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
Russian MFA Spokesperson Maria Zakharova posted on her Facebook page a photo with American actor Steven Seagal, who also holds Russian citizenship, and was recently appointed as the Russian Foreign Ministry's envoy for Russian-US humanitarian ties.
Caption: "Fellow co-worker"
(Source: Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, August 4, 2018)
In The News:
Steven Seagal's Appointment
(Source: Twitter.com/sseagalofficial, August 5, 2018)
Russian political expert Fyodor Lukyanov sarcastically commented on Steven Seagal's appointment in his Telegram channel:
"The idea to appoint Steven Seagal as a special MFA representative for humanitarian relations with the US is apparently a brilliant response to the scandalous Washington policy of sanctions rattling at every step. Moreover, in contrast to the aggressive Americans, Russia, as usual, bets on constructive [measures]. I'd like to hope that this appointment will be the trail blazer of the following equally flawless personnel decisions. Some candidates come to mind:
"Roman Polansky - a special representative for promoting traditional values. His firm position on this issue is widely known, and because of that he's being persecuted in the US for a long time.
"Woody Allen - a special representative for motherhood and childhood matters. His life and artistic career have proven beyond any doubt how much he cares about this issue.
"Quentin Tarantino - a special representative for legal issues. In his latest movies 'Django Unchained' and 'The Hateful Eight,' the director has vividly raised the issue of law and order.
"Finally, Sasha Grey [the former American adult film actress] - a special representative for mutual cultural penetration. because she has brilliant command of this skill.
"In order to get appointed the above mentioned cultural figures should first obtain Russian citizenship. Yet as practice demonstrates – that's not a problem."
- Steven Seagal hopes that in his new capacity he can strive for peace and harmony and will manage to achieve positive results. (Tass.com, August 6, 2018; read the full article)
- Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international committee of Russia’s Federation Council, said that the decision to appoint celebrated actor Steven Seagal as a Russian foreign ministry envoy for Russian-US humanitarian ties was a well-grounded step as Moscow sees it as a message to all those in the US who don’t want bilateral cooperation to degrade. (Tass.com, August 5, 2018; read the full article)
Russian Journalists killed In Central African Republic – Russian Military Expert Warns Khodorkovsky: Sooner Or Later We'll Show Him His Place
On July 31, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the death of Russian journalists Orkhan Djemal, Kirill Radchenko and Aleksandr Rastorguev in Central African Republic.
The journalists travelled to the country on behalf of the Center for Investigative Journalism, supported by the former CEO of the Russian oil giant Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in order to prepare a documentary movie about Wagner, the Russian private military company, reportedly operating there.
Commenting on the death of the three journalists, MK.ru military expert (Colonel res.) Viktor Baranetz wrote:
"Regarding the killing of the three journalists, it is clear and obvious that Khodorkovsky's struggle with the so-called Kremlin regime migrated to other continents. The dirty game has begun, that has already resulted in dead bodies. Khodorkovky is no stranger to it. When it served him [previously]. he with the help of his killers assassinated unwanted people in broad daylight. Khodorkovsky's hands are bloody well beyond an elbow but I believe up to the shoulder.,,
"As an officer, I'll tell you, that private military companies are of colossal help to Russian and Syrian armies. Those are the people who stand for Russia's state interests. And let the liberals whine as much as they want. As for Khodorkovsky – he's a thief and a sly weasel, convicted by the court for stealing billions of dollars from the public purse. Don't you forget, the Kremlin has told him multiple times: 'Don't meddle politics, don't you buy caucuses and political parties in the Duma as if they were a bunch of potatoes. Yet, Misha [Khodorkovsky] has decided to meddle–so they grabbed him by his soft spots …
"I think that at the moment we have not gotten around to silence Khodorkovsky once and for all. Never mind, sooner or later we'll put Misha in his place. It's just that at the moment we have more serious tasks to accomplish."
(Tsagrad.tv, August 1, 2018)
New Round Of US Sanctions
Sanctions Against The Moscow-Based Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank
Commenting on the new round of US sanctions against Russia, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov stated:
"The sanctions against the Moscow-based Agrosoyuz commercial bank are the 54th time since 2011 that the United States has resorted to bullying our country. Even the American politicians suffering from an acute form of Russophobia have started to admit that none of their attempts to put pressure on Russia have worked. However, they continue to hold their ground with fanatical persistence. The only result they have managed to achieve so far is to demonstrate their helplessness.
