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
In The News:
- Quote Of The Week - Russian FM Lavrov: If The US Will Take Practical Steps To Build And Deploy Missiles, We Will Respond Symmetrically But We Will Not Be The First To Do It
- The Normandy Four Summit
- Russian FM Lavrov Meets With Pompeo
- NATO Meeting
- In Conversation With Dmitry Medvedev
- Russia-Belarus Relations
- Russia-Serbia Relations
- Anti-Greta From Sweden Conquers Russia
- News In Brief: Corruption; Russia-Turkey Relations; JCPOA; WADA; Yury Luzhkov
Quote Of The Week
Russian FM Lavrov: If The US Will Take Practical Steps To Build And Deploy Missiles, We Will Respond Symmetrically But We Will Not Be The First To Do It
On December 6, during a joint news conference following talks with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio, in Rome, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said:
"Russia has already declared, as expressed by Vladimir Putin, that when the Americans officially launched the legal process of abandoning the treaty in February of this year (the treaty was terminated in August), that we would respond in a symmetrical way. If the US throws the treaty out, if it designs, builds and deploys weapons of the type banned by the INF Treaty, we will do the same…
"If practical steps are taken to build and deploy missiles, we will respond symmetrically but we will not be the first to do it. The Americans recently stated that they would not design and build this class of missiles. But they have already tested such a missile on an MK-41 launcher, which, as we have been assured for many years, was meant to launch exclusively ballistic defense interceptor missiles. Reality turned out to be exactly as we cautioned. We are considering all these variables."
(Mid.ru, December 6, 2019)
The Normandy Four Summit
Vladimir Putin with the President of France Emmanuel Macron, at the Elysee Palace for the Normandy format summit. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Vladimir Putin with the President of France Emmanuel Macron, at the Elysee Palace for the Normandy format summit. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
After a long hiatus, the Normandy format summit took place in Paris on December 9.
The influential Russian blogger El-Murid commented on the results of the summit:
"Surprisingly, the Normandy meeting went off as predicted. Russian imperialism has ceased to play shy and conceal the direct link between the war for the European gas market and the war in Ukraine. The one-on-one talks, which were held by Putin and Zelensky before the final round of the 'Quartet', took place in the format of 8+8, where seven people on each side were people linked with the gas and energy issues. So they did not discuss the Donbass as it is but rather the link between the Donbass and the key issue of the gas war - the issue of transit.
"The political part of the Quartet was articulated- troop withdrawals in three areas, an exchange of prisoners before the New Year, the special status of Donbass will be ensured in the Ukrainian constitution. The gas part is still classified, but it is known from the rumors that the transit agreement will be concluded, and as expected, for a compromise period - not for a year or ten, but 'in the middle', as Zelensky said. In this issue, Europe was able to squeeze Putin, however, he had no particular options to choose from, but it was necessary for him to demonstrate struggle and pertinacity.
"However, the key issue of gas transit is not yet clear, [that is] the volume of gas, which is guaranteed to go to Europe through Ukraine. No one's talking about it yet. Additionally, as one can understand, the issue with Gazprom's debt has been resolved (or is close to being solved) and it is likely to be paid with gas. Or with an additional surcharge to the transit tariff. But formally Gazprom will not pay - here Putin was allowed to save face.
"Well, impressions, or rather visual ones, are subjective, [but] judging by the fact that Putin walks with great difficulty, his health problems must be quite serious. This is the way that people with very bad back pain walk and drag their feet. In international meetings, native photographers are always trained on how to take pictures of the Fuhrer, from what angle and illumination. Imported sharks of the pen do not show any delicacy and show everything as it is. However, Putin’s health does not play a special role - in his condition he will cling to power even from the grave, the issue of the leader’s health is relevant only in democratic countries. In dictatorships this does not matter.
"The next meeting of the 'Quartet' will be held in 4 months. And again the issues of the gas war and the war in the Donbass are linked. After 4 months (unless, of course, some external events occur), the North Stream-2 may begin its operations, albeit in a limited mode. By that time, the situation in the south will be clear - the Turkish stream has some technical restrictions with the transit direction, perhaps some of them will be removed precisely before the spring. Donbass is most tightly linked to the gas war, and since no one trusts anyone, the return of Donbass to Ukraine will be conditioned upon the mutual fulfillment of political and gas-related conditions.
