August 16, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8228

Russia This Week – Focus On Domestic Policy – August 16, 2019

August 16, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8228

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 August 10, amid mass protests in Moscow, Putin visited the Shadow of Babylon international bike show, organized by Night Wolves Motorclub. The President was accompanied by Head of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov and Acting Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev. (Source:

Putin at the Shadow of Babylon Motorclub international bike show. (Source:

Putin with members of the Night Wolves Motorclub at the Shadow of Babylon international bike show. (Source:

Putin with Night Wolves Motorclub leader Alexander ‘The Surgeon’ Zaldastanov, Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov and Acting Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev (from left). (Source:

Putin with the head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov, left, and Acting Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev. (Source:

In The News:

  • Protests:

Russian Influential Blogger El-Murid: The Last Three Weeks Of Steady Growth In Popular Activity Will Amount To Nothing Considering The Remaining Time Before The Elections

Yabloko Leader Yavlinsky: Such A Protest Cannot Be Just A Rally

Moscow City Court Rules To Register Sergei Mitrokhin As Candidate In City Duma Election

  • National Projects Are Responsible For Russia's Economy Decline
  • News In Brief: Russia-China Relations; Gold In, Dollar Out; Russia-Turkey Relations; Demography In Russia



Influential Russian Blogger El-Murid: The Last Three Weeks Of Continuous Growth Of Peoples’ Activity Will Amount To Nothing Considering The Remaining Time Before The Elections

Commenting on the August 10 protests, the influential Russian blogger El Murid wrote:

"Any culmination always features what comes next? Yesterday’s Moscow rally and the rallies in other cities (albeit small in number, but in the era when a fascist state rears its head, going out to the streets with any unauthorized slogan is practically an act of bravery) became the culmination of protests. However, there are yet another 4 weeks until the elections, and the last three weeks of steady growth in popular activity will amount to nothing considering the remaining time before the elections. And the authorities are completely fine with this – people need to blow off steam this is the current goal and a task at hand.

"Moreover, the agenda has been exhausted, there is no reason for new protests. Would you like to speak out and tell the authorities your 'ugh' on the methods of conducting the election campaign? You already said so. It will no longer be possible to unite under the same pretext, any event with the same slogans will predictably gather fewer people, and a decline trend is always one on the decline. It’s hard to create a trend and even harder to stop when it starts reversing.

"The logic of the moment suggests that now, in order to increase the degree of activity, protests with different agendas - social, environmental, political - should begin to unite. Only in this way can a cumulative effect be achieved and their continued growth in frequency and amplitude be secured. In fact, this is indeed so - all the problems in our country have a very specific reason with a very specific surname. And no matter what problem we take, the reason is the same everywhere - the nature of the current regime, which envisaged the country as a clear-cut zone. Poverty, social ill-being, man-made and natural disasters, repression, informational and violent terror, judicial lawlessness, merciless robbery of the population - all these problems have one reason. It is time to unite the most diverse views in one place. In order later to disperse again, of course. But right now, the people of Russia have only one enemy, a mortal enemy, and we all know him very well. How can one not know when he is on TV all day.

"The question is interesting - will the small streams of protests be able to merge into a single stream? Or will they dissolve in a common swamp?"

(, August 11, 2019)

Yabloko Leader Yavlinsky: Such A Protest Cannot Be Just A Rally

The August 10 rally was attended by Yabloko leaders: Emilia Slabunova, Yabloko Chair, Nikolai Rybakov, Deputy Chairman of the party, Grigory Yavlinsky, Chairman of the Federal Political Committee and members of the Federal Political Committee Yevgeny Bunimovich, Sergei Mitrokhin, Yelena Dubrovina and Valery Borschyov.

Grigory Yavlinsky expressed confidence that such a protest cannot be just a rally – it should have a political meaning and a political component. For this, it is necessary to form a large political party. “We will do it. Make your voice louder!” Yavlinsky said.

(, August 10, 2019)

Yabloko’s Sergei Mitrokhin, speaking from the stage of the rally, called on the audience to increase mass protest and improve its quality: "What do I mean? First of all, the protest should be more organized. It is necessary to create a single, flexible structure that would organize mass actions. Secondly, the protest must be responsible. It should build up immunity against provocateurs and provocations, and all these revolutionary temptations that only allow the authorities to further develop repression. And thirdly, I agree with my friend Grigory Yavlinsky, who constantly says this: the protest should become more political. And this means that it must consistently formulate specific requirements. And strive to fulfill them."

(, August 10, 2019)

Sergei Mitrokhin at the mass rally for fair elections in Sakharov Prospect, August 10, 2019. (Source:

Moscow City Court Rules To Register Sergei Mitrokhin As Candidate In City Duma Election

The Moscow City Court has upheld a claim of Sergei Mitrokhin from the Yabloko party against the decision of a district election commission that denied him registration as a candidate in the Moscow City Duma election, court Spokesperson Ulyana Solopova told TASS.

(, August 13, 2019)

It is worth noting that four of eight Yabloko's candidates are registered for the Moscow city council elections: Sergei Mitrokhin, architect Daria Besedina, Yevgeny Bunimovich, Moscow children's rights ombudsman, and Maksim Kruglov, anti-corruption expert.

Kremlin Spokesperson Peskov: The Demonstrations Are Not A Symptom Of A Political Crisis

Commenting on the demonstrations, Russian Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said:

"We disagree with the many who call what transpired a political crisis… protests take place in many countries in the world and are provoked by concrete questions... [in Moscow] amongst those who believed that some form of injustice occurred in the candidate registration."

