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.
Cartoon Of The Week
Vk.com/13studiya, February 2, 2017
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov going to war bareback on Russian bears
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:
"We consider it our duty to draw attention to an instructive incident that sheds much light on the so-called international humanitarian community's approach to the situation in Syria.
"Following the end of operations to free eastern Aleppo from terrorist control, large supplies of medicines, medical equipment and foodstuffs were discovered stockpiled in this part of the city. This information has been repeatedly confirmed by the authorities in Damascus, by a number of UN officials, and by representatives of foreign delegations who were able to visit the eastern part of Aleppo.
"But we remember well the statements about the lack of medicines in eastern Aleppo, made during the massive propaganda campaign that was launched at the end of 2016. The operation to eradicate a hotbed of extremism and terrorism was presented as the forerunner to a terrible humanitarian catastrophe. The need to get medical supplies into the city was presented as a humanitarian imperative and pre-condition for the start of the terrorist groups' withdrawal from Aleppo. A number of NGOs, including the notorious White Helmets, and also Médecins Sans Frontières, and the Syrian-American Medical Society used all possible propaganda means at their disposal to spread information about the absence of medicines in Aleppo. Headlines such as '250,000 face imminent death in Aleppo' say it all. This was the headline of one article in the Washington Post in mid-November 2016.
"Not for the first time, regrettably, people in the UN Secretariat, including British citizen Stephen O'Brien, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, readily seized on and spread these knowingly false allegations. The result was that the Syrian authorities and, indirectly, the Russian Federation, came under a hail of unjustified criticism.
"In this respect, we are surprised that these absurd allegations of a supposed humanitarian catastrophe underway in eastern Aleppo, which have been revealed to be false, have not received due comment and explanation from the UN. We would like to ask General Director of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan and UN humanitarian coordinator Stephen O'Brien on what basis did they spread these biased statements about an acute shortage of medical supplies in eastern Aleppo? Were those same so-called humanitarian organizations passing on this sort of allegation to the UN, while at the same time filling the terrorists' storehouses with medical supplies? How did the medicines get into areas that they said were under siege, and what groups could have been involved? Clearly, by following the lead of NGOs pursuing their own agenda, the UN's humanitarian organizations have seriously damaged their own reputation.
"For our part, we continue to insist on receiving answers to our questions. We demand that the UN Secretariat carry out a thorough internal investigation to identify at what level the decision was taken to keep silent about the existence of medicines in eastern Aleppo and why this information was not brought to the international community's attention."
(Mid.ru, February 6, 2017)
Quotes Of The Week
Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of Russia's Federation Council International Affairs Committee, said: "Our country is tired of confrontation. We would be glad if we could have a pragmatic partner on the other side of side of the Atlantic Ocean or the Bering Strait, let alone a well-disposed partner."
(Tass.com, February 2, 2017)
Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center: "Lukashenko, the most Soviet of all post-SU leaders, emerges as unlikely founder of a Belarus that is truly separate from Russia. Trend is set."
(Trenin's Facebook page, February 3, 2017)
Interview Of The Week With Tatyana Tolstaya
Tatyana Tolstaya (Source: Britishcouncil.ru)
Russian writer Tatyana Tolstaya was interviewed by the Latvian news agency Delfi.lv on her views of global political and social developments. In 2011, Tolstaya made the list of the 100 most influential Russian women.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
Q: "Aren't you disappointed by the dimissive attitude towards Russians in the world? ..."
Tolstaya: " Such an attitude indeed exists. We have been loved and admired unfairly for no reason back in the 90s. After the [Boris] Yeltsin regime came in – they started exerting pressure upon us to disarm and saw our missiles apart. [Russia's first foreign minister under Yeltsin, Andrey] Kozirev is an idiot who gladly listened to them. "After they cut off our sting, they totally lost interest in us and threw us into the drainage ditch to die. After it became clear that we survived, they've decided to pretend we don't exist. I have been living in the U.S. for ten years and observed the process to the full from that side."
