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.
Photos Of The Week
On December 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
At the air base, Vladimir Putin was met by Syrian Arab Republic President Bashar al-Assad, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and the Russian military group commander Sergei Surovikin. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin at the residence of the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on December 11. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
As part of his working visit to Egypt, Vladimir Putin met with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss the future of Russian-Egyptian relations in the spheres of politics, trade, economy, energy and cultue. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Comment Of The Week
Comment By The Russian MFA On U.S. Recognition Of Jerusalem As The Capital Of Israel
"On December 6, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. He also instructed the Department of State to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It has been pointed out that in making this decision President Trump is following through on his election campaign promise. At the same time, President Trump has reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to 'the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians' and willingness to support 'a two-state solution, if agreed to by both sides.'
"Washington’s decision has been sharply criticized and condemned by the Palestinians. President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas pointed out that the decision undermined international efforts towards a Middle East settlement. Palestinian factions in the PLO and Hamas have called for strikes and protest marches in the Palestinian territories – across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"Moscow is seriously concerned about Washington’s decision. We believe that a fair and lasting solution to the protracted Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be based on international law, including UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that provide for settling all aspects of the final status of the Palestinian territories, including the highly delicate issue of Jerusalem, through direct Palestinian-Israeli talks. The United States’ new position on Jerusalem can further complicate Palestinian-Israeli relations and the situation in the region. In this context, we urge all the parties concerned to exercise self-control and to refrain from actions that could have uncontrollable consequences. Special attention must be given to ensuring all the believers free access to their holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.
"Russia’s position of principle on this matter has not changed. It provides for promoting a lasting Palestinian-Israeli settlement that will bring peace and security to Israel within the internationally recognized borders and ensure the implementation of the Palestinians’ aspiration for an independent state of their own.
"On April 6 of this year, it was announced in Moscow that Russia sees East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and West Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an active member of the Middle East Quartet of international intermediaries, Russia will continue to provide assistance to the Palestinians and Israelis in their efforts to achieve corresponding agreements."
(Mid.ru, December 7, 2017)
Quote Of The Week
During a meeting of the Russian Public Council for International Cooperation and Public Diplomacy, dubbed "Russia And The U.S.: Problems And Prospects For The Development Of Bilateral Relations," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said:
"We [Russia and the U.S.] have probably entered a period, which is in many ways reminiscent of the Cold War era… The level of negative attitude towards Russia and the deliberate spread of anti-Russian sentiment, particularly in the media, cause concern… It is like a tsunami wave that has swept across America, and we need to figure out how it happened that these ideas managed to penetrated U.S. society so deeply… One of the unique characteristics of the period that our relations with the U.S. are going through is the absence of clear rules of the game that are recognized by both sides and the absence of a scheme that could be used to manage crises."
(Tass.com, December 5, 2017)
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov (Source: Russianembassy.org)
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is one of the most-quoted Russian officials. She is known for using colorful language when describing Russian foreign policy in her weekly press briefings. The following are Zakharova's quotes of the week from her press briefing:
Zakharova (Source: Mid.ru)
Commenting on the IOC decision to ban Russia from participating to the Winter Olympics as a country, Zakharova wrote in her Facebook account:
"We historically overcame lots of things, which were originated by our 'partners'. They just cannot take us down, no matter how hard they try. They did not take us down neither via a world war nor via the Soviet Union's collapse nor via sanctions. We always survive.
"There should have not been Russian sports anymore. Global forecasts did not predict Russia’s revival as a sports power: the youth was supposed to take to drinking, stadiums were supposed to become flea markets and coaches were supposed to train other [countries'] teams. But things they did not work according to this scenario. A new generation of athletes came to the fore…"
"Russia organized a truly excellent Olympic Games. Sport has developed into a national idea realized in tens of thousands of children’s sports clubs and schools, state-of-the-art stadiums and in people’s striving to be physically fit,
"They continually try to persuade us that everything we do is awkward: our life style, culture, history and now sports. Does it hurt? Yes, a lot. Our hearts and souls are with our athletes. Will we survive? Yes."
(Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, December 5, 2017)
In The News:
Russia In Syria
Putin's Visit To Syria
During his surprise visit to Hmeymim airbase in Syria on December 11, Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops upon completing the mission against ISIS.
The following are excerpts of Putin's speech in Hmeymim:
Putin: "Hello, comrades.
"The most important thing for a military person – and we are very much aware of this – is the defense of our Fatherland, our people. This is not just the purpose of military service, but also the purpose of life for those who have devoted themselves to serving their people.
"At the same time, a soldier is truly tested for loyalty to the Fatherland in a military operation fraught with huge risks to life and health. Here, in Syria, far from home, you are doing exactly that – you are protecting our country.
"By helping the people of Syria to maintain their statehood, to fight off attacks by terrorists, you have inflicted a devastating blow to those who have directly, brazenly and openly threatened our country.
"We will never forget the sacrifices and losses incurred in the struggle against terrorism both here in Syria and in Russia. However, it will not make us fold our hands and retreat. This is not in our peoples’ nature.
"On the contrary, this memory will continue to motivate us to eradicate this absolute evil – terrorism – whatever face it hides behind.
"Yes, the threat of terrorism around the world is still very high. However, the task of combating the armed groups here in Syria, the goal that needed to be addressed with the help of the large-scale use of the armed forces, has been largely resolved – and brilliantly resolved. Congratulations!
"… The Homeland is proud of you. I am convinced that you will always faithfully serve the Fatherland, defend and uphold our national interests, our country and its people.
"Syria has been preserved as a sovereign and independent state. Refugees are returning to their homes. Favorable conditions have been created for a political settlement under the UN. The Russian Centre for the reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria continues to operate in line with international agreements.
"The two bases, in Tartous and Khmeimim, will continue to operate on a permanent basis. If the terrorists raise their heads again, we will deal unprecedented strikes unlike anything they have seen.
"In just over two years, the Russian Armed Forces and the Syrian Army have defeated the most combat-ready group of international terrorists. In this connection, I have decided to redeploy most of the Russian military contingent from the Syrian Arab Republic to Russia.
"You are returning victorious to your homes, your families, parents, wives, children and friends…
"The Homeland is waiting for you, friends. Godspeed! Thank you for your service."
(Kremlin.ru, December 11, 2017)
See Video: 'Syria: Putin meets Assad at Russian military base in surprise visit to Syria' – In the video, around the 1:12 minute mark, it is possible to see that, after welcoming Putin, Assad tries to walk next to Putin, but he is stopped by a Russian army officers.
Assad-Putin meeting (Source: Kremlin.ru)
During his visit to Syria, Putin also met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The following are excerpts from the meeting's official transcript:
Assad: "It is good to see you, Mr. President."
Putin: "I believe I promised that I would come. It is good that we are meeting in such circumstances where we have things to celebrate. I am referring to the outcome of our joint work.
Assad: "Of course, these achievements and victories are very important to us. The very theme of our meeting today – the destruction of ISIS militants – is important for the entire world and makes it clear to the entire world that the states that are willing to fight ISIS, the very virus of radical terrorism, are up to the task.
For my part, I express my deep gratitude to you – on behalf of the people of the Syrian Arab Republic – for the role played by your Armed Forces."
Putin: "… This is, indeed, a meaningful outcome of our joint work. True, the threat of terrorism remains high. But the fact that we defeated ISIS, one of the main terrorist groups, here in Syria is extremely important for Syria, Russia, and the entire world.
"I hope that in conjunction with Iran and Turkey, as well as the countries contributing to the eradication of terrorism, we will go beyond just restoring peaceful life and put in place a political process to resolve the situation in Syria in general. We will manage to prepare for the Syrian National Congress, which we discussed in Sochi, and to launch the peaceful settlement process.
"I will have an opportunity to discuss this with the President of Egypt in Cairo and a little later with the President of Turkey. We will contact you following these talks, and I will inform you in detail about our common plans for achieving a final settlement."