"In fact, the 'Quartet' was an opportunity to link all the problems into one system of guarantees, and since Germany is a key player in all Russian gas schemes, it was Merkel who moderated this meeting. And, apparently, she did it very well. Europe's problems have been solved almost completely at this stage."
(El-murid.livejournal.com, December 10, 2019)
The Chairman of the State Duma's Committee on International Affairs, Leonid Slutsky, , commented:
"The results of Normandy Four meeting in Paris exceeded expectations. I might say that the negotiations, which lasted seven hours, unblocked and reset the peace process in Donbass." However, he added that there was no breakthrough.
(Ria.ru, December 10, 2019)
- Joint news conference following a Normandy format summit. Following a Normandy format summit, Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Zelensky gave a joint news conference. (Kremlin.ru, December 10, 2019; read the full transcript)
- Paris ”Normandy“ Summit Common agreed conclusions. (Kremlin.ru, December 9, 2019; read the full conclusions)
- Senator Konstantin Kosachev slams as absurd reason for expected extension of anti-Russian sanctions. According to Kosachev, it must be clear even to "diehard Russophobes in Brussels" that the Minsk agreements, with which the anti-Russian sanctions are linked, are not implemented by Ukraine. (Tass.com, December 11, 2019; read the full article)
- The Ukrainian authorities have tried to pull the wool over the eyes of their counterparts in the Normandy Four and Donbass, but failed, Alexei Pushkov, Chairman of the Federation Council’s Interim Commission on Information Policy and Cooperation with the Media, said. (Tass.com, December 11, 2091; read the full article)
- Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said it is inappropriate to talk about the winners or losers at the Normandy Four summit held in Paris on December 9. (Tass.com, December 11, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian President Vladimir Putin fears that if Kiev gains control over the border in Donbass without providing guarantees of protection to its residents, nationalists might stage a massacre comparable to Srebrenica there. He expressed this opinion at a meeting of the Human Rights Council. (Tass.com, December 10, 2091; read the full article)
Russian FM Lavrov Meets With Pompeo
On December 10, 2019, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in Washington.
During the joint press conference Lavrov said:
"… By the way we have proposed several times, and once again raised this subject today, to put on paper the mutual commitment to refrain from interfering in each other’s domestic affairs, just as in 1933 when restoration of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the United States was accompanied by an exchange of personal notes to this effect. The American side proposed and the Soviet Union agreed to have US President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov exchange letters setting forth the commitment to refrain from any kind of interference in each other’s domestic affairs. This initiative was spearheaded by the US. We are ready to take a similar step today, at this important stage.
"Anyway, we agreed that it would not be the right thing to do to put our relations on the backburner, suspend or postpone contacts on the key issues the world is facing today. We are ready to engage in practical efforts on all matters of mutual interest and act proactively as long as it suits our American partners.
"One of the central themes of our conversations was strategic stability. We noted the negative consequences of the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. We underscored that in current conditions, after the Treaty’s termination, we are not going to neglect this sphere of strategic stability. In his messages to the heads of leading states, including the United States and other NATO members, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was announcing a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of these missiles and would not deploy them in specific regions until similar US-made systems appear there. We made this proposal to our Western partners, including the United States, so that this would become a mutual moratorium. This proposal remains on the table.
"Today, we discussed the future of another treaty which is set to automatically expire in February 2021, unless extended. I am talking about the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Russia reaffirmed its proposal to make a decision on extending the Treaty already now. Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed this position in his recent public address.
"We also reaffirm our proposal on issuing a statement at the level of presidents on the unacceptability of unleashing a nuclear war. This proposal also remains on the table…
"Regarding the economy, despite the sanctions, which, as we know, harm everyone, bilateral trade has expanded confidently during the presidency of Donald Trump. While Barack Obama reduced bilateral trade to $20 billion, Donald Trump helped attain $27 billion by late 2019. This is an almost 33 percent increase; it helps create jobs in both countries and spells greater profits for producers. I believe that we can achieve even more mutually beneficial results if we create additional incentives for this cooperation…
"In conclusion, I would like to say that on the whole, given all difficulties and disagreements, the potential of our economic cooperation and our ties in other areas remains impressive. It is in the interests of both countries to make full use of this potential and expand relations for the benefit of our two countries and the entire international community. We are ready for this. Today, we felt a similar shared intention of the US side. I am grateful to Mike Pompeo. We want to continue our dialogue. I invite him to visit Russia at any time convenient to him."