Q: "Why does America need that Russia has its sting extracted and dies in a ditch?"
Tolstaya: "Because of 'America first!' That is why they [the Americans] are so infuriated by Trump and his Slavic Melania. They sincerely wish to have mono-centrism. Apparently, this is typical of high politics: no way two superpowers can be friends, they will always oppose each other. And now China is also fighting for its position and it [China] is terrifying, with regards to its huge population, their pragmatism, skills and dedication to hard work... Although they [the U.S.] are unable to cope with us [Russia] either, we occupy too much space on the map, unpleasantly so. I have always been amazed by the Americans' and Europeans' ability to disregard this factor."
Q: "Don't you have a kind of an apocalyptic feeling that this world is hurtling head over heels into some abyss, hitting bumps along the way?"
Tolstaya: "I don't have an apocalyptic mentality, but it's hard not to see that the current situation brings grist to the mill of people who tend to be anxiety-prone: all these political, economic and terrorist shakeups, and the weather is not so good either."
(Rus.delfi.lv, January 25, 2017)
On January 20, 2017, renowned intellectual, Valery Solovei, professor of the Moscow State Institute of Foreign relations, wrote in the website of the independent radio Echo of Moscow, an article titled "The First Step To The 'Big Deal'?" Solovei wrote:
"1.Moscow hopes that Putin-Trump meeting will be marked by mutual understanding that can serve as a prerequisite for a strategic deal.
"2.There are influential people in the new American administration, who presume that understandings with Russia correspond to U.S. national interests. Expert study of these under understandings has commenced..
"3.For the U.S., the main topics of the deal are: annihilation of ISIS, containment of Iran and China. For Russia: de-facto recognition of the new geo-political status-quo, recognition of post-Soviet area (except the Baltic states) as a zone of Russian influence, normalizing relations with NATO, decisive easing of sanctions.
"4.A joint massive U.S-Russia operation against ISIS (besides Syria, in two-three more countries) is considered capable of removing congressional objections to a deal with Russia.
"5.Moscow experiences thinly disguised annoyance with the policy of post-sanctions Iran, so a solid ground for the future deal does exist.
"6. For Russia, it is critically important to avoid complications with China, so the potential model of agreement with the U.S. regarding China can be built not on a military-political basis, but on the geo-economic one: broad-scale economic cooperation in Siberia and Far East. [This] will attract South Korea and Japan.
"7. Regarding Ukraine, the position is the following: provide a guaranty that the Russians will not occupy Ukraine. Then let two neighboring countries settle by themselves. The U.S. has other priorities."
(Echo.msk.ru, January 29, 2017)
According to Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chair of of the Federation Council's,International Affairs Committee, Russia should take the lead in initiating a mutually beneficial bilateral agenda between Russia and the U.S. "It's about issues concerning take the role of the expectant planuclear weapons, disarmament, security, fighting international terror, cyber-security and, of course, economics. As for now economics does not play any role in our relations, and this is bad," said Kosachev. "Russia cannot be a player waiting on the U.S. move or the detached observer. We must actively promote and offer the Americans a bilateral agenda that responds to our national interests", added the senator.
(Ria.ru, February 2, 2017)
Reactions To U.S. U.N. Ambassador UN Haley's Statements Before The Security Council On The Situation In Eastern Ukraine
Commenting on the new U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley's statements that Washington's "Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine", the director and editor-in-chief of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru, Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, wrote in Pravdareport.com:
"Two weeks into his Presidency, it is time for Donald Trump to sit down, shut up and listen because we already have sabre-rattling against Iran for no legitimate reason whatsoever, we have the new US envoy to the UN showing she is as bad as, or worse than, Samantha Power... So time for the new boy on the block, Donald Trump, to do a little more reading and listening than speaking and writing, and time for the entire U.S. team to show they are serious in improving the international situation and prove they are not more of the same, following on from Obama's insult to the hearts and minds of the world community...
