayor subsequently deleted his comment.
Head of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee Viktor Bondarev said:
"The creation of the multi-layered and highly efficient air defense system in Syria capable of protecting military and civil facilities from air attacks is possible with Russia’s assistance already now…
"The presence of highly efficient defensive weapons in the arsenal of any sovereign country will sober the hot heads of not only NATO’s military and generals."
(Tass.com, April 18, 2018)
In The News:
Reactions To New Economic Sanctions
Russian Media Outlet Vedomosti: The Government Is Ready To Provide Tax Relief For Oligarchs
The new round of the U.S. sanctions against Russian business and political figures has immediately inflicted massive losses on the relevant oligarchs both in terms of net personal worth and investments, while the Russian stock market contracted by more than 10 % in major indexes.
According to Vedomosti, in the first two days following the introduction of sanctions, the Russian oligarchs lost 16 billion dollars of their cumulative worth. The exchange rate of the Russian national currency vis a vis the U.S. dollar and Euro plummeted to a nearly two-year low.
The fast pace of the aftershock effect prompted the Russian government to contemplate the creation of safe zones (quasi economic offshores for designated businesses) in Kaliningrad and Rusky island. Though Russian financial instruments lack a definition of off-shore, the government is ready to provide tax relief for oligarchs, whose businesses sustained substantial losses.
(Vedomosti.ru, April 9, 2018)
According to another article, 7 of the wealthiest Russian oligarchs had, as of April 9, lost up to 10 % of their cumulative worth.
(Vedomosti.ru, April 10, 2018)
Russian financial analysts assess that the sanctions and tensions in Syria caused an outflow of foreign investments from Russia. The leading companies shed an estimated 7 to 12 % of their share value.
(Kommersant.ru, April 9, 2018)
Russian Analyst Bovt: The policy Of Turning A Country With A Multi-Million Population Into A Pariah State Can't Have A Good Result
Georgy Bovt, columnist for Gazeta.ru, and a RIAC (Russian International Affairs Council) expert, wrote:
"… In essence, the sanctions are introduced and will be maintained by the 'fact' of the current Russian regime's existence and in connection with its foreign policy, which Moscow started to promote since the beginning of 2000. Thus, in the current international relations system the sanctions are virtually "irrevocable" for the foreseeable historic future…
"We may also assume that there also will be more mutual expulsions of diplomats. Yet, proceeding in this way is doomed to a total impasse. We have already halted the discussion of questions which have been discussed even in the harshest years of the Cold War. For example, contacts regarding military –political situation are almost nullified, which is very dangerous for the two nuclear superpowers. The current diplomatic representation of Russia in the U.S. and vice-versa is so low and degraded, that it will physically impossible to expel someone in the near future. The only thing left will be to expel the ambassadors, lower the status of diplomatic representation and finally breaking off diplomatic relations.
"Theoretically, given the internal resources, the current Russian political and economic system may withstand sanctions pressure for years and decades. Yet, the most pressing goal in the foreign relations is to stop the descent to war without exaggeration. No one accepts war as the main objective and as a means for resolving the problems created, isn't that the case? Or, is there someone who assumes such a possibility?
"It seems like not too many politicians on the both sides really comprehend the very dangerous direction that we are proceeding on.
"The policy of turning a country with a multi-million population into a world 'pariah', by frantically and in a vile manner pushing it into the corner through extending sanctions on its ruling and business elites, can't – by definition – have a good result."
