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.
Homage To Russian Linguist Andrey Zaliznyak
Andrey Zaliznyak (Source: Peoples.ru)
On December 24, the famous Russian linguist Andrey Anatolyevich Zaliznyak died at 83 of the age. Zaliznyak was a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and was known for his work on the formation of words and accentology of the Russian language.
Quote Of The Week
Commenting on the upcoming Russian presidential election, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, interviewed on the Rossiya 24 TV channel said: "We see many worthy people, but we see no rivals. From my point of view, there is still no real competitor for Putin, not even close."
(Tass.com, December 14, 2017)
Peskov also said that Putin takes Trump's seriously: "Moscow considers all statements made on his [Trump's] official Twitter account to be official, so reports are presented to President Putin about them, as well as about official statements that politicians make in other countries."
(Tass.com, December 12, 2017)
In The News:
Navalny Banned From The Presidential Elections
Alexey Navalny. Source: (Newtimes.ru)
The Russian Central Electoral Commission (CEC) declined to register Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny's initiative group for his self-nomination in the 2018 Russian presidential election. The electoral commission cited a fraud conviction that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had previously set aside. In response, Navalny called for a boycott of the elections. The Kremlin via presidential spokesman Peskov declared its confidence that the decision to ban Navalny from the elections will not undermine their legitimacy or lower voter interest.
(Rbc.ru, December 26, 2017)
Ella Pamfilova, Central Election Commission chief, scuffled with Navalny during his attempt to get registered:
"During the Soviet times, I worked away in the factory for 12 years. Until now, I have not seen you earning money [for living], except that you are indoctrinating the miserable youth and collecting money unlawfully. We might have been interested more than anyone in letting you run, but what has the Central Electoral Commission have to do with the fact that you have a criminal record."
(Vedomosti.ru, December 26, 2017)
Alexey Venediktov, editor in chief of the liberal Echo Moscow radio station passed on in his Telegram account the comments of Nezavisimaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief Konstantin Remchukov:
"I think that Navalny represents a systemic threat [for the authorities], he is a threat for what the authorities consider social stability or relative social stability. He is leaning to the leftists, i.e. he does not want to improve the existing system, but rather to change the elites in a revolutionary way including the legal proceeding against Putin's closest circle – let's say, 100 or 110 families – and confiscating their money. This is unacceptable.
"Second, our country is constantly 'pregnant' with leftist ideas and simplistic scenarios for solving every problem: to expropriate and divide. That's why if this genie is out of the bottle, even if only during the elections campaign and even if he loses to Putin, eventually he stirs up the young people, aged 40-45 and under, who'll be ready to embark on revolutionary change. I think that the regime as a whole, and Putin personally, if we judge by his public appearances and his political actions, consider revolution a bad thing. Many in Putin's circle think that any instigator of revolution does not achieve the proclaimed goals. Moreover, not one of the revolutions' instigators survives for long after the revolution occurs, since in every revolution a counter-revolutionary element exists. Thus, everybody thinks that one more revolution, and precisely the revolutionary [spirit] that uproots the existing dominating elites will lead the country to catastrophe."
Alexey Venedictov added his own comment in his Telegram account:
"I keep insisting that the refusal to register Navalny as a candidate is legally questionable and politically shortsighted. The 2013 Moscow municipal elections demonstrated that Navalny enjoys substantial electoral support. The verdicts of the European Human Rights Court and the High Constitutional Court of Russia demonstrated that the criminal investigations against Navalny as well as judicial convictions were initiated and conducted with substantial deviation from the Criminal Law and are politically motivated and thus should be quashed.
"Any impartial observer, who is not a Navalny voter, will see with his bare eyes a political motive behind the decision to bar him from running. This is a wrong and toxic decision.
"Quoting the great Talleyrand, I'll underline: 'This is worse than a crime, this is a mistake'."
Aleksandr Ivakhnik, an associate of the Political Technologies Center, commented. "The Kremlin's goal is to organize a no-conflict campaign: to run as orderly campaign as possible without anything provocative." The expert also said that in case Navalny was allowed to run, he would have got an access to Federal TV channels, but the Kremlin "is not used to face critiques of the leader on federal broadcasts."