Assad: "I believe your planned visits focus on further fighting and destroying international terrorism and, at the same time, beginning the process of a peaceful settlement in Syria.
"The victories that have been achieved will affect not only our state, but also all our neighboring states, so clearly the issues discussed in this format are important for the entire region.
Putin: "Exactly so, I agree."
(Kremlin.ru, December 11, 2017)
Russia Is Not Leaving Syria
Putin's mission accomplished visit to Syria does not signal the end to the Russian military presence in the country that may actually be enhanced. Putin is submitting to Duma ratification a treaty between Russia and Syria that will institutionalize the Russian naval presence in the Syrian port of Tartus until 2092. The Russian base will be expanded and modernized to service up to 11 Russian navy vessels and help guarantee stability.
The deputy chairman of the Federation Council's Committee for Defense and Security Franz Klintsevich explains that the Russian naval and air presence will act as a restraining factor in a region that is extremely important for Russia and that is never calm. He therefore hopes that Tartus will "develop into a full-fledged military base."
(Rbc.ru, December 13, 2017)
Russian Chief-of-Staff Gerasimov: All ISIS Units In Syria Have Been Destroyed
During the annual briefing for foreign defense attaches, Chief of Russia’s General Staff, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, stated: "All ISIS units in Syria have been destroyed, and the territory has been liberated."
(Tass.com, December 6, 2017)
Kurdish Formations Ready To Provide Security For The Russian Task Force
The Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides in Syria: "Kurdish formations are ready to provide security for the Russian force grouping located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates."
(Tass.com, December 4, 2017)
Mercenaries From Former Soviet Republics In Syria
The Latvian media outlet Baltnews.lv published an interview with a Russian mercenary of Estonian origin, who claimed that he was hired to fight in Syria for pro-regime forces by Russian speaking Arab men in Moscow. According to the mercenary, the squad was named "Turan" and it was comprised of fighters from the former USSR republics. The monthly salary was 15 thousand dollars. According to the mercenary, the Arab men who hired him wore a military uniform with Hizbullah patches on the sleeves. First, the mercenary was sent by flight to Beirut, where he received a uniform and ammunition and then he was dispatched to Syria.
(Baltnews.lv, November 28, 2017)
Putin shaking hands with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin's Visit to Egypt – Pravda: 'Moscow Has Been Gradually Increasing Its Influence On Egypt To The Detriment Of The United States'
On December 11, Putin also flew to Egypt. The Russian media outlet Pravda commented as follows:
"This could be just a coincidence, but the next day after Russia announced victory over terrorists in Syria, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Both of these events dramatically strengthen the role of the Russian Federation in the Middle East. The Arab world is looking up to Russia, and President Putin has arrived in Egypt to strengthen the strategic alliance with Egypt.
"During the Cold War, Egypt was a difficult partner for the USSR. In the middle of the 20th century, the Kremlin was supporting the young republic in its opposition to Israel and the West, and Egypt was reciprocating. In late September 1970, when Anwar Sadat came to power there, he distanced himself from Moscow and went on to rapprochement with Washington.
"Even though the Soviet-Egyptian Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation was signed in Cairo on May 27, 1971, the relations between the two countries had been chilly since the mid-1970s. Since 1975, Soviet and Russian leaders have never paid a visit to Egypt. Vladimir Putin broke the sad tradition only in 2005.
"After the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Russia started establishing constructive relations with the new government. These days, President Putin is in Egypt again, where he received a very warm welcome. Egyptian president welcomed Putin personally at the airport and took him to the presidential palace. Cairo residents carried placards saying: 'We are glad to welcome President of the Russian Federation and true friend of Egypt in the country of peace.'
"Egyptian newspapers also took efforts to give Putin a hearty welcome. All major Egyptian publications predictably wondered when Russian tourists were going to return to Egypt. This issue has become one of the most difficult one on the agenda of the talks.