(Gazeta.ru, April 9, 2018)
Kommersant Columnist Drize: Russian Politiacians Are In Total Disarray
Kommersant's columnist Dmitry Drize wrote:
"It's something like a dystopia - the new reality has emerged: the sanctions risk developing into an irreversible process, 'Skripal's case' is just the beginning, there will be other (causes). Russia is being punished all the time for something or the other. One can't explain this away with the notion that by turning Russia into the word's bogeyman, the Western partners are trying to solve their internal problems. No, this verily looks like a genuine global plan for containing Russia, which has become operational. We have started all that by ourselves – Crimea, Donbass, U.S. elections – that is already secondary. It took them [the West] time to get into harness, but now the spring is gradually uncoiling. They also let us understand: they will punish us jointly, and we should not hope that Europe will act differently…
"The impression is that Russian politicians are in total disarray – they can't comprehend what just transpired and what to do. They live with the hope that everything will be solved by itself, or that the West will get scared after the Russian President meets his Iranian counterpart. Yet, it seems that our partners are not particularly disturbed [by such meetings].
"Our country lacks a response strategy to this containment process. Moreover, apprehension exists that our businessmen – 'not oligarchs' – will try to derive a maximum profit from falling into the sanctions list. A line for compensations will form at the Kremlin and the government entrance, saying we are victims help us – give credits, state contract awards and everything that can bring in a lot of money…
"Russia is yet once again at the cross-roads. Seemingly, it's her permanent state of affairs. But, highly likely, they (the government/elites) will try to explain us that there is no new reality, nothing is happening. There is the bad West and wonderful Russia. [They will also explain] that whatever happens – we should love the current political power, and it will think of something."
(Kommersant.ru, April 9, 2018)
Russian Expert Shokhin: Washington Wants To Turn Russia Into A Rogue State
Aleksandr Shokhin, head of the Russian Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs, stated:
"Any attempt to isolate Russia economically and politically, in connection with chemical weapons –be it the Skripals or Syria– demonstrate that it's not just about economic isolation – it manifests a desire to turn Russia into a rogue state. Even North Korea is viewed more sympathetically than Russia in the eyes of the White House and Congress"...We should take into consideration that the sanctions regime may be serious and prolonged. Thus, we can't dismiss things, as many have done previously starting with 2014 [post-Crimea sanctions] – that is a very dangerous thing.
(Ria.ru, April 10, 2018)
Duma Speaker Volodin: It Is Time To Respond To The Insolent U.S. Behavior
Duma's speaker Vyacheslav Volodin stated:
"It's high time to respond to the insolent U.S. behavior and their undisguised lobbying on behalf of their own interests…. It seems reasonable to resort to symmetric measures towards US products, US imports. We should do exactly the same in comparison with what they do to our manufacturers".
(Ria.ru, April 11, 2018)
Volodin subsequently added that Russia had always coped with economic pressure:
"In fact, pressure on our country has always existed. It existed in the Russian empire era, during the Soviet era and even in the 1990s..Yet, precisely today, when our country started to develop at a robust pace, to produce real competition, this pressure has acquired an undisguised and aggressive character".
(Ria.ru, April 11, 2018)
In an interview with the Russian TV Channel, Rossiya 24, Volodin also opined:
"We have started developing, that’s what this antagonism is about. If we were not developing, but degenerating, if we were not getting stronger, nobody would have applied these sanctions… Sanctions are slapped on those who are getting stronger, more successful…
"All pressure and all sanctions have one and the same aim - to prevent Russia from developing and gaining the influence it presently has in the world… [The U.S.] got used to ruling the world alone, they favor a unipolar world, and now a country emerges that can voice its point of view and begins to be factored in… At last Russia is playing the role we have been waiting for so long, it can assume this position and it will keep to its standpoint which is alternative. It is very topical."
(Tass.com, April 17, 2018)
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday.
"I can really confirm that the sanctions are to be imposed on Russia without any link to any realities. If earlier they used to say they punished us for Ukraine, now the wording has been changed dramatically: now they punish us for the mere fact of being on the global arena," she said in an interview with the Voskresny Vecher s Vladimirom Solovyovym (Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov) program on the Rossiya-1 television channel.
"This is exactly how they worded these sanctions: for Russia’s role in international affairs," she stressed.