(Rbc.ru, December 25, 2017)
U.S. Observers Barred From Polling Stations During The 2018 Russian Presidential Election
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said: "We have sent a note to our U.S. colleagues saying that considering their refusal to grant access to our observers from Russian diplomatic missions in the United States to U.S. presidential elections, we will be guided in this issue by the principle of reciprocity."
(Tass.com, December 15, 2017)
Russia-France Media Wars
During her weekly briefing, Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova criticized France for "harassing" the Russian media:
"On December 18, officials from French President Emmanuel Macron's office denied RIA Novosti correspondent Viktoria Ivanova, who has been duly accredited for working in the country, permission to attend a protocol event at Élysée Palace. The Russian journalist was deprived of an opportunity to fulfill her editorial office's assignment and to prepare a report on the presentation of credentials by the newly-appointed Russian Ambassador to France Alexei Meshkov. In effect, this event was directly linked with the Russian Federation.
"It should be noted that this is by no means the first instance of French authorities' hampering professional activities of employees of Russian media outlets. Moreover, an openly hostile public atmosphere is being created around Russia's media resources. Less than one day after RT television channel obtained a broadcasting license in France, a certain conglomerate of French public activists asked Olivier Schrameck, Head of the Superior Audiovisual Council (Conseil Supérieur de L'Audiovisuel), to revoke the license. This was preceded by the August 2017 demarche of the presidential party En Marche! (Forward!) that urged French media outlets to stop systematically spreading information being submitted by RT and Sputnik.
"I would like to note two aspects. Obviously, the state in the person of French President Emmanuel Macron is sending a message. All explanations on this matter, including those via diplomatic channels, boil down to a quotation from his statement with regard to RT and Sputnik, as well as journalists working for this media concern. I would like to note once again that this implies the position of the head of France's executive branch with regard to journalists working there on a legal basis. Doesn't this amount to an example of the state's flagrant interference in the work of media outlets?
"Secondly, public representatives wrote a letter demanding that the media outlet be shut down and prevented from working. It appears that this letter was prepared on orders from above. On what is it based? The letter's style and spirit is based on the very same quotation from the statement made by French President Emmanuel Macron.
"Moreover, in its November 2 communiqué, the French mission to the OSCE stated openly that foreign journalists' accreditation did not automatically allow them to attend official events, and that personal invitations were needed. This event involved the Russian Ambassador who arrived for the relevant official ceremony but was unable to share his assessments and comments with Russian media outlets. In turn, this so-called invitation should not necessarily be issued to representatives of Russian media outlets, primarily RT and Sputnik, because, to quote French President Emmanuel Macron, these media outlets are not such but amount to organizations of influence and foreign propaganda. Can they explain on what specific criteria these findings were based?
"We have repeatedly spoken with French representatives and asked them questions and raised this matter during our conversations with Harlem Désir representing the appropriate OSCE division responsible for freedom of speech. We asked him whether the OSCE had any mechanism in the European region that could provide competent expert findings as to whether any media was a media outlet or a propaganda resource, and in what proportion should this be taken into account. We were told that there simply were no mechanisms and criteria in this field. On what information does French President Emmanuel Macron base his findings then?
"We perceive these moves as France's obvious disregard for its obligations in the area of freedom of the media.
"Regardless of whether this policy is Paris' isolated decision or an element of implementing a common EU project to counter Russia in the media sphere, these actions will certainly meet with a Russian response.
"I would like to ask one question to my French colleagues: How would Paris and the international community respond if French media outlets experienced the same attitude from Russian authorities? We are hoping very much to receive an answer to this question.
"We believe that any politically motivated restrictions of media outlets' work - and the French authorities' actions would be classified as such - deserve the attention of specialized international institutions. We are once again urging Harlem Désir, French citizen and the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media, to publicly comment on these developments.
"I hope very much that Mr. Désir's national affiliation will not hamper his efforts to exercise the functions of a representative of an international organization dealing with freedom of the media."
(Mid.ru, December 21, 2017)
Commenting on the fact that the license of RT TV Channel in France was revoked, Vice Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said: "If France resorts to such measures, and I hope that this will not take place, but if they do so, we will also take tit-for-tat measures. By the way, the French will lose more than the U.S. on our mass media market."
