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August 1, 2019 No.
8207

Russia This Week – Focus On Protests In Russia – August 1, 2019

Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest Russia-related news and analysis from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Photo Of The Week


(Source: Meduza.io; July 27, 2019)

In The News:

  • Demonstrations in Russia;

Russian Expert Loskov: The Distance Between The Russian Ruling Elite And The Impoverished People Has Widened To The Dimensions Of An Unbridgeable Divide; The Belief In Elections Resembles A Stupid School Dream;

Kommersant Analyst Drize: This Already Smells Like A Crisis

A Day Of Protest

Human Rights Activist Chikov: The Stakes Have Been Raised

Obstruction Of The Work Of The Election Commissions

  • Russian Constitution
  • Russia-Iran Relations
  • Further Readings: "Sherman Amendment: Tilting at Windmills?"
  • News In Brief: Chechnya; Russia In Syria; Russia-EU Relations; Gas Transit

Demonstrations in Russia

Russian Expert Loskov: The Distance Between The Russian Ruling Elite And The Impoverished People Has Widened To The Dimensions Of An Unbridgeable Divide; The Belief In Elections Resembles A Stupid School Dream

Russian expert Sergey Leskov writing in Rosbalt.ru

"Democratic elections work in those countries, where there are values that unite Society. This can be religion, national myths or common political convictions. The distance between the ruling elite and the impoverished people has widened with us to the dimensions of an unbridgeable divide. In this situation the belief in elections resembles a stupid school dream. I would go further, if suddenly some romantic ruler decides to conduct democratic elections in Russia, Russia would quickly fall into an abyss. As Lenin said 'there is no savage country left in Europe aside from Russia.'

"I believe that people in Russia should quickly grasp that they are useless. This would be preferable for these same people so they would be under no illusions. What is the principle behind the economy of other countries? [It is] income obtained on the account of common efforts to be invested in development and guaranteeing the income growth of all citizens. In Russia the economy has been in crisis for 10 years, and the end is not in sight. That is fine with the authorities, for if the citizens stand with outstretched hands, to manipulate them is a breeze.

"As a result the first rule of the economy in Russia consists that the profit is removed from the country, settled overseas and wasted on the villas and yachts belonging to the authorities."

(Rosbalt.ru, July 26, 2019)


(Source: Meduza.io, July 27, 2019)

Kommersant Analyst Drize: This Already Smells Like A Crisis

A rally in support of unregistered candidates for the [post of] deputies in the Moscow city duma, which was not approved by the authorities, was held in Moscow on Saturday, July 27. More than a thousand people were detained by the police. At that time, the country's top officials were in St. Petersburg at the Navy Day celebrations. Political analyst from "Kommersant FM" radio station Dmitry Drize believes that the Kremlin should find a way to defuse the situation:

"On Saturday, July 27, we saw two different 'Russias' at once in two capitals. Celebrations on the Day of the Navy were held in St. Petersburg: the president was diving to the sunk Soviet submarine 'Щ-308' in a 'C-Explorer 3' descent vehicle manufactured by the Dutch company U-Boat Worx; other important events attended by Vladimir Putin were also held. And the next day, on Sunday, the supreme commander was at a military naval parade. Good picture: the federal TV channels demonstrate the confident march of a great country.


Putin descends in bathyscape (Source: Novayagazeta.ru)

"And in Moscow it is hot in the direct and literal and sense - what happened there will not necessarily appear on a giant TV screen. A certain part of Russian citizens went to an unauthorized rally - it seemed to them that they had been deprived of a freedom of choice. Candidates, whom they trusted, were simply not registered; all independent candidates were removed en masse from the elections. The authorities were well prepared, all the necessary preventive measures were carried out: Alexey Navalny was put under administrative arrest for 30 days; the city was flooded with various officials from security, military, or similar services. Nevertheless, the protest was held - a lot of people came. The rally was harshly suppressed: the number of detainees exceeded 1,300 people.

"But most importantly, the conflict has not petered out. The opposition intends to come on the streets again. How to solve the problem is unclear. The authorities make it clear that they will not make any compromises.

"However, if such events will take place every weekend, this will raise some questions, in particular, about the Russian capital's touristic attractiveness. There are also 'partners from the west', who for some reason do not like the hard crackdown on demonstrations. All of this could stir up some noise, which is highly undesirable now [to the authorities]. Because the relationships with the West are warming up: personal contacts are at the highest level, the dialogue continues… And then this happens!