- Battered Russian oligarchs, Moscow is building some ‘domestic offshore zones’ just for you. (Meduza.io, April 10, 2018; Read the full article)
- The situation in the Russian economy is exposed to emotional reaction of market participants to changes, but it has a sufficient margin of safety, Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. (Tass.com, April 10, 2018; Read the full article)
- Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asked the government to draft proposals on support for domestic companies exposed to new U.S. sanctions. (Tass.com, April 9, 2018; Read the full article)
According to the newspaper Vedomosti, the Russian Duma has postponed passing the countersanctions legislation for a month. Vedomosti reported Volodin's statement:
"This is a framework draft, which assumes providing the government with the authority ( to limit imports ), but only in case we can substitute any product through self-manufacturing or through imports from abroad, given the same product quality."
(Vedomosti.ru, April 16, 2018)
- Russia’s Central Bank is considering more restrictions on provision of foreign currency loans, the regulator’s First Deputy Chairperson Kseniya Yudaeva said Monday, adding that an accumulated debt in foreign currency creates additional risks amid the current environment. (Tass.com, April 16, 2018; Read the full article)
- Russia will probably be obliged to favor non-US products and reject deals with American businesses, Deputy CEO of Vnesheconombank Andrei Klepach told TASS. (Tass.com, April 13, 2018; Read the full article)
Italian Newspaper 'Il Giornale': "Sanctions On Russia Are Harming Us"
The center-right Italian newspaper Il Giornale published an article, titled "Sanctions On Russia Are Harming Us: Ever Since 2014 We Have Been Losing 3 Billions [Euros] Per Annum," criticizing Western sanctions against Russia.
Il Giornale wrote that the "diplomatic escalation" between the "so-called Western world" and Russia is worrying Italian firms that due to the sanctions and counter-sanctions, enacted ever 2014, have had to bear the cost of ten billion Euros in lost sales.
In 2013, before Crimea's annexation to Russia, Italian exports to Russia totalled 10.7 billion Euros, whereas, in 2017, exports declined to 7.9 billion.
According to Il Giornale, the situation could deteriorate further after the expulsion of Russian diplomats, following the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and of his daughter Yulia.
Rosario Alessandrelli, president of Italy-Russia Chamber of Commerce, said: "We are receiving an increasing number of calls from our associates who fear that a deterioration of the situation might harm Italy more than any other country."
Il Giornale stressed that Russia is one of the most important markets for Italian exports, particularly in the fields of design, food products and fashion, but the sanctions had the effect of ejecting from the Russian market many small and middle size Italian enterprises, which were exporting local products. It should be noted that, up to 2014, 50% of table grapes that could be found in Russian supermarkets, originated from the southern Italy. At present, this percentage is down to zero.
(Ilgiornale.it, March 27, 2018)
News In Brief:
- Google Maps users attack Russia's federal censor, reclassifying it as a ‘permanently closed’ ‘gay bar’ (Meduza.io, April 20, 2018; Read the full article)
- An FSB official says Russia's Telegram crackdown is really all about cryptocurrency (Meduza.io, April 20, 2018; Read the full article)
- Meduza.io: "According to data gathered by TGStat.ru, which collects information about tens of thousands of Russian-language Telegram channels, traffic on the instant messenger is going bananas this week, despite the government’s attempts to cut off access to the app." (Meduza.io, April 19, 2018; Read the full article)
- Russia's state censor blocks hundreds of thousands of IP addresses owned by Amazon and Google. (Meduza.io, April 16, 2018; Read the full article)
- According to Echo Moscow journalist and host Aleksandr Plushev, the blocking of IP addresses has caused the malfunction of almost all Microsoft websites, online payment systems and more. (T.me/PlushevChannel)
- Meduza.io reported that by April 17, 2018, at 15.00, Roskomnadzor blocked nearly 16 million IP addresses which belong to Google and Amazon. (Meduza.io, April 17, 2018; Read the full article in Russian)
- Moscow wants to rescue students abroad from ‘Russophobic’ reeducation in Britain. (Meduza.io, April 17, 2018; Read the full article)