(Tass.com, December 24, 2017)
- "The Russian Justice Ministry has defined the scope of responsibilities for those mass media outlets that have been classified as foreign agents. The ministry's draft order posted on the draft regulatory legal acts website… states that foreign media outlets performing the functions of foreign agents are obliged to accompany their material distributed through mass media or online with 'reference to the fact that they are published and (or) distributed by a foreign mass media outlet performing the functions of a foreign agent'." (Tass.com, December 21, 2017, Read the full article)
- "It was only last month that Russia amended its media laws to apply foreign-agent regulations to news organizations, and the Justice Ministry has already added nine outlets to its registry. Now the State Duma has decided to expand the law again, this time by treating individual people as entire mass media outlets. Any person or entity flagged as a foreign agent, moreover, will also be required to establish legal representation in Russia, so they can cooperate with the Justice Ministry." (Meduza.io, December 21, 2017; Read the full article)
- Independent media outlet Meduza.io reviews how federal censors monitor and punish Russia's mass media. (Meduza.io, December 13, 2017; Read the full article)
Sanctions - Kadyrov Added To The U.S. Magnitsky List
Ramzan Kadyrov (Source: Diary.ru)
Commenting on Washington's decision to put him on the Magnitsky List of U.S-sanctioned Russian officials, the Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov said sarcastically in his Instagram account: "I'll have a sleepless night ahead, and tranquilizers won't help."
He then added: "I said it before, and I'll say it again for those with short memory. I wouldn't go to the U.S. even if I were promised all the gold and foreign exchange reserves in the country. Great Americans who are known all over the world visit me regularly as guests and some of them are even thinking about permanent residence here. They don't give a damn about all those sanctions."
He also pointed out: "It is said that these sanctions are linked to human rights in one way or another but what's the reason for targeting people on the other side of the planet for this when they are found in the White House and the Pentagon? The fact is the U.S. can't forgive me because I devoted my life to struggling with international terrorists, whose ranks included people fostered by U.S. secret services."
(Tass.com, December 25, 2017)
Russia's State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin commented:
"The United States, which declares aloud that it is the key anti-terror fighter, takes absurd decisions instead of building cooperation with those who have been successfully solving these tasks for a long time."
Volodin then added: "A tit-for-tat response and the principle of reciprocity will be observed."
(Tass.com, December 22, 2017)
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "We consider that these sanctions are illegal, unfriendly and we disagree with them… It is highly likely that reciprocity principle will be implemented."
(Tass.com, December 21, 2017)
Chechnya's press and information minister, Jambulat Umarov stated: "This [inclusion in the list] will give a boost to Kadyrov and will support his pre-New Year moods in a powerful way."
Umarov then added: "Lists of this kind help us get to know the true patriots of Russia. If Kadyrov were placed on the list of America's friends, then we would really have grounds for doubts but he and another four lucky men have turned up on the list of America's foes. This only means these people are loyal to their homeland and their President."
(Tass.com, December 20, 2017)
British FM Boris Johnson's Visit To Moscow
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov (Source: Mid.ru)
On December 22, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov. During the press conference Johnson jokingly said:
"I want you to know, to measure my trust, that as soon as I got into this excellent Foreign Ministry I immediately handed my coat, my hat, my gloves and indeed everything that was in my pockets, secret or otherwise, to Sergey Lavrov in the knowledge that he would look after it and it would come to no harm."
In reply, Lavrov said: "I can say that there was nothing in Boris's coat pockets."
(Rt.com, December 22, 2017)
Below are excerpts from the official transcript of the press-conference:
Question: "Is it true there are still areas where Russia has never been more hostile towards the UK since the end of the Cold War? Do you trust each other?"
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Boris Johnson): "Frankly, I do not recall any Russian actions that were aggressive towards the United Kingdom. We have never accused London of anything. On the contrary, we have heard accusations, some of which were quite insulting, that we support the 'criminal' Syrian regime that we are the aggressor and occupier, and we annex foreign territories. We have heard all of this, although we have regularly provided information on our position and the reasons for it, in relation to all the regional issues and on many other questions. We never resorted to aggression in replying to these more than aggressive statements made in London by media outlets and television channels, and by UK officials. We have always called for a consideration of the facts. I think that today we have come to an agreement on a number of issues on which we hold different positions, but these divergences will not prevent us from exchanging factual data on vital political and international issues.