(Mid.ru, December 10, 2019)
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following his visit to the US, Washington, December 10, 2019. (Mid.ru, December 10, 2019; read the full transcript)
- Kremlin says premature to talk about thaw in Russia-US ties after Lavrov-Trump meeting. Russia's top diplomat commented following the talks that the US president was aware of the benefits of good relations with Russia but there were some forces in the United States that sought to hamper efforts to boost ties. (Tass.com, December 11, 2019; read the full article)
- Facts show that the United States violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, while Washington has never furnished any evidence of Russia’s violation of its obligations under the document, a Russian Foreign Ministry source told TASS in the run-up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Washington. (Tass.com, December 9, 2019; read the full article)
- Moscow is ready to consider in detail any specific nuclear disarmament proposals Washington might make, a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told TASS. (Tass.com, December 9, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's talks with US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo were pragmatic and constructive, Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Rossiya-1 TV channel. (Tass.com, December 12, 2019; read the full article)
- US President Donald Trump has received Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to visit festivities to mark the 75th anniversary of victory over the Nazi Germany in Moscow next year and is now considering this proposal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters, commenting on the results of his working visit to Washington. (Tass.com, December 11, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia and the United States should announce the extension of the New START treaty to avoid a vacuum in the arms control sphere, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. (Tass.com, December 10, 2019; read the full article)
On December 3-4, the NATO leaders meeting took place in London. The meeting marked the 70th anniversary of the Alliance.
Commenting on the NATO meeting, Andrei Korobkov, a professor at the University of Tennessee and a member of the Valdai Club, told the Russian media outlet Vzglyad that for the Trump administration the EU is losing its strategic importance and European allies are also becoming peripheral. According to Korobkov, since he was elected, Trump has departed from the fact that for the first time in 500 years, the center of the world power is moving from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific Ocean.
Vzglyad stressed that the NATO meeting's final declaration stresses once again that "Russia’s aggressive actions" constitute "a threat to Euro-Atlantic security." However, for the first time, the NATO leaders decided to mention in the final statement the growing global influence of China that represented "both opportunities and challenges," for the Alliance.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO is ready to respond to military threats from China, and this is a fundamentally new task for the alliance, which previously sought only to deter the Soviet Union and Russia. "There's no way that NATO will move into the South China Sea, but we have to address the fact that China is coming closer to us," Stoltenberg said.
On the eve of the NATO summit, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, during her speech at the NATO mission headquarters in Pristina, KFOR, also lamented China's growing influence in the Balkans.
According to Vasily Kashin, a senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, the U.S. now faces the task of strengthening its coordination with Europe in the [framework of its] confrontation with China, which concerns the economy more than military issues. "The Europeans have no way of influencing the balance of power in the Pacific, but even their symbolic presence will be important," Kashin told Vzglyad. If China comes to the fore as a threat, it could theoretically force the West to soften its attitude towards Russia. But so far there are factors of the American domestic policy that are still preventing this, the expert reminded. "So it's a matter for the distant future," Kashin said.
(Vz.ru, December 5, 2019)
On December 4, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "Who is NATO's enemy? Russia is no longer an enemy. It remains a threat but it is also a partner on certain topics. Our enemy today is international terrorism and in particular Islamist terrorism."
(Twitter.com/emmanuelmacron, December 4, 2019)
(Twitter.com/emmanuelmacron, December 4, 2019)
- Moscow says West needs alleged Kaliningrad threat to justify NATO’s spending hikes. The attempts to exploit the myth about the threat allegedly emanating from Russia is aimed to justify growing military budgets of the NATO member states and the accelerated deployment of the US forces in Europe, Russia’s Foreign Ministry stressed. (Tass.com, December 10, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian expert Oleg Barabanov wrote: "So, we can make a very clear conclusion that there is at least no consensus among NATO members as to whether individual incidents with Russia should be automatically transferred under Article 5 of the charter. In fact, the prevailing stereotype of the 'NATO umbrella' that the alliance will always protect any ally from the notorious 'Russian threat' may look like nothing more than an illusion. Naturally, understanding this is not a reason to test the NATO umbrella for strength, but the very fact that the most important component of NATO’s unity in countering Russia is just an illusion - this, we will agree, is a very significant result of the seventy years of the alliance's existence." (Valdaiclub.com, December 5, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia finds NATO’s growing activity near the borders of Russia and Belarus worrisome, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a message of greeting, read out by the deputy chief of the Foreign Policy Planning Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexei Dobrynin. (Tass.com, December 11, 2019; read the full article)
In Conversation With Dmitry Medvedev
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On December 5, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev held his annual end-of-year traditional press conference, in which he focused mainly on domestic policies and relations with Russia's neighbors.