"Since 2015, after the crash of the Russian passenger jetliner over the Sinai Peninsula, the air communication between the two countries has been suspended at the initiative of Moscow, and the tourist flow to Egypt has plummeted. Since then, the Egyptians have done a lot to meet various requirements of the Russian side to improve the security level of Egyptian airports. Russian security commissions have visited Egypt several times already, but they would always find various drawbacks.
"Following the talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Vladimir Putin stated that the authorities of Egypt had succeeded in raising the level of security at their airports. The head of the Ministry for Transport of the Russian Federation, Maxim Sokolov, who arrived in Egypt as part of the Russian delegation too, said that one only needs to settle certain formalities before Egypt may expect Russian tourists to return in 2018.
"In the long run, tourism was not the most important purpose for Putin to arrive in Cairo. The main topic of the talks was set by Donald Trump, who caused a wave of indignation in the entire Arab world having recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Putin's goal is to secure the role of an arbitrator in the looming historical dispute.
"Cairo has taken the side of Palestine. Egypt recognizes the right of Palestine to establish its own independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem. The decision of the U.S. president has ruined those plans, and both Palestine and Egypt expect that Putin will be able to use his influence and give the Palestinians another chance.
"Russia's victory in Syria showed the Arab world that the United States will have to take Russia's position into consideration in the Middle East. Egypt will not dare to confront Washington, no matter how hard they may try. Egypt will never stand up to confront Washington, no matter how the Egyptians may criticize Trump. In June 2017, Cairo was one of the seven closest allies of Washington in the Arab world that broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar.
"As for Russia, Moscow has been gradually increasing its influence on Egypt to the detriment of the United States. For example, Russia helps Egypt build its first national nuclear power plant with a capacity of 4.8 thousand MW, and Moscow is expected to give an export credit for this seven-year project.
"Last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a visit to Cairo, where he discussed issues of struggle against terrorism and military-technical cooperation. This year, Russia won a tender for the supply of the Ka-52A Katran deck-based helicopter for Egypt's Mistral helicopter carriers Mistral and discussed the possibility of purchasing a land version of the Ka-52.
"On November 30, the Russian government approved a draft bilateral agreement, according to which Russian military aircraft can use Egyptian airfields when carrying out military missions. During the visit to Egypt, President Putin may reach an agreement to establish a Russian military base there that would strengthen Russia's position in the Mediterranean even further."
(Pravdareport.com, December 12, 2017)
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7205, Russian Government Internet Portal: Russia And Egypt To Sign Pact Allowing Mutual Use Of Territorial Airspace And Military Bases, November 30, 2017.
Views From Turkey - Hurriyet Daily: 'Trump’s Jerusalem Act Might Perhaps Play A Role As A Facilitator In The Acceleration Of The Russian Advance In The Middle East'
Commenting on Putin's visit to Turkey on December 11, Turkish columnist Yusuf Kanli wrote in Hurriyetdailynews.com:
"Another very important diplomatic activity was the visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two countries have made up and have apparently put the crisis of the downing of the Russian jet behind them. Recently, the Turkish president and his Russian counterpart came together eight times and have frequently been discussing global issues over the phone.
"News of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria came when Turkey was preparing for Putin’s visit. Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s statement that the withdrawal was already underway was a surprise development for Ankara. The Russian leader was on a transit-summit with the Turkish leader on the way to a state trip to Egypt. Was Russia really withdrawing its troops from Syria? Was it meaningful to symbolically withdraw some troops but consolidate the Tartus and Hmeymim bases at the same time?