"As for trust, I trust Boris. I trust him so much that I am prepared to Russify his name and to call him Borees."
Question: "And may I also ask, every time you've denied Russia's involvement in election hacking and democratic interference, the world hasn't believed a word you said. Why is that?"
Sergey Lavrov: "Today, I discussed with Boris the issue of our interference in all kinds of elections. The United States has been looking into it for a year now as part of the Senate hearings, a process led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, and other formats. Dozens of people have been questioned and have given their testimony under oath. Knowing the American system, when so many people are involved in any specific discussion about Russia's intervention, it is difficult to imagine that there hasn't been a single leak in almost a year. This looks nothing like the American political system. Until we are presented with concrete facts, we cannot discuss this topic seriously with anyone.
"I already said that we were also suspected of interfering in elections in France and Germany. With regard to Germany, there's an established fact: several years ago it was confirmed that the U.S. National Security Agency was eavesdropping on Chancellor Merkel's conversations from its headquarters in Germany. Everyone seems to think of it as a given and no one expresses any concern about it.
"With regard to your assertion that we are trying to convince everyone that we did not interfere, and the world does not believe us, by the 'world' you probably mean the community of Western nations. But there are many people even in the Western community who have common sense and who have their eyes wide open. For example, the person sitting next to me, Boris Johnson, recently stated that he has no evidence that Russia meddled in the referendum over UK's withdrawal from the European Union."
Boris Johnson: "'Not successfully', I think is the word that you need to use here."
Sergey Lavrov: "He's afraid that if he doesn't contradict me now, his reputation with his media back home will be tarnished."
Boris Johnson: "Sergey, it's your reputation that I'm worried about. I think it is very important that you should recognize that Russian attempts to interfere in our elections, in our referendum, whatever they may have been, they have not been successful. So you can reassure yourself on that point, and that's an important consideration. Because I think had it been successful, that would be an entirely different matter."
Sergey Lavrov: "Lack of action can never lead to a result, I agree with you. However, we would still like to be presented with the evidence of our intervention, even if unsuccessful. It is very difficult to talk without facts. I think you have made it up, your whole Western fraternity. Unfortunately, you've become hostages to this topic. It is difficult to get off the fence, once you get on it."
Question: "Recently, we have heard a lot of negative things about Russia from your British colleague, including talk of hostility, interference in the referendum in the UK, criticism of his colleagues who were in touch with the Russian media, specifically Russia Today. Did such rhetoric continue today, or was it left behind for the UK audiences?"
Sergey Lavrov: "You heard us discussing our talks and the subject of interference. We have yet to see a single piece of evidence. If there are a lot of them, then something would have leaked, but we haven't heard anything of substance so far other than groundless allegations to the effect that someone had posted some cheap ads in some social media.
"Of course, we are concerned that in this 'cradle of democracy', the United Kingdom, people are taking heat only for the fact of speaking with Russian reporters. This, indeed, should concern the current government, since it does not do much to uphold its good reputation.
"I want to note that Boris said that for the first time since 1945, in connection with the so-called 'annexation of Crimea', some rules were violated in Europe. Let me remind you that there was a referendum in Crimea. Those who really want to make sure that Crimeans have made their choice of their own accord, just go to Crimea, see things with their own eyes, and do not believe the propaganda supplied at every corner by our Ukrainian neighbors and the patrons of the current Kiev regime.
"What really cannot be disputed is that for the first time since 1945 in Europe, one OSCE country was attacked by other OSCE member countries. I am referring to the former Yugoslavia, which was completely unlawfully subjected to an aggression, dismembered and, without any referendums, the territory going by the name of Kosovo was declared independent. This is also a situation which came under review in the context of comparisons with the Crimean referendum, where, to reiterate, the situation was quite different and based on a declaration of will by the people and international law.
"At today's meeting, we did not shy away from acute topics, and you heard about it at today's news conference. However, I like the way we discussed it. At least, I do not feel any animosity and do not have any hard feelings myself. I think that this form of dialogue is very useful and will eventually allow us to move towards normalizing our relations for the benefit of our peoples and international cooperation."