"Enter Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the UN. She starts by demonstrating sheer pigfaced insolence against the Russian Federation, claiming that Russia should return the Crimea back to the Ukraine. For her information, Crimea is Russia, so how can Russia return part of herself to a belligerent country which has from the beginning been violating peace deals in Donbass and which not too long ago was sending groups of Fascist thugs to massacre Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the South-East?
"In a clear demonstration that she is way out of her depth, she stated 'The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea'. This is perhaps one of the most idiotic statements to have ever been issued. It should gain a media Oscar for crass stupidity and ignorance. Crimea is not occupied by Russia, Crimea voted in a free and fair democratic election under the proper auspices, the Crimea Assembly, in the absence of the legitimate democratically-elected power (President Yanukovich having been removed in an illegal coup), to return to Russia after having been included in the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics by decree back in the 1950s.
"Where has Nikki Haley been and where does the United States of America get these women from? Exit Ms. Haley, next time do some reading before you make an idiot of yourself in public. I want a ten-thousand word essay on 'Why Crimea is Russia' by Monday morning. Now skit!
"Remember this: nobody likes a bully and what happens to the bully? He gets his snout smashed in right to the back of his (rude word) neck. Then everyone cheers. So if I were Mr. Donald Trump, I would sit down, STFU for a second and listen. He has had good press in this column and during the campaign. Time to show a bit of respect.
"If the Trump troupe and its bedboy want to do something worthwhile, today a whale beached itself in Norway trying to die because it had so much plastic in its stomach it was driving the poor creature...to suicide. When a whale decides that death is better than the living hell humankind has created, then something is wrong.
So instead of bickering and threatening to murder people, perhaps the UK and its experiment could do something useful, for once, instead of committing war crimes bombing hospitals in Yemen. Do something about the planet, do something in tune with the hearts and minds of humankind. Otherwise, Trump...you're fired!"
(Pravdareport.com, February 2, 2017)
Nikki Haley (Usun.state.gov)
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, expressed instead his to establish "a good working relationship" with Haley and did not give too much importance to the new U.S. Ambassador's remarks on Crimea. Following are Chrurkin's answers to the media:
Q: "Were you surprised that there was no change in tone from the previous (U.S.) administration?"
Churkin: "No, I've detected quite a bit of change of tone. It was a rather short statement but anyway I don't want to read too much into that because it's just the beginning of the road. Hopefully, the road will lead to something more constructive than we have seen so far."
Q: "Did you expect a more friendly tone from this administration than from the others?"
Churkin: "No, I think it was friendly enough, given the circumstances, and given the subject which we were discussing. Well, I wouldn't want to call it friendly but I think it was an [interrupted]..."
Q: "She said aggressive actions, I wonder what you make of that? She said sanctions would remain..."
Churkin: "It's something which we have heard before. Well, let's see. I don't want to make any predictions. In any case, my intention is to try to do my best, to establish a good working relationship with the new head of the U.S. delegation. As I said in the Council, we may have some differences on some individual issues from time to time, but the fact remains that she (Ambassador Nikki Haley) is going to play a very important role in whether or not the SC will be able to play a role as a collective international body carrying the main responsibility for international peace and security. So, I wish her well in this regard. We are going to be there to try to make that possible from our perspective."
Q: "Is it clear to you what the US position now is over the last several days of violence?"
Churkin: "I heard this statement. I hope the US will play a more active role in making sure that the violence stops than so far has been the case. I'm referring to the previous administration and that clearly they are the people who are listened to in Kiev so I hope they can exercise their influence in the right direction, in the direction of the speedy implementation of the Minsk Agreements and putting an end to this conflict."
Q: "What about the easing of sanctions today of the FSB by the Trump Administration?"
Churkin: "This is not my area and, as you know, we have repeated it many times, we are not discussing the sanctions. The easing of sanctions – we are not discussing that. It's a decision to be made by those who have imposed those sanctions, so under no circumstances we'll discuss any sanctions."
Q: "Trump administration more friendly?"