"Contrary to claims of a Russian withdrawal, the perception in Ankara appeared to be one of a Russia settling firmly in the Middle East, militarily and politically. In a way, the persistently wrong policies and undertakings by the U.S. appear to be facilitating Russian advances in the region. Trump’s Jerusalem act might perhaps play a role as a facilitator in the acceleration of the Russian advance in the Middle East and North Africa. Putin’s one-day Ankara trip and visit to Cairo were particularly significant at a time when the region’s political and religious personalities were rebuffing offers of meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
"Remarks by the two leaders at a press conference at the end of the Russian leader’s lightning speed Ankara trip showed that despite repeated expressions of displeasure from Washington and other NATO capitals, Turkey is determined to go ahead with the S-400 procurement and a deal will be signed within a few days. What might the repercussions be? Was the question of 'against which enemy is Turkey planning to use the S-400s systems?' that came from many NATO capitals really an exaggeration? Or, is there any validity to the worries regarding Turkish derailment?"
(Hurriyetdailynews.com, December 13, 2017)
In another op-ed, Turkish columnist Murat Yetkin wrote in Hurriyetdailynews.com:
"According to the prevailing atmosphere in Ankara, the Bashar al-Assad regime is moving out of Turkey’s threat and target perception, while Turkey is ready to welcome a Kurdish presence at the upcoming Geneva talks - with one big condition.
"Could these shifts be thanks to Russia? Yes, at least partly. After all, it has only become possible to reach this conclusion after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s one-day tour of the East Mediterranean on Dec. 11 covering Syria, Egypt and Turkey."
(Hurriyetdailynews.com, December 13, 2017)
Russia-U.S. Media War
Zakharova: 'U.S. Officials Have Set Their Minds To Finding More Ways To Create An Uncomfortable Environment For Our Journalists'
During her weekly briefing, FM Spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented:
"Again, we raise the question of the unprecedented pressure on the Russian media exerted by U.S. special services, not only with our U.S. colleagues but the international community as well. Just recently, and for a fairly long time before that, we have been talking about the rights of the reporters being violated, including in the wake of Washington's request to Russia Today television channel to register as a foreign agent and to disclose internal information. However, U.S. officials have set their minds to finding more ways to create an uncomfortable environment for our journalists. In addition to legislative pressure, the authorities of that country are practicing less formal, but, as they see it, more effective methods. Recently, representatives of Russian media, including in the United States, have been subjected to strong pressure by U.S. special services in the form of recruitment attempts.
"These attempts are numerous and come in multiple phases. These are the so-called 'approaches' made to representatives of Russian state and private media, including Russian journalists and representatives of Russian media outlets’ editorial boards. For obvious reasons, I cannot give out the names of the Russian journalists. I can share a specific case with you, though. First, the special services suggested that a Russian journalist begin cooperating with them, and did so more or less by the book, without revealing the true nature of such cooperation. Faced with an outright refusal, they changed tactics and offered money. Then, they moved on to psychological pressure, eventually stooping to banal threats. They went as far as invasion of privacy, including when the reporters were off duty, and made such approaches to family members who have no involvement in journalism.
"We consider all this part of a large-scale attack on freedom of speech, an information attack not only against Russia, but also an encroachment on freedom of speech worldwide.
"As we see it, Washington and the U.S. special services are becoming increasingly aware of it, and the media are just a tool they are using to attain their immediate goals. While, after such pressure, outright threats, and occasionally blackmail attempts, Russian reporters can promptly seek help at the Russian Embassy, a consulate or a representative office in any country and obtain the necessary protection and assistance, it is scary to even think about the situation the U.S. media have found themselves in now, since they are amenable to all kinds of pressure. Apparently, this is how the U.S. special services go about it…"
(Mid.ru, December 6, 2017)
- "Craig Caplan, Chair of the Executive Committee of the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association at the U.S. Congress, informed RT that its Capitol Hill credentials had been rescinded after the committee’s unanimous vote. The decision was taken because the broadcaster’s U.S. contractor, T&R Productions LLC, had registered with the U.S. Department of Justice as a foreign agent." (Tass.com, December 1, 2017)
- On December 6, the State Duma committee introduced a ban on entering the lower house’s building for U.S. mass media. (Tass.com, December 6, 2017)
- The Deputy Speaker of the Crimean Parliament Efim Fiks proposed that U.S. journalists, who want to cover Crimea, should sign a form, in which they commit to write nothing but the truth about Crimea once they get back to the U.S. The Crimean Vice-Speaker said:
“We are open [to cooperation], if the U.S. media want to come to Crimea. We will take them to all places, in order to see how happily the Crimeans live. However, we will take a signed commitment from them [in advance], that [when they get back home] they will write nothing but the truth."