Integration With Belarus – Medvedev: 'They Keep Telling Us That They Are Not Going To Give Up Their Sovereignty… Any Integration… Is About A Partial Decrease In Sovereignty'
Elina Dashkuyeva (Mir TV and radio station): "Thank you. Mr Medvedev, let us discuss relations with our closest neighbours. The 20th anniversary of the Union State is only several days away. How is the integration process with Belarus going? Also, Mr Medvedev, is there news on the Russia-Ukraine gas talks? By the way, you have never said what you think about Vladimir Zelensky. What do you expect from the current President of Ukraine?"
Medvedev: "Thank you. Let us start with Belarus. Tomorrow, I will meet with the Prime Minister of Belarus to discuss the integration, and on Saturday, President Alexander Lukashenko will come to meet with our President, with members of the Russian Government attending.
"Let me go back 20 years. You have mentioned it. It was 1999; I only just began working in a government post. It so happened that I was working at the Government Executive Office, and this treaty was brought to me to make sure that it conformed to Russian laws, etc. Many things have happened over these 20 years. The treaty itself is good; it is a solid regulatory framework for the development of our relations for years to come. But everything has changed: both Russia and Belarus have changed. So we need to review what is working and what is not, what has stood the test of time and what has not.
"However, we have the Union State, which is a great asset. We often argue with each other and express grievances, especially during emotional exchanges. Nonetheless, objectively, the level of integration between our countries is very high. I mentioned some trade-related figures, for example, with regard to the United States, which is world’s Number 1 economy. Or Number 2, I’m not sure how to put it better..."
Alexandra Suvorova: "One of the world’s top economies."
Dmitry Medvedev: "Let’s make it Number 2. Our trade with the United States amounts to $25 billion, and it was $27 billion even before the sanctions. Our trade with Belarus is $35 billion. Belarus is a relatively small country. This figure shows the level of our integration. We need to cherish this and do our best to keep this integration intact.
"There are some complex matters related to energy and prices... Indeed, every country wants to have certain preferences and advantages for itself. I’m confident that solutions can be found at the government level and the presidential level, if needed.
"However, we must see the light at the end of the tunnel and know where we are headed with the integration. They keep telling us that they are not going to give up their sovereignty. There’s no need to give up anything, on the one hand. On the other hand, any integration – and this is a fundamental legal truth – is about a partial decrease in sovereignty. We, too, gave away some of our sovereignty when we formed the Eurasian Union and delegated some of our powers to the supranational level. Any integration involves a reduction in sovereignty. The same thing happened in the EU, because a significant number of issues are resolved in Brussels, not in one of the European capitals.
"There’s no need to fear this. All you need to do is take courageous decisions that will allow you to lay a solid foundation for our countries’ economic growth and social development for many years to come.
"After all, everyone realizes which market offers more opportunities for Belarusian goods. Is it the European market? Who wants to see Belarusian goods in Europe? Nobody does. So, of course, it is the Russian market. And this must be properly appreciated. We, of course, value the Belarusian market as well…"
Sovereign Internet Law – Medvedev: 'Nobody Is Going To Block Anything… The Purpose Of The Law Is… To Make Sure We Do Not Get Cut Off From The Global Network If Somebody Decides To Do That"
Anastasia Ivleyeva (Pyatnitsa): "While we are on the subject of the internet, my question is: given the recent adoption of the sovereign internet law, are there any plans to block YouTube in our country and if so, when? What about those content creators whose income directly depends on this platform? This question is particularly important to me."