Churkin: "They are just in their first few days so it would be frivolous of me to try to — more friendly, less friendly. You know, this is a hard political reality. We are dealing with certain very difficult problems, so we'll see how things are going to develop. Of course, I think our position is very obvious. If there is an opportunity to have better relations with the US, if there is an opportunity for us to work better with the US to deal with various international problems which are extremely complicated and acute, then we should take this opportunity..."
Q: "You love it! How does Russia prepare? Do you say 'all right, another U.S. ambassador, I'm going to train her.'"
Churkin: "No, definitely not in a training mode, no. I have this principle which I think served me well over the years, I never underestimate my colleagues. I never underestimate my colleagues and I think Ambassador Haley is definitely bringing in a lot of credentials and a lot of very powerful records so it will be extremely interesting to work with her."
(Russiaun.ru, February 2, 2017)
Vitaly Churkin (Source: Rt.com)
Russia In Syria
The deputy director of the Kremlin-funded Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), Anna Glazova, wrote an analysis on Russian policy in the Middle East, stating that Russia regained global influence, and is ready to make partnership with those who share "the concept of a multi central world." Glazova wrote:
"... Russia's regained influence, lost after the collapse of the USSR, and moreover Russia's potential to replace the U.S. in the Middle East, raise deep concern of the Western experts, who admit that America is losing its authority and influence in the Middle East region and does not seem to be the only state capable to change the global developments or define them. Even Zbigniew Brzezinski known as an ardent russophobe and active proponent of American leadership, stated in his article published by The American Interest, in April 2016: 'As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the lead in realigning the global power architecture.'
"The new U.S. president Donald Tramp will inevitably have to face these new challenges. And according to H. Kissinger this means that 'the U.S. must decide for itself the role it will play in the 21st century; the Middle East will be our most immediate—and perhaps most severe—test. At question is not the strength of American arms but rather American resolve in understanding and mastering a new world.'
"The aggressive behavior towards Russia and the rejection from a peaceful settlement in Syria leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the emphasis is on the military pressure on those countries that are no longer willing to acknowledge the superiority of the American system and mono-centric world order. Such an approach will sooner or later inevitably strike back and will force the U.S. to acknowledge the new global realities... As a world power Russia is ready to offer partnership to all those who share the concept of a multi central world. Normalization of the situation in the Middle East and prevention of emerging centers of instability will create possibilities prerequisites for involving the region into major infrastructural projects developed by China, India and other countries."
(En.riss.ru, January 11, 2017)
Russia –Belarus Tensions – Lukashenko: 'But Why Are [You, Russia] Holding Us By The Throat? We Will Manage Without Russian Oil – It's Clear... Independence, Freedom - You Can't Calculate Their Value In Cash'
Putin and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Independent media outlet Meduza.io prepared and extensive background analysis on the rising tensions between the Russia and Belarus. Meduza.io wrote:
"In early February 2017, relations between Russia and Belarus deteriorated sharply. Moscow decided to restore the border security zone on the border between the two countries. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused Russia of violating an existing border agreement and complained about Russia's 'political attacks.' The border security zone is not the only fragile point in relations between Russia and Belarus. In fact, the two countries are in conflict in regards to at least four essential questions:
1. The border
"In 1995, Russia and Belarus are united in the 'Union State', a measure that completely eliminated border controls. This was convenient for the residents of the two countries, but made it difficult to monitor the movement of the nationals of other countries.
"Russian Federation and Belarus have different visa rules with other countries. In January 2017, Belarus announced the introduction of a visa-free regime for citizens of 80 countries, including the United States and the European Union, entering the country through Minsk airport. Citizens of these countries will be able to stay in Belarus for up to five days without visas. The visa-free regime will come into force in the first half of February. Russia has a visa regime with all of these nations. In light of Belarus's new visa-free regime, any visitor from the countries in question can enter the Russian Federation without the knowledge of Russian authorities.