(Gazeta.ru, December 2, 2017)
- The Russian Ministry of Justice compiled a list of media outlets, which are considered to be "foreign agents" according to a recent law. The list includes: "Voice of America", "Radio Liberty", "Current Time TV", "Idel. Realii", "Kavkaz.Realii", "Krym. Realii", Tatar –bashkir "Radio Freedom" ( Azatliq Radiosi), radio "Free Europe/Radio Freedom" and "Factograph" project.
The journalists of the aforementioned media will be banned from entering the Federation Council and Duma. According to Senator Andrey Klimov, chair of Federation Council committee on defending the sovereignty, the list includes U.S. propaganda media outlets, which are state-funded and broadcast in Russian. Klimov further continued: " CNN is not a propaganda channel, as are the other media, since it does not fall under this definition".
The Chairman of the Russian Federation's Commission on Information Policy, Alexey Pushkov warned that the list of outlets could be broadened if the U.S. persisted in the harassment Russian information outlets.
(Ria.ru, December 5, 2017)
Russia U.S. Relations – Reactions To Flynn's Guilty Plea
After Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI over Russia contacts, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, wrote in his Facebook account:
"If Flynn did not exist, he should have been invented… Having recently watched a CNN edition regarding the confessions of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, I paid respect once more to the cynical, but effective U.S. brainwashing mechanism. What did exactly Flynn confess? It's just that during the first 'interrogations' he did not fully disclose the details of his conversations with former [Russian] Ambassador to the U.S. [Sergey] Kislyak.
"Yes, this is serious from the point of view of the ethics of the highest echelon officials – it is inacceptable to conceal information under oath.
"Yet, this neither adds nor detracts from the 'Russian conspiracy' theory against the fundamentals of American democracy.
"These conversations cannot be regarded as a Russian attempt to meddle in U.S. internal affairs, even with the sickest imagination. On the contrary, it is Flynn, who, according to the conversations' details, tried to influence the Kremlin, through Kislyak which is fully compatible with his official duty, just as it is any Russian ambassador's duty to listen to the National Security Advisor of an elected U.S. President.
"That's it! Yet, the news item is being fed exclusively from the angle of 'Russian meddling'. By this perverted logic, if Flynn lied, then the Russian had definitely lied, since they always lie about everything – including the lie on their non-interference. They [the Russians] have definitely interfered since Flynn lied – it does not matter what is matter of this lie is …"
(Facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002123135703&fref=nf, December 2, 2017)
Commenting on whether phone conversations between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak had an influence on Putin’s decision to refrain responding to the sanctions imposed by the outgoing Obama administration, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said:
"The decision [not to respond to new sanctions at that moment] was made by Putin. It was his own decision and it could not have been tied to any requests or recommendations in any way… Whatever information Putin receives from his ambassadors does not concern anyone else. The president makes decisions entirely on his own. He is guided exclusively by Russia’s national interests, as he has said himself more than once."
(Tass.com, December 4, 2017)
Russia's Economy - Russia Exited Recession, Says PM Medvedev
Russia had exited the recession and resumed growth he promised a 3% income growth for the population. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged the problems of poverty levels but the situation was better than 10-15 years ago when those below the poverty line totaled 30 million. He added that where will be no problems paying pensions and payments will outstrip inflation.