Question: "Mr. Johnson, just a few days ahead of your visit a British parliamentarian warned you to be careful in Russia: not to use the phone to prevent wiretapping, not to drink vodka, to be careful with what you eat (risk of poisoning), not to take the lift alone. Has this advice proven useful? Did you really get an impression that it is so dangerous here?"
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Boris Johnson, who said that he gave his coat to Sergey Lavrov when he arrived): "I can tell you that there was nothing in the pockets of Boris' coat."
(Mid.ru, December 22, 2017)
Interview Of The Week
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov discussed U.S.-Russia relations in an interview with the RT channel:
Question: "President Trump said he planned to hold a meeting with President Putin on the DPRK, and the Russian President also expressed readiness for such a dialogue. When and where may such talks take place, and in what format? When it comes to improving relations between the two countries, we can count only on personal contacts between the two leaders or are there other options to prevent us from slipping into a new Iron Curtain situation?"
Lavrov: "Contacts between the presidents of Russia and the United States have intensified recently. Normally, they are not limited to anything in particular, but cover a wide range of bilateral and international matters.
"The date of the next one-on-one meeting has not been discussed yet. As you may recall, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump spoke at the APEC summit in Danang, where they approved an important Joint Statement on Syria. Since then, the heads of state have already talked by phone three times, on November 21, December 14 and 17. Of course, they touched upon the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
"In turn, Secretary of State Tillerson and I regularly discuss key items concerning the Russia-U.S. agenda. Additional expert consultations at the working level are held on the most important of them.
"The dialogue with the U.S. administration is also maintained through other departments, including the special services. During a recent telephone conversation, the Russian President thanked President Trump for the intelligence provided by the CIA, which helped arrest the terrorists who were preparing explosions at the St Petersburg Kazan Cathedral and elsewhere in the city. This is an instance of actual interaction between Russia and the United States.
"At the same time, we realize that there are many problems plaguing the relations between our two states, both old and new or, more precisely, artificially created ones. The main one is Russophobic hysteria which engulfed the Washington political establishment and took on a paranoid dimension, without exaggeration. It does not allow us to advance in the areas that are important for our countries, and creates additional tensions on the international arena.
"In the summer, the United States approved a law aimed against us titled 'Countering America's Opponents Through Sanctions. Everyone is aware of the situation where our diplomatic property was seized in an illegal, in fact, raider takeover.
"Our diplomats are under pressure from the FBI, and they run into obstacles as they try to do their work. Russian media, primarily, the Russia Today TV channel, are under pressure. This is only a portion of the extensive list of unmotivated anti-Russian actions. The lobby which is working against Russia is trying to make new unfriendly and even openly hostile steps.
"I do not think, however, that the term Iron Curtain is applicable to Russia-U.S. relations at their current stage. Rather, we can talk about another fit of McCarthyism, which the American society, it turns out, is still susceptible to. Personally, I am sure that similar to the witch hunt engineered by Senator McCarthy, with which everyone was fed up, in the current situation, everyone will see things for what they really are followed by recovery. However, it would be true to say that time was wasted.
"For our part, we are acting in a pragmatic manner. We respond to aggressive attacks, but we are not going to spur the confrontation. We will continue to consistently and vigorously uphold our positions in an attempt to get our colleagues in Washington back to the fundamental principles which should form the basis for bilateral dialogue. Taking into account and respecting each other's interests are the main ones among them. Without this, it is simply impossible to improve our relations. By the same token, nor is it likely to work effectively when it comes to international affairs."
(Mid.ru, December 25, 2017)
Lavrov also replied to media questions during the Government Hour in the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, on December 15, 2017. The following is Lavrov's review of Russia-Iran-Turkey trilateral relations:
Question: "There is now a kind of association of Russia, Turkey and Iran and those who joined them. Can it transform, in the future, into a serious political structure that will engage on the basis of its own interests? In your speech, you mentioned that a number of our energy companies were subjected to sanctions. Subsequently, if such a structure emerges, our companies could hope to get support within the framework of this 'eastern brotherhood'."
Lavrov: "I would say that we found a 'troika' format for cooperation on Syria and have been successfully taking advantage of the opportunities that each of our three countries offers. As President of Russia Vladimir Putin repeatedly noted, there is no 100 percent agreement between our goals and interests, but regardless of the many approaches each country takes to this or that aspect of the situation in Syria, we definitely rely on 100 percent agreement on the need to defeat terrorism, preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic and ensure the harmony of all its ethnic and religious groups.