"Moscow did not like Belarus's decisions and began introducing passport checks on flights from Minsk. Shortly thereafter, the FSB demanded that a full-fledged border security zone be introduced along the border. Russia chose to restore the border without Belarus's approval, though Moscow claims that the new security measures will not affect the movement of Belarusian and Russian citizens. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has accused Moscow of violating their earlier agreement.
2. Oil and gas
"Modern oil-processing infrastructure and refineries were built on Belarusian soil during the Soviet era. But they process Russian oil. It is profitable for Russia to supply oil to Belarus, partly because Belarus produces relatively cheap gasoline and petroleum-based products.
"Previously, Russia agreed not to charge export duties on oil delivered to Belarus. As part of the agreement, some of the oil was also returned to Russian in the form of gasoline. However, Belarus itself exports gasoline to the West and charges export duties in the process. So, in effect, Russian oil goes to Europe. The Belarusian budget receives revenue, but the Russian budget does not. 'There are international treaties and agreements, and one [official] put an end to all agreements with the stroke of a pen,' said Lukashenko.
"Negotiations on how much oil Russia is to supply Belarus on preferential terms and how much it gets back to gasoline are held almost every year and each time with tension.
"At the same time there is a conflict in regards to gas: Belarus believes that Gazprom should supply gas to Belarus at Russian domestic prices in light of the Union State. The gas monopoly does not agree with this. Sometimes Belarus allows a significant delay in renewing gas contracts (Gazprom estimates, Minsk's debt amounted to $340 million for just a portion of 2016). Moscow responds to this by reducing it supply of oil.
At the end of 2016, the oil and gas dispute between Russia and Belarus became especially antagonistic, with mutual accusations and the involvement of high-level politicians (Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev even made a public comment). At the beginning of 2017, Alexander Lukashenko said: 'Reductions of oil supplies from the Russian Federation should be [compensated for] by alternatives.'
"At a February 3 press conference, Lukashenko's rhetoric became even harsher: 'What is the point? Why grab ourselves by the throat? It is clear that we can do without Russian oil. It will be very difficult,' said the president.
"One of the foundations of the Belarusian economy is the export of agricultural products. Russian farmers often complain about the tangible presence of Belarusian goods in the local market. Sometimes, this leads to collisions such as the 2009 'milk war'.
"Things became more complicated with Russia's introduction of counter-sanctions against the West. Forbidden goods enter Russia through Belarus. Minsk has refused to impose a ban on imports. In the absence of proper borders, forbidden foodstuff is easy to deliver into Russia and has become a profitable business.
"At the end of January 2017, Russia's agriculture watchdog [Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance] Rosselkhoznadzor restricted imports from two Belarusian meat-packing plants, as Moscow believes that forbidden Ukrainian beef has been entering Russia under the guise of Belarusian beef. On February 3, Alexander Lukashenko demanded that criminal proceedings be introduced against the head of the Rosselkhoznadzor Sergey Dankvert for 'damage to the state.'
4. Relations with the West
"Belarus's foreign policy has changed dramatically in the last decade. Earlier, Alexander Lukashenko's rhetoric was, as a rule, pro-Russian and anti-Western. But from the second half of the 2000s onward, the Belarusian leader has been favoring Europe. In 2014, Lukashenko did not support Russia on the Ukrainian question. What is more, he tried to arrange a meeting for the signing of the Minsk agreements.
"In 2015, Alexander Lukashenko agreed to pardon political prisoners, after which the European Union lifted sanctions against him. 'I am no longer Europe's last dictator. There are dictators who are worse than I am, is that not true?' said Lukashenko in an interview with Bloomberg.
"By contrast, Russia's relations with the West have deteriorated. Sanctions have been imposed against Russia and Vladimir Putin's inner circle (though not the Russian president himself) as a result of the Ukrainian conflict and Russia's annexation of Crimea. Lukashenko explicitly states that Moscow is afraid of Belarus turning towards the West, and does nothing to allay Moscow's fears."