Medvedev: "I understand. But I think you will also understand what I am going to say. Nobody is going to block anything. Nothing will happen to YouTube and those who make money on YouTube will still be making money. Although this is not up to us and depends on YouTube’s own policy. As you know this policy is also changing and becoming stricter in terms of copyright – both when it comes to YouTube’s commercial agreement and a whole number of other aspects related to the commercialization of the internet.
"The law you are taking about, sometimes called the 'sovereign internet law,' is not, in fact, aimed at banning anything. First of all, bans are inefficient and they can be bypassed online quite easily. Second, the purpose of the law is completely different – namely, to make sure we do not get cut off from the global network if somebody decides to do that. At this point, people usually ask, 'Who is ever going to cut us off?' As they say in one Soviet film, this is just 'idle chit chat' because in reality, they could cut us off from anything.
"When, for example, our relationship with the United States turned sour, we know for sure and there were media reports about it, they seriously considered cutting us off from the payment verification system. You know, things like that are a punch in the stomach, a declaration of war. Still, it was on the table. They might as well turn off this internet tap – especially because we know that domain name registration and a number of other functions are controlled by the United States, by virtue of the internet’s history.
"There is no guarantee that they will not at some point, just for the sake of hurting us, decide to disconnect us from whatever. Even more so, because we are no longer simply dealing with the ordinary internet that meets our everyday demands, but we are on the verge of the Internet of Things. And the Internet of Things is about technological processes. It is a dangerous thing as it is. If somebody cuts somebody else off, they can essentially stop anything they want. Halt a power plant or flights, anything you can imagine.
"Therefore, I am sure that this law will not affect the area you mentioned but will instead help us protect our interests. As for the content creators, I think their well-being depends on themselves and how successful they are. Interesting content will find its audience and it can be monetized. Something mediocre will not get any views."
(Government.ru, December 5, 2019)
Lukashenko: 'We Are Not Asking, As Some Say, For Cheap Gas And Cheap Oil… The Key Is To Have Equal Conditions'
On December 7, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Sochi with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.
The participants discussed key issues on the bilateral agenda, including prospects for deepening integration within the Union State.
Taking part in the talks on the Russian side were Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, First Deputy Prime Minister – Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev, Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov and Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin.
Putin: "Mr Lukashenko, in my very brief opening remarks I would like to say, firstly, that we are grateful to you for accepting the invitation to come here today. It is especially important today because tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Union Treaty.
"Our colleagues at the government level, the ministers and prime ministers, have conducted substantive work to analyze what has been done under the Union Treaty, talked about what and how should be done to implement the pending provisions, what could be brought up to date in view of the changing circumstances, including our relations with our other colleagues within the Eurasian Economic Community, and to discuss future prospects. I think that our meeting today is a milestone in this respect…"
Lukashenko: "Mr Putin, first of all, thank you very much for the invitation, and for the wonderful weather here, in Russia.
"Indeed, today is the eve of a great event – I wouldn’t say holiday – the 20th anniversary. Much has been done in these 20 years, as we all know. A lot is still to be done, and we do not hide it. You said that our governments had seriously analyzed the treaty, looked into what we can do and what we cannot do so as not be engaged in unnecessary work. But you and I have addressed this issue a number of times, and as you said, often adjusted the activities of our groups, our teams on analyzing and drafting plans for further integration of our states.
"I watched television earlier, I watched all Russian channels and some others, read the Telegram channels, as everybody does now, and everyone in Russia is asking the question, 'Why is Lukashenko going there, what has he got anyway?' I should say, Mr Putin, that we have indeed done a lot but we talk very little about what we have achieved. And we should talk about it.
"We have come only to consider together the progress of the analysis, as you said, of our Treaty. We do not ask for anything and we do not insist on anything: we came to agreement a long time ago. As we develop our Treaty, people and companies must have equal living and working conditions. That is all. Equal conditions – and nothing else is needed.
"We are not asking, as some say, for cheap gas and cheap oil. We are ready to buy gas for $200, and we can pay more than $63 per barrel of oil. The key is to have equal conditions. If our companies pay $200, it means the competing companies should also pay this price. Otherwise we will fail to establish a foundation for our relations. You as a researcher, PhD in Economics, understand this as well as I do. This is basically the only problem that our governments are working on.