"The state does not look respectable. All this could have been nothing, but a political solution to the electoral conflict is clearly not visible. And this further worsens the already difficult situation. This already smells as a crisis. At least, the confident march of the country may not seem that way.

"Dmitry Reut, a member of the Moscow Election Commission, used a very interesting metaphor: a sofa swarming with ticks and parasites, which for some reason ended up at the office in the electoral commission. Here are the allegories arise: they say, our entire policy is unhealthy and needs preventive cleaning. Or we need just to repair this very political sofa. Let's change a leg, or something.

"As a result, the effect of large celebrations in St. Petersburg was not quite the same. It was blurred. So there is a reason for federal political consultants to think deep, to look for a solution somewhere in the deep blue sea."

(Kommersant.ru, July 29, 2019)


(Source: Meduza.io, July 27, 2019)


(Source: Meduza.io, July 27, 2019)

A Day Of Protest

Chronology:

  1. "In the evening of July 26 and in the morning of July 27, security officials searched the initiators of the protest [in Moscow's] Tverskaya Street]. The opposition perceived it as intimidation and urged not to submit to pressure...
  2. "The first arrests of bystanders happened an hour and a half before the announced start of the action. A runner, whose route ran past the city hall, and a skateboarder, were detained...
  3. "Half an hour before the start of the rally, journalists complained about problems with communication. At the same time, we observed military vehicles with antennas near the city hall. A version has appeared that the connection is being jammed in the area of the alleged protests in order to impede video transmission to the editorial offices of the media. Previously some telegram channels claimed that the authorities had plans to jam the communication signal…
  4. "10 minutes before the start of the rally, the security forces completely cleared the pedestrian zone of Tverskaya on the side of the Moscow City Hall. Everyone, including journalists, was forced out into the alleys without a possibility to return. The police acted roughly...
  5. "At 14.20, the editorial staff of the streaming channel 'Navalny Live' reported a police attempt to break into their premises. Live broadcast was not turned off. After two hours, the police broke the door of [Navalny's] Anti-Corruption Foundation to recite for the protocol an ordinance on criminal proceedings. This was followed by more than 40 thousand viewers of the stream..."
  6. None of the federal TV channels paid attention to the Moscow events.
  7. Police beats up municipal deputies and accredited journalists
  8. Protestors block the Garden Ring (a circular ring road avenue around central Moscow) for four minutes.
  9. Independent candidates for the Moscow City Duma arrested on the eve of the demonstration are released from detention.
  10. "Evening time, upon the arrival of the protest leaders, the events regain their organization. Scattered groups of citizens wandering around Moscow receive a suggestion to gather, like a week ago, on Trubnaya square..."

(Novayagazeta.ru, July 29, 2019)

Human Rights Activist Chikov: The Stakes Have Been Raised

Head of the Russian human rights 'Agora' organization, Pavel Chikov, commented: "Until now, despite the fines, arrests and administrative cases, everything looked like a victory for the protesters… but this is the main thing that authorities cannot allow. The stakes have been raised: everything that happened on July 27th will be filed as planned disorders, accompanied, according to the wording of the Criminal Code, by violence, pogroms, etc."

(Vedomosti.ru, July 30, 2019)

Political analyst Nikolai Mironov believes the opposite will occur: "After the July 27 rally, there was a sense of moral loss amongst the authorities, they began to say that it was a protest not of 'politicians', but of ordinary citizens, the authorities want to finesse the situation, punish the most active. This is a traditional reaction of any government, and especially of the Russian one, so the protest does not spread. There will be no serious criminal case like the [one that arose after the May 6, 2012 demonstrations in Moscow's] Bolotnaya Square..."

(Vedomosti.ru, July 30, 2019)


(Source: Meduza.io, July 27, 2019)

 

Obstructing The Work Of The Election Commissions

The Office of the Investigation Committee for Moscow opened a criminal case on the obstruction of the work of election commissions. According to the investigation data:

"In July 2019, participants of one of the movements, in order to exert pressure on members of the Moscow Election Commission and district election commissions and to hinder their legitimate activities, deliberately organized illegal and unauthorized meetings and picketing in front of the building and premises of the Moscow Election Committee," an official communiqué of the Investigation Committee.