(Meduza.io, February 3, 2017)
On February 3, the Belarus President delivered a 7.5-hour-long press conference, an extensive part of which was devoted to deteriorating relations with Russia. The meeting was dubbed as Big Conversation With the President. The official presidential web-site failed to provide the complete read-out of the press-conference either in Russian or in English. However, the presidential website provided a summary of the most important quotes:
1. Lukashenka said: "You know these tensions – it's not the first time they are happening. Russia for numerous times tried to make advantage of oil or gas pipelines (i.e. used oil/gas issue as a means of coercion). After these conflicts, even if unpublicized, I was always told: sorry, we've been a bit heated up a bit... Ok, heated up, but... why do [you] hold us by the throat? We will manage without Russian oil – it's clear. They will say, another path [oil suppliers] is not cost-effective, not effective at all, but the independence, freedom - you can't calculate their value in cash it is numerically incalculable. It's non-comparable. We will find our way out anyway. Russia, unfortunately, does not understand it."
2. "I never look for troubles. I've tried it all and have gotten burnt. I may be flexible and retreat when needed, but when they insult my country and my people, I can't live with that. "
3. "During the press conference Lukashenko suggested to his Minister of Interior [Igor Shunevich] to initiate a criminal investigation against Russian Agricultural Agency head that banned import to Russia of Belarus food products. The criminal investigation should be convened under the premise of 'causing extensive damage to the state'."
4. "Speaking about contraband, through Belarus (mainly foodstuff banned for import to Russia as a counter measure to the Western sanctions), to Russia, Lukashenko accused the Russian customs of total corruption. According to him, Belarus has provided documents to Russia regarding corrupt practices and persons, but nothing has been done."
5. "We are not Ukraine; We are not anti-Russia. We do not aspire to join NATO. We strictly keep our mutual agreement for [joint] defense of our [mutual] land space. I do not know this conflict to get from the up to bottom. That's why I'm asking you – never offend Russians. They are our people. They come here for vacations. Presidents come and go – people stay. That's the main point. And eventually we'll get to the agreement."
6. "If someone thinks that Russia is 'bringing its troops' here they will load a few thousand railroad wagons and occupy us, don't be naïve. ...You can't wage a war on the railway platforms... During the upcoming drills (West-2017) the troops will be deployed to certain fire ranges. They will set up a camp, deliver a certain amount of rounds in order to hit the targets during exercises. Their camp – and our camp. It's all under control. Russia will never occupy Belarus. And we will hold the drills because the defense of our motherland is a sacred duty."
(President.gov.by, February 3, 2017)
The Russian RBC news agency provided a slightly different quotation on the issue: "If someone thinks that Russia is already loading a few thousand railway wagons [with soldiers and equipment] and will occupy us by deploying its forces – don't be naïve. What, Russia has gone nuts and forgot how to wage a war? How could you fight with railway platforms? The forces will be deployed and they will leave the same way. We don't even talk about this possibility at the moment [of occupation].... Everything is under control."
(Rbc.ru, February 3, 2017)
RBC provides more quotes by Lukashenko: "Russia is concerned that we waived visas for foreigners to visit Belarus. Russia is concerned that some undesirable may enter Russia through Belarus, but Russia itself provides entrance to various people, including former terrorists. We don't want to impose visas. We think that from their visit we will earn more money. We restore contacts, we position ourselves as the center of Euroasia – this is normal and civilized. How can that center be isolated?"
On Russia, Trump and Jews: "I'm surprised by the [Russian] motivation – "Trump took the office, so, you Belarusians should not count on too much" I said many times - including to the Russian leadership – don't you make things worse for Trump... When we discussed this problem with Putin I told him: "Imagine, we sit at the negotiations table – you, me and Trump. And he has this slogan: "Make America great again". So, what wagon you'll be sitting in? They won't let you to the first class – will you agree to sit in wagon number 27? No. I would also not agree. Then, how do we react? You, nominated Trump for president and now he is bad? Obama was bad, and now Trump is also bad? You have to understand that America elected the pro-American president – not a pro-Russian or pro-Belarusian. He is not such a stupid person as many think. There lots of clever people in America – 80% are Jews, you can't say they are stupid. This nation is far from stupid."