"Incidentally, the same goes for a host of draft laws that have been produced by the US Congress of late. Those who drafted them are seeking to impose further sanctions on our country, being blinded as they are by their firm belief in the inviolability of US hegemony. Of course, their attempts to stop Russia from following its path and dictate to us are doomed to failure. The absurd performances put up by senators and congressmen for the American public in a bid to have the voters better remember them in the run-up to the November elections cannot but make us smile."
(Mid.ru, August 3, 2018)
US Sanctions On Russia Linked To The Skripal Case
Official US State Department statement: Imposition of Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act Sanctions on Russia
State department background briefing: Previewing the Imposition of Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Sanctions on Russia
Commenting on the new round of sanctions linked to the Skripal case, the Russian Embassy in Washington stated:
"US sanctions assembly line increases its production output. On August 8, 2018 our Deputy Chief of Mission was informed in the State Department of new 'draconian' sanctions against Russia for far-fetched accusations of using the 'Novichok' nerve agent against a UK citizen S. Skripal and his daughter by the 'Russian Government.'
"We grew accustomed to not hearing any facts or evidence. The American side refused to answer our follow-up questions, claiming that the information is classified. However, we were told that the US has enough intel to conclude that 'Russia is to blame.'
"For our part, we reiterated our principle stands on the events in the UK, which the Embassy had been outlining in corresponding letters to the State Department. We confirmed that we continue to strongly stand for an open and transparent investigation of the crime committed in Salisbury and for bringing the culprits to justice.
"We suggested publishing our correspondence on this issue. No answer has followed so far."
(Washington.mid.ru, August 8, 2018)
Russian Expert Timofeev: The US Policy Is Becoming Less And Less Logical
Ivan Timofeev, Valdai Club program director, stated:
"The US policy becomes increasingly illogical, in contrast to the more pragmatic EU policy. It's like a cowboy in a saloon, who shoots from his two revolver in all directions purely for the sake of shooting".
(Kommersant.ru, August 9, 2018)
Commenting on the new round of sanctions linked to the Skripal case, Senator Konstantin Kosachev told Kommersant:
"I suspect that it's just a banal intention to rhetorically support America's closest ally in Europe [Britain], and to raise the intensity of an anti-Russian campaign for other NATO members, who are getting out of hand by demonstrating their resentment over US sanctions policy against Iran."
(Kommersant.ru, August 9, 2018)
Senator Sergey Ryabukhin, chair of the Federation Council Budgetary committee, opined:
"The responsible approach to the new sanctions will be sensible and rational… We should adapt our economy in a controlled manner, calmly and thoughtfully – we should develop the full production cycle in various spheres including aerospace and eliminate our dependence on foreign components."
(Ria.ru, August 9, 2018)
MP Vladimir Gutenev, chair of the Duma Legislative committee for the military–industrial complex, said:
"Paradoxically, such measures stimulate diversification and import substitution –more articles will be produced for the civilian sector. Sanctions are not good news, but they don't arouse special concern."
(Ria.ru, August 9, 2018)
Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the new American sanctions "absolutely illegal and inconsistent with international law". Their linkage to the Salisbury case was totally unacceptable.
(Ria.ru, August 9, 2018)
In her August 9, 2018 briefing at the MFA, spokesperson Maria Zakharova lashed out at the American sanctions and branded them as incompatible with the averred American objective of improving relations with Russia:
In this context, assurances by the US administrations that it will nevertheless continue working towards improving relations with Russia look bizarre. This is unconcealed hypocrisy. Unfortunately, Washington’s deeds suggest otherwise. One gets the impression that the US and its allies have adopted a new standard of conduct, levelling at Russia all sorts of odious accusations unsubstantiated by any evidence."
Zakharova accused Britain and the United States of collusion and a division of labor in the affair:
"Obviously, this is part of one big game, where the roles are divided between London and Washington. We first saw it when Russian diplomats were expelled. Our diplomats in London and Washington were hit hardest, but what did Washington have to do with this? Another example is the sanctions package being developed. We can see that the sanctions policy is the focal point of an entire group of political lobbyists in Washington. Novichok and the “Skripal case” are simply fed into that sanctions machine. We can talk about classic collusion between the United States and Britain, their political elites that can influence this situation. It’s all part of the same collusion. It has nothing to do with the legal aspect of the case, international law, investigation or what actually happened. This we do not know, but if someone knows, please share reliable information, not fictitious and planted stories."