(Moscow.sledcom.ru, July 24, 2019)

Read More:

  • On July 27, during the rally held in Moscow, more than 1,300 people were detained, including the protest organizers: Ivan Zhdanov, Dmitry Gudkov and Julia Galyamina. (Obozrevatel.com, July 27, 2019; read the full article in Russian)
  • Moscow's police and Russia's pro-Kremlin media are floating some very suspicious numbers about Saturday's mass rally for free elections. (Meduza.io, July 30, 2019; read the full article)
  • "The Moscow City Election Commission, after considering complaints from unregistered candidates to the Moscow City Duma, validated over five thousand signatures previously considered invalidated to 9 candidates" said Alexei Venediktov, head of the public election monitoring headquarters. "…This is not enough, but nevertheless reduces the number of missing signatures" said Venediktov. (Meduza.io, July 31, 2019; read the full article in Russian)
  • Three applications for a rally on August 10 and 11 have been submitted to the Moscow mayor's office. An unregistered candidate in the Moscow City Duma elections, Elena Rusakova, submitted an application to the Moscow mayor's office for a rally on August 10. Two more applications were filed on August 10 and 11. Their authors, Dmitry Klochkov, a registered candidate for the Moscow City Duma, and Elvira Vihareva, the head of Gennady Gudkov's office, intend to march from Kaluga to Bolotnaya Square. According to them, they applied for different dates to "increase the chances of approval" of the action. (Meduza.io, July 31, 2019; read the full article)
  • Discharge, itching, and lesions Doctors disagree about why Russia's jailed opposition leader needed to be hospitalized. (Meduza.io, July 29, 2019; read the full article)
  • Fact-checking the Moscow mayor's first extensive comments about opposition 'rioting' on July 27. (Meduza.io, July 31, 2019; read the full article)
  • Moscow police have reportedly been ordered to delete all photos on social media that could allow them to be facially recognized. (Meduza.io, July 30, 2019; read the full article)
  • In new case against July 27 'riot organizers,' Moscow authorities start raiding activists' homes. (Meduza.io, July 31, 2019; read the full article)

Russian Constitution


Vyacheslav Volodin (Source: Pnp.ru)

Vyacheslav Volodin, the Speaker of the State Duma, recently published an article, titled "Living Constitution of Progress", in Parlamentskaya Gazeta, the Duma's official publication Duma. In the article, Volodin suggested a cautious update of the Russian Constitution, which would expand the powers of the State Duma.

(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8188, Duma Speaker Volodin Proposes Amending The Russian Constitution To Upgrade Duma's Powers, July 23, 2019)

Commenting on Volodin's article, the speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, said that she is confident that the main constitutional provisions "do not need fundamental changes." She stressed that the Constitution is not just a basic law, but "an act of social consensus...We have reached a balance of power and separation of powers," Matvienko stressed.

Additionally, the speaker of the Federation Council supported the strengthening of the role of parliament though she said that Russia is not moving towards transformation into a parliamentary republic. However, according to Valentina Matvienko, it is necessary to see how effectively parliamentarians use the rights, competences and powers given to them. "Perhaps laws are needed that would allow more efficient use of powers granted parliament," Matvienko concluded.

(Kommersant.ru, July 25, 2019)

Russia-Iran Relations

The commander of the Iranian naval forces Hossein Khanzadi arrived in St. Petersburg for a three day visit. He arrived at the invitation of a Russian colleague and awaited the signing of a military naval agreement with Russia.

(Ria.ru July 28, 2019)

Iran and Russian naval forces will conduct a joint training exercise in the Indian Ocean by the end of the current year Likewise discussed was the possibility of conducting the exercise in Hormuz Straits region.

(Kp.ru, July 29, 2019)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation presented a document designed to create a mechanism for cooperation in the Persian Gulf zone. The main priority is the creation of a single antiterrorist coalition, which will also deal with the diplomatic settlement of conflicts and disputes in the region. "It would be necessary to start with the most acute problems – the struggle with terrorism, the situation in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and the Iranian nuclear program." The long-term task is the creation of a security and cooperation organization in the Persian Gulf zone, where, in addition to the Gulf countries, Russia, China, the United States, the EU, India and other interested parties would be members or associate members.

(Tass.ru, July 24, 2019)

Ambassador Andrei Baklanov, deputy head of the Russian Diplomats Association, outined the Russian Security Concept in the Persian Gulf

"We see how the situation around Iran is deteriorating as provocative terrorist acts proliferate that can serve as a detonator for the start of military actions... We call for the creation of a monitoring mechanism in order to prevent the growth of conflicts by politico-diplomatic methods, while the Americans are planning to increase the military presence to 'monitor' the situation considering the 'timely' use of force."