(Rbc.ru, February 3, 2017)
The independent media outlet Meduza.io reported also the following Lukashenko's quote, regarding border controls: "As far I'm informed this has to do with some certain points on the ground – points of reference. So, there is a question – did Russia begin demarcating the border? This is a matter for negotiations. This may lead to a serious conflict. We did not agree how it's going to be implemented on the ground ...you definitely don't want to grab other's territory."
(Meduza.io, February 3, 2017)
The Russian news agency TASS reported that Lukashenko ordered the withdrawal of Belarus' top specialists from customs authorities in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Leaders of the EAEU countries (Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Kazakhstan) signed the EAEU customs code on December 26, 2016 in St. Petersburg. Lukashenko only approved the draft agreement on the EAEU Customs Code as a basis for talks.
(Tass.com, February 3, 2017)
On February 3, the Kremlin press service published on its website the following comments on Lukashenko's speech: "In connection with the recent statements made by Belarusian leaders, the Press Service of the President of Russia notes that Moscow prioritizes the tasks and objectives of continuing the integration processes. Moscow also emphasizes the continuing development of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.
"Russia has provided and continues to provide wide-ranging economic, political and other assistance to Belarus, considering the special allied nature of our relations. From 2011 until 2015, between 18 million and 23 million tons of oil was supplied to our Belarusian partners duty free. As a result, during that period, the Russian budget was off by $22.3 billion. All of this is nothing if not direct and indirect support for Belarus.
"In addition, $2.5 billion worth of loans were extended to our Belarusian colleagues via the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development.
"Any economic or commercial disputes that may have arisen will be dealt with calmly through business-like negotiations. Russia hopes the current economic disagreements will be resolved in the course of such negotiations.
"Moscow is certainly puzzled by claims against the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) and the decision by the President of Belarus to open a criminal case against its chief, Sergei Dankvert. This federal service performs its functions meticulously and efficiently.
"In connection with a number of critical remarks regarding the Russian-Belarusian border, it should be noted that no border regime has been imposed. This only concerns the introduction of border zones in areas adjacent to the border. It is related to the need to regulate visits to border areas by citizens from other countries.
"This step has no and can have no consequences for the citizens of the Union State, that is, citizens of Russia and Belarus. A corresponding order by the Federal Security Service was published after thorough analysis and coordination with the Ministry of Justice on compliance with Russia's international obligations and treaties.
"This decision is nothing new. On September 4, 2014, the President of Belarus signed Executive Order No. 433 that regulates the establishment of border areas within territorial-administrative entities adjacent to the Russian-Belarusian border. The signing of this Executive Order was necessitated by the interests of ensuring border security, as well as ensuring a corresponding level of cooperation in countering illegal migration, drug trafficking and smuggling.
"This argumentation is absolutely just and well substantiated, and in this case the Russian Border Service follows the same path. It would therefore be a mistake to associate these measures with a violation by Russia of its international obligations, international or interstate treaties. Moscow hopes that the timeframe for holding a meeting of the Union State Supreme State Council will be coordinated in the foreseeable future in order to discuss the entire range of issues on the agenda."
(Kremlin.ru, February 3, 2017)
Kazakhstan - The President Of Kazakhstan Called His Country A Colony Of The Russian Empire
Nursultan Nazarbayev (Source: Astanatimes.com)
On January 25, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said he is planning to delegate some of his powers to the country's government and parliament. Nazarbayev said: "I am willing to delegate a significant portion of presidential powers with a sole goal of building a more efficient, stable and modern system of state management."
(Sputniknews.com, January 25, 2017)
On December 6, 2016, during an awards ceremony for the winners of the Altyn Sapa President's Prize, Nazarbayev called his country a former colony of the Russian Empire, speaking very sharply about the common history of the two countries.