"These common interests pave the way for consistent and effective work within the Astana format. For the first time ever, a Russia-Iran-Turkey trilateral summit was held in Sochi. During that summit, as you know, it was proposed to convene a Syrian National Dialogue Congress.
"I will not speculate on the necessity or expedience of transforming this 'troika' into something permanent, structured and bureaucratic, with a secretariat and executive staff. Surely, everything is good in its season. But on the whole, the current problems in the world require not rigid bureaucratic structures, but flexible coalitions that make it possible to respond to modern challenges quickly and effectively. BRICS, for example, is not an organization, but rather an association unburdened by a secretariat. All its work is coordinated through a presiding country. Of course, the cooperation level between Russia, Turkey and Iran is far from that of BRICS. And yet, it is not a rigid alliance.
"We indeed have and will have common economic, energy and financial interests, because none of the three countries, for clear reasons, wants to depend on the current global currency and financial system controlled by the United States. It tries to use its dominant position in the system it controls to blackmail all the rest. Nobody likes that, China included. Therefore, in our economic relations with Turkey and Iran, we are trying to find opportunities for such forms, in mutual settlements as well, that rely on national currencies. In this sense, energy cooperation will also become less dependent on the conditions imposed by Washington."
(Mid.ru, December 15, 2017)
During his visit to Italy on December 1-2-, Lavrov gave an interview to the Italian daily Libero Quotidiano. The following is Lavrov's condemnation of the adversarial anti-Russian policy adopted by the U.S. Congress:
Lavrov: Declaring Russia an adversary in legislation is a stupid and irresponsible move. We in Russia do not look at the United States from the same angle. On the contrary, we have always respected the American nation and its achievements.
The Russian MFA's English translation substituted the word "absurd." for "stupid" with The Russian version of the transcript and the Italian interview uses the word "Stupid/silly"
Read the interview in Libero Quotidiano (Italian)
Read the English Transcript
Read the Russian Transcript
News In Brief- Foreign Affairs">
- Interview with Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Mikhail Ulyanov for Rossiya Segodnya news agency. Ulyanov: "Russia has withdrawn its nuclear weapons to the national territory. We believe that our American partners should have done the same long ago. However, they continue to deploy their nuclear weapons in Europe. According to the available information, there are up to 200 U.S. nuclear-tipped aviation bombs in Europe. Moreover, Washington plans to modernize them so that they would be better suited for military purposes thanks to increased accuracy and decreased destructive capacity, according to some retired U.S. military. However, the deployment of additional nuclear bombs in Europe, if there are such plans, would only aggravate the situation." (Mid.ru, December 18, 2017; Read the full interview)
- Russia's Pacific Fleet ships complete unofficial visit to Singapore. (Tass.com, December 24, 2017; Read the full article)
- The Russian MFA commented on UN Security Council Resolution 2397 imposing tougher sanctions on North Korea. The statement stresses: "Guided by humane sentiments, we have managed to eliminate the provision on the unconditional and total repatriation of North Korean labor migrants. Now they have to return to their country within 24 months." (Mid.ru, December 23, 2017; Read the full statement)
- The head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov, said that a total of 137 trained intelligence officers of foreign special services and their agents have been convicted in Russia over the past five years. (Tass.com, December 19, 2017)
- Russia's Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties in Syria said: "According to refugees returning home, the international coalition has been using that camp for more than six months as a training base for militants, who come there from Syria's various districts. Most militants, the locals from the refugees camp say, used to be members of the terrorist groups, destroyed by the Syrian governmental forces – IS and Jabhat Al-Nusra. As of today, at the camp are about 750 militants, who have come from Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, Abu Kamal and the Euphrates' eastern areas. The grouping's base are more than 400 IS terrorists, who with support from the U.S. fled Raqqa in a convoy in October.” (Tass.com, December 16, 2017)
News In Brief– Domestic Affairs
- Former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev was sentenced on Friday to 8 years in prison and will have to pay a fine of 130 million rubles ($2.2 million) in the conclusion of a high-profile case that has rocked Russia's business and government elite. (Themoscowtimes.com, December 15, 2017; Read the full article)