(Kommersant.ru, July 25, 2019)

Read More:

  • Russia and Iran confirm bid to expand military cooperation in memorandum of understanding. (Tass.com, July 29, 2019; read the full article)
  • Iran, Russia to stage joint drills in Persian Gulf: Iran Navy chief. (Presstv.com, July 29, 2019; read the full article)

For Further Reading:

"Sherman Amendment: Tilting at Windmills?" Russian expert Ivan Timofeev wrote: "The adoption of an amendment to the defense budget for 2020 by the US House of Representatives provoked a public outcry in Russia. The amendment, introduced by Brad Sherman (D), is to prohibit buying of the Russian sovereign debt in retaliation for meddling in US elections. Many Russian media outlets carried alarmist or even panicky headlines. Indeed, the amendment is far from being good news, like any sanctions against Russia. However, what matters here are details and a sober-minded attitude.

"The chances of passing the amendment are not clear so far. It will not bring the Americans much benefit in their relations with Russia. Most probably, vice versa. The next round of sanctions may disrupt the dialogue on arms control, which is of interest to the United States. Moscow is not going to grapple with all the ins and outs of the US domestic policies and may well freeze the dialogue.

"Sanctions against the 'new' Russian debt will not cause US investors as much loss as restrictions against the debt obligations in general. Neither will they bring any benefit: US investors could just find themselves facing worse conditions than other foreigners, i.e. the damage will amount to lost profits. Neither will the Sherman initiative do much harm to Russia. Considering that no interference was established in the midterm elections, the amendment may boil down to tilting at windmills. Although it will not make things better for the investors. Any new sanctions raise their uncertainty and risk regardless of the political outcome."

(Russiancouncil.ru, July 18, 2019; read the full article)

News In Brief

Chechnya

  • The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, took on in his protective service the six-year-old Magomed-Emi Gaziyev. The child's parents published on the web a video where the child tells that he wants to protect the Chechen leader. After seeing the video, Kadyrov decided to fulfill Gaziev's dream. (Ria.ru, July 25, 2019; read the full article in Russian)

Russia In Syria

  • Russia denies accusations of creating appalling conditions in the territory of the Syrian refugee camp Al-Rukban. "The position of the American leadership, voiced recently by the special representative of the US president for Syria, James Jeffrey, who once again blamed the plight of the Syrians in Er-Rukban on Russia and Syria, looks absurd," National Defense Control Center of the Russian Federation, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev. (Tass.ru, July 24, 2019; read the full article in Russian)

Russia-EU Relations

  • Commenting on the prerequisites for improving Russian-European relations, Russia's representative to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said: "The European Union must accumulate a critical mass of political will towards Russia. We are talking about the attitude of member countries regarding interaction with Russia. When such a critical mass is accumulated, there will be a definite turn in our relationship. There are prerequisites for this, they are gradually strengthened. But how long this process will take, nobody knows yet." (Ria.ru, July, 24, 2019; read the full article in Russian)

Gas Transit

  • Ukrainian oil and gas company Naftogaz representatives think it is possible to set a date for the ministerial meeting of Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission (EC) on the future of gas transit. They also offered Moscow to hold technical consultations. This statement was made by the director of the Ukrainian state-owned company, Yuri Vitrenko. In addition, Vitrenko added, the meeting would benefit from discussion on the options for technical capacities between Gazprom and the operator of the Ukrainian GTS or on the gas swap contract between Gazprom and Naftogaz. (Ukrinform.net, July 29, 2019; read the full article)

According to the EC proposal, a new contract between Russia and Ukraine should be signed for a period of more than ten years. In turn, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that the contract should be commercially attractive, and the route should be competitive. In addition, Ukraine must submit a clear management plan for its GTS, and Gazprom and Naftogaz need to resolve judicial problems. (Ria.ru, July 24, 2019; read the full article in Russian)

  • Naftogaz of Ukraine has Plan B if negotiations with Russia's Gazprom on natural gas transit are unsuccessful, Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolev has said in an interview with the KRYM channel.
  • Ukraine Naftogaz files $5.2 billion lawsuit against Russia. (Kyivpost.com, July 31, 2019; read the full article)

On Recognition Of The LPR And The DPR

  • Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of CIS Countries, commented: "The President has expanded the opportunities for Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship. Moscow continues to insist on direct dialogue between Kiev, [and the breakaway enclaves of] Donetsk and Lugansk as envisaged by the Minsk Agreements. And if Ukraine does not stop blocking these negotiations, engaging in useless 'modifications' of the Normandy format and in attempts to include within it overseas 'guests', it will be necessary to raise the question of recognizing the DPR and the LPR. Russia cannot and should not wait until a normal power structure will be formed in Ukraine." (Vpk-news.ru, July 24, 2019; read the full article in Russian)