(Interfax.ru, November 30, 2017)
- "The heads of four business associations have addressed a complaint to President Putin, saying that Russians' tax burden has become unmanageable," (Meduza.io, November 20, 2017; Read full article)
- "The Russian government has reportedly drafted a list of 126 companies (primarily enterprises owned or operated by the state) that will be permitted to reach state procurement deals in secret. Beginning on December 15, these companies’ contracts with the government will move to Russia’s platform for defense orders, where they won’t need to disclose their clients. According to Kommersant, the measure is most likely designed to counter future U.S. sanctions against persons and businesses with ties to the Russian government." (Meduza.io, December 8, 2017; Read full article)
Russia Criticizes Joint U.S. –Ukraine Black Sea Drills
On December 2, the Ukrainian Navy and the U.S. Navy destroyer ‘James Williams’ conducted joint exercises of the PASSEX-type in the Black Sea.
(Rt.com, December 4, 2017)
Senator Frantz Klintsevich, deputy chair of the Russian Federation Council's Defense Committee, said:
"We are unequivocally against this. This is a provocation that Russia considers to be an unfriendly measure by the U.S. … This is a provocation since the U.S. is partnering with an absolutely irresponsible Ukrainian leadership, which is guilty of war and ethnic cleansing in Eastern Ukraine."
Yuri Shvytkin, deputy chair, of the Duma's Defense and Security committee termed the exercises inadmissible as it was a further round of escalation in the Black Sea region. "It's obvious that nobody is going to attack them [the U.S. and Ukraine], yet possibly on their part they are harboring some aggressive plan".
Russia-Indonesia Relations - Tu-95 Strategic Bombers In First Ever Pacific Patrol From Indonesia
The Russian Defense Ministry informed:
"Two [nuclear-capable] Tu-95MS strategic bombers and two Il-76MD aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces flew from an airfield in the Amur Region to the Biak airfield in the Republic of Indonesia as part of an international visit."
(Tass.com, December 5, 2017)
On December 9, the Russian Defense Ministry also divulged:
"The crews of Tu-95MS strategic bombers made a flight from the Biak airfield [Indonesia] to their base in the Amur region [in the Russian Far East]."
(Tass.com, December 9, 2017)
Lt. Gen. Sergey Kobylash, commander of the Air Forces' Long Range Aviation division, said: "The goal of the flights is to train pilots in navigating in the southern hemisphere as well as confirm the reliability of the control systems. The support logistics of the Biak Airfield was also confirmed during the mission. The planes were prepared for the patrol on schedule."
(Rt.com, December 7, 2017)
Indonesia's Manuhua Biak Air commander Col. Fajar Adriyanto commented that the arrival of Russian planes was part of cooperation between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Russia that included choosing Biak as the exercise location. Col. Fajar Adriyanto: "The planes fly directly from Russia for 12 hours, and this will be the first time they have flown near the equator… They usually fly in temperatures of minus 37 degrees, now they will fly in plus 37 degrees. So it will really be a 100% change."
(Thejakartapost.com, December 5, 2017)
RT further described the Indonesia-Russia military cooperation: "The Indonesian military, currently, has a number of high-tech Russian military hardware in service, including Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets, Mil Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. Moscow and Jakarta are currently negotiating a contract for Su-35 fighters, which, if signed, will make Indonesia the second country after China to acquire the advanced Russian aircraft."
(Rt.co December 7, 2017)
A Russian Ilyushin-76 transport plane, carrying 81 Russian military personnel, landed at Franz Kaisiepo Airport in Biak, Papua on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. The plane carried Russian personnel, who stayed in Biak from Dec. 4 to 9 for navigation exercises and sightseeing. (Source: Thejakartapost.com)
News In Brief
- Vladimir Sudarev writing for the Valdai Discussion Club believes that Russia-Cuba relations are still far from optimal: "As for [Cuba's] relations with Russia, real large-scale shifts have not yet occurred despite overcoming the 1990s crisis and the resumption of cooperation in investment and other areas. It is enough to say that Russia's share of Cuba’s trade does not exceed 2%. In general, the real opportunities for bilateral cooperation are not fully used." (Valdaiclub.com, December 1, 2017; Read full article)
- Russian Patriarch Kirill: West's atheization process worse than what happened in USSR (Interfax-religion.com, November 22, 2017; Read full article)