The Russian media outlet Svpressa.ru reported:
"According to Nazarbayev, at the time of Tsarist Russia, 'the riches of the Kazakh land' were taken away, while its inhabitants 'were left with turned-over soil and made to swallow dust'. There even were no roads in the country, the national leader... said indignantly. He emphasized that currently, in contrast to the past, Astana has oil, gas, gold and silver. 'This is our wealth, and it's in our pocket, nobody will take it from us. We do not have to swallow the dust left behind by other countries, this is not our way', stated Nazarbayev...
"Criticizing the past, Nazarbayev did not mention the Soviet period of history. But it does not mean that the president of Kazakhstan views it differently. Earlier, he spoke negatively about this period as well. 'After the last Kazakh khan was killed in 1861, we were a colony of the Russian tsardom, and then of the Soviet Union. During those 150 years, the Kazakhs almost lost their national traditions, customs, language, religion. With the help of the Almighty, we declared our independence in 1991', said Nazarbayev in 2012 in a Kazakhstan-Turkey business forum. At the same time, he used to be the Moscow 'viceroy' – he was the head of the Kazakh SSR, and, therefore, this reproach could be addressed to himself.
Moreover, sometimes it contradicts common sense. For example, Ukraine was industrially just as developed as 'the metropolis'.
"As for Kazakhstan, when it became part of the Russian Empire there was not a single stone building there, therefore all complaints about absence of roads are groundless. 'The way of life here reminded one of Indians, even bows and arrows were still in use. All the cities, factories and roads were built in the so-called colonial period. And the Kazakh language acquired a written form at the same time', Baranov reminds us.
"He noted that in 1991, Nazarbayev himself spoke very sharply against the disintegration of the 'colonial power' – the USSR, which is something he should be thanked for. Now, having become the absolute ruler of an independent nation state, the leader of Kazakhstan is behaving in a very 'non-Socialist' way. A testimony to that is the massacre of oil workers in Zhanaozen in 2011.
"Baranov is certain that it is impossible to compare the Soviet and the current wave of industrialization of Kazakhstan – not least because in those days whatever was built became public property...
But the head of the department of Central Asia at the Institute of CIS Countries, Andrei Grozin, is not surprised by the words of the leader of Kazakhstan. [Grozin stated:] "For those who are familiar with Nazarbayev's works, there is nothing revolutionary in his latest statements. Take his historical book In the Stream of History, published in early 2000s. It contains the same ideas; only they are smoother, not as clumsily expressed as yesterday. Nazarbayev is in the mainstream here. This is the way history is perceived in the post-Soviet territories by the new political regimes. Both for the leaders in Central Asia and for those in the Baltics or in Ukraine, history is [merely] an operational component. This interpretation is needed not to spite Moscow, but to establish a claim to their own statehood."
Grozin: "It is silly to object seriously, because at the time of the Russian Empire there was no Kazakhstan proper, let alone roads. That's why he cannot blame the Soviet period for absence of industrialization. There was everything there. In the 1920s, there was already the Turkistano-Siberian railway (Turksib). The same can be said about mineral production at the Tsarist times. There was not a single serious large enterprise there. There was some movement only in East Kazakhstan. But it was not actually Kazakhstan, it was South Siberia."
Grozin: "There is no need to look for an anti-Russian sub-current. We must take into account that Kazakhstan was celebrating its 25th anniversary of independence. He had to tell his audience something. It's like the story from the Soviet children's movie Welcome, or No Trespassing. The director of a Young Pioneer camp, comrade Dynin, demonstrates new buildings to the pioneers he's in charge of and demands discipline in return. Nazarbayev, too, treats 'his' citizens the same way. Like children."
Grozin: "Yes, but these statements exist for internal consumption. There is no deep plan at work here. Nazarbayev and other post-Soviet leaders have had plenty of statements like that. For all of them, history must be a tool to prove their legitimate right to power and property, nothing further."
(Svpressa.ru, December 7, 2016)