(, August 13, 2019)

Senator Klimov: There Are Signs Of Foreign Interference In Russia's Sovereign Affairs

The Federation Council is preparing a law that will limit demonstrations to common places. Senator Lyudmilla Bokova said that this meant that each city would have a specific place for demonstrations.

Tougher legislation has been suggested by the temporary commission for the defense of state sovereignty. Its chairman Andrey Klimov announced that in the protest related events "there are signs of foreign interference in Russia's sovereign affairs. Klimov said that in the EU's capital Brussels this was how they ran affairs where in defined spaces you could do what you wanted but you would be blocked if you exited them."

(, August 9, 2019)

Read More:

  • Ruling political party deletes St. Petersburg acting governor's online bio, after he claims in debate to be unaffiliated. (, August 14, 2019; read the full article)
  • Putin’s pesky millennials Sociologist Olga Zeveleva explains what makes today's protesters in Moscow something new for Russia. (, August 14, 2019; read the full article)
  • The Head of the interim commission of the Federation Council on protecting state sovereignty and preventing interference in internal affairs, Andrey Klimov, spoke out about participants in an unauthorized Moscow rally on August 10. According to the Senator, the event was attended by those who looked out of place there. For example, rapper Oxxxymiron, aka Miron Fedorov, who has dual citizenship and has spent most of his life in Western Europe. (, August 12, 2019; read the full article)
  • Lies and logical fallacies How Russian state TV covered Moscow’s election protests for the first time. (, August 5, 2019; read the full article)
  • Cops and corgis: New Russian social media bot puts riot police where you least expect them. (, August 6, 2091; read the full article) National Projects Are Responsible For Russian Economy's Decline

On August 7, Nezavisimaya Gazeta published an article, titled "National Projects Are Responsible For The Economy Decline," by Mikhail Sergeev in which he argued that instead of stimulating the Russian economy, the projects are still chaotic and having a detrimental effect:

"National projects announced by the authorities have not exerted a positive, but rather a negative impact on the economy. State investment has fallen by almost 12% since the beginning of the year. The Ministry of Finance and regional authorities are not yet able to coordinate accountability for the implementation of national projects due to errors in the 'Electronic Budget' computer system. At the same time, the laws necessary for the implementation of national projects have not even been submitted to the State Duma.

"... 17 federal laws necessary for national projects are still planned to be discussed in the autumn session of the State Duma. Moreover, eight of such bills have not even been submitted to parliament, complain senior members of the United Russia [party]...

"The heads of national projects (usually these are the federal ministers) will, inter alia, 'determine the amount of regional funds for the development of project documentation, engineering infrastructure, landscaping and preparation of premises for the construction equipment purchased under these federal projects'. The Ministry of Finance should submit consolidated information on these issues to the government by September 15.

"Pursuantly, it is clear that this year is practically a lost one for the economy in the framework of national projects. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that: 'The ultimate goal of all these measures is to put the economy on a new footing, make it high-tech, increase labor productivity and on this basis raise the standard of living of our citizens, ensure the security of our state for a long historical perspective.' ['Direct Line with Vladimir Putin', June 20, 2019]

"... The budget itself is a brake on investment and on the economy as a whole… the Ministry of Economic Development acknowledged that fixed investment in the second quarter of 2019 showed a trend close to zero in the annual comparison. And this is due, among other things, to decreased investment expenditures in the federal budget as compared with the corresponding period for the previous year (by 11.9% in January – May). 'The negative contribution of this factor to the dynamics of investments in fixed capital since the beginning of the year is estimated at 0.9 %,' the Ministry of Economic Development notes. The negative contribution of the authorities' budgetary policy on the economy was recognized on Tuesday by analysts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"The Russian Central Bank previously was even more pessimistic in its evaluation of investment dynamics in the second quarter. 'In general, in the second quarter of 2019, the reduction in the indicator is estimated at 1.3–1.8% compared to the corresponding period for the previous year. The weakness of investment activity is largely due to a decrease in state investment relative to the corresponding period of 2018,' the Central Bank review noted…"

(, August 7, 2019)

News In Brief

Russia-China Relations

  • Moscow and Beijing have set the target of boosting trade turnover to $200 bln by 2024, China’s new Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui told reporters. (, August 14, 2019; read the full article)
  • Beijing is planning to work on raising the level of its relations with Russia, China’s new Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui told reporters. (, August 14, 2019; read the full article)

Gold In, Dollar Out

  • Russia is set to replace Saudi Arabia as the fourth biggest holder of foreign currency reserves, precious metals, and other securities, under the policy of ridding its economy of dollar-denominated assets due to US sanctions. The nation’s international reserves amounted to around $518 billion as of August 1, according to data by the Central Bank of Russia. The figure has been growing significantly for the past four years and is projected by Fitch Ratings to keep rising to $537 billion by the end of 2019, and $591 billion by 2021. (, August 13, 2019; read the full article)

Russia-Turkey Relations

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on August 7 that Turkey will not accept the "illegal" annexation of Crimea. (, August 8, 2091; read the full article)
  • Senator Sergey Tsekov replied to Erdogan's comment that Turkey did not recognize Crimea as Russian and considered it a priority to defend the rights of the Crimean Tatars. The peninsula could live without Turkish recognition and "the main thing is that Russia recognizes us as part of its makeup." Since Moscow and Ankara faced similar problems it remained for them to reach an understanding on the Crimean question. (, August 9, 2019)

Demography In Russia

  • According to the Russian State Statistical Service, the gap between the death and birth rate in Russia has widened. In the first half of 2019 27.6% more Russians died than were born. Last year in the same period the disparity was 21%. The population decline was 198,850 people 34,660 higher than the same period last year. (, August 14, 2019)

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