"Mr Medvedev said that there is a place to take everything we will fail to agree on. This is why we have gathered to resolve these issues.
"Thank you again for inviting me here. Actually, my house is also here, behind the fence, a warm and comfortable house. You have been there and seen it."
Putin: "It is nearby."
Lukashenko: "So I can say I am at home here."
Putin: "Thank you very much."
(Kremlin.ru, December 7, 2019)
According to Belarus' Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko the high level talks at the presidential and prime minister's level between Russian and Belarus had produced progress and only 8 of the 31 issues for the roadmap had not yet been agreed on. Semashko reported "I consider that we found a resolution for the roadmap on energy. By June 1, 2020 the two countries would prepare the legal basis via legislation and agreement for customs but Semashko did not provide details on what he called a complex issue. On the issue of limitations imposed on Belarus products a resolution was found."
(Vedomosti.ru, December 8, 2019)
Novaya Gazeta had a different take. "But there were no issues solved. Five hours of negotiations did not produce anything aside from an exchange of gifts. Vladimir Putin gave to Aleksander Lukashenko a gift of a samovar and Lukashenko gave Putin a selection of foods with candies, cheese and lard. They left hardly satisfied with each other, judging by the official silence."
(Novayagazeta.ru, December 8, 2019)
Commenting on the meeting between Putin and Lukashenka, Russian expert Fyodor Lukyanov dismissed characterizations of Lukashenko as a blackmailer: "Lukanshenko is a master of bargaining. He has been bargaining constantly for the last 25 years in order to maximize the benefits of his own country from cooperation with Russia. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn’t… Given the fact that Russia is way more powerful and influential, his policy is absolutely brilliant. Yet, there is a limit. Thus [his demand for equal gas prices] is no news. He’s defending the interests of his country, which is absolutely right."
Lukyanov then added that Russia understands that trying to influence the political sovereignty of any country leads to serious ramifications and can create a dangerous situation. The Russian expert also criticized those voices in the Russian press, who called Belarus a burden, and warned that the hypothetical "loss" of Belarus and its admission to any "other bloc" is a great risk for Russia. The experience with Ukraine should have driven this home. Thus, it’s better for Moscow to reach mutually acceptable agreements, in order to preserve friendly and allied relations. According to Lukyanov, if Russia does not come to terms with Belarus, Minsk may drift to the West, even though it's not clear what the West may propose to Belarus. "If Russia gives up on something, someone else will pick it up," Lukyanov said.
(Vm.ru, December 7, 2019)
- Belarus-Russia integration is going through a new stage of development of the economic base of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, BelTA learned from Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Vladimir Semashko during an applied science conference held in Moscow on 10 December. The conference was timed to the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State of Belarus and Russia. (Belta.by, December 10, 2019; read the full article)
- The Belarusian media space has become an arena for a tough information war between the West and Russia, Valentin Starichenok, analyst of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research (BISR), said as he addressed the meeting of the Expert Community project – "Analyzing Belarus: Facts and Fiction" in BelTA's press center on 11 December. (Belta.by, December 11, 2019; read the full article)
- The Union State is going to focus on ambitious projects, the transport sector and the energy industry, State Secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union State Grigory Rapota told reporters at a conference in Moscow timed to the 20th anniversary of the Union State Treaty. (Belta.by, December 12, 2019; read the full article)
- Belarus will never join another state, including Russia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with the country’s lawmakers. (Tass.com, December 5, 2019; read the full article)
- Izvestia: Moscow, Minsk cannot agree on integration issues. "The Union State should also have a single foreign policy. And Belarus, unfortunately, has recently demonstrated a discrepancy between its international position and Russia's. For example, it still has not recognized Crimea’s reunification with Russia, or the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Senator Sergei Kalashnikov reiterated to Izvestia. (Tass.com, December 6, 2019; read the full article)
Vucic To Putin: Every Meeting With You Is Very Important For My Country, Serbia
On December 4, Putin met with President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, in Sochi. The presidents discussed topical issues of bilateral cooperation, regional and international agendas.
Putin: "… We are delighted to see you. Thank you for accepting our invitation. Our relations are developing very positively. Our strategic partnership is being reaffirmed by our daily work. This concerns both the political sphere and our interaction in the fields of security and the economy…"
Vucic: "Mr President, friends,