(Mid.ru, August 9, 2018)
- The Chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Financial Markets Committee Anatoly Aksakov: "If the unproven meddling in US election gives them the right to cause economic damage and deal a blow to the nation’s welfare, it’s not surprising that Russia could draw up measures, including military and strategic ones, which can result in irreparable losses for the Americans’ economy and profits." (Tass.com, August 6, 2018; read the full article)
- On August 9, shares of Russian companies fell on Moscow Exchange on fears of US sanctions. (Tass.com, August 9, 2018; read the full article)
- The Deputy Speaker of Russia’s State Duma Irina Yarovaya said that the United States has shown itself as the mastermind behind the "staged" poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia by imposing fresh sanctions on Russia. "The Novichok operation was carried out by those who are not strangers to launching sanctions around the globe. It never bothered them that, even after being caught red-handed when accusing other countries for no good reason, they push ahead with their efforts aimed at destroying these countries and peoples. Such brainwashing on the part of US politicians and tycoons has long been in the criminal zone from the perspective of international law. Playing into their hands in the sanctions frenzy against Russia means the loss of security and economic well-being of the whole world," she emphasized. (Tass.com, August 9, 2018; read the full article)
Russian MFA's Reaction To The Renewed US Sanctions On Iran
Commenting on the reinstatement of exterritorial US sanctions against Iran, the Russian MFA stated:
"We are deeply disappointed with US efforts to reinstate national sanctions against Iran. The introduction of the first package of US restrictions aims to thwart the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which Washington unilaterally withdrew on May 8. This is a graphic example of Washington’s continued violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and trampling upon the norms of international law.
"We denounce any unilateral sanctions in circumvention of the UN Security Council’s decisions, all the more so if they have exterritorial applications and affect the interests of third countries, as is the case with the current US restrictions against Iran.
"The JCPOA has completely proved its worth and efficiency. The IAEA regularly confirms that Iran unfailingly honors its obligations. The Plan’s verification, control and monitoring measures are being carried out in full. This itself reliably attests to the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
"The international community must prevent these significant achievements of multilateral diplomacy from being sacrificed to US aspirations to square political accounts with Iran on issues that have nothing to do with the JCPOA. As long-term experience shows, it will be impossible to secure concessions from Iran using pressure tactics.
"We are confident that the JCPOA has a sufficiently large margin of safety. The parties to this agreement have the potential for overcoming the current difficulties. We reaffirm our commitment to the JCPOA.
"We will do everything possible in the interests of preserving and effectively implementing the JCPOA in full measure. We are implementing the relevant measures to protect trade and economic cooperation with Iran at national level. Together with other responsible parties to the JCPOA, we continue to elaborate collective decisions aiming to preserve and expand international trade and financial cooperation with Iran. These tasks were set by foreign ministers of states, parties to the JCPOA, in a statement on the results of its Joint Commission’s meeting on July 6. We believe that this work meets the interests of the entire international community."
(Mid.ru, August 7, 2018)
Senator Paul's Meeting With Russian Senator Kosachev
On August 6, the Republican Senator Rand Paul, who favors improved ties with Russia, met with Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee. Commenting on the meeting, Kosachev stated: "Mr. Paul has access to the highest US leadership, he's close to Donald Trump - we count on him for passing on our messages ( regarding an intention to establish a dialogue)."
Kosachev added that he learned through Paul that despite numerous suggestions provided to the US Senate by the Federation Council during recent years, the Senate international affairs committee had been unaware of such suggestions. Kosachev opined that somebody pigeonholed these suggestions and they "were gathering dust" and had never come to the attention of the Senate International Affairs Committee leaders..
(Ria.ru, August 6, 2018)
Senator Rand tweeted that he had delivered a letter from President Donald Trump to President Vladimir Putin’s Administration.
The influential Telegram channel Nezygar later published Trump's letter to Putin. The channel is believed to have excellent leaks from the Presidential administration:
News In Brief
- Former Sobchak campaign manager faces criminal charges over four-year-old Internet posts. On August 7, police in Tuva detained and interrogated Oyuma Dongak, the journalist who headed Ksenia Sobchak’s local presidential campaign headquarters earlier this year. Dongak says she faces felony charges for promoting Nazism because of two WWII-era photos she shared on Vkontakte back in 2014. (Meduza.io, August 7, 2018; read the full article)
- The Russian Ministry of Education recommends creating teams in all schools, which will be responsible for first response in case of emergency, evacuation of pupils and personnel and "thwarting rumors and panic in social media accounts". According to the ministry the recommendations intend to provide "children psychological security." (Iz.ru, August 8, 2018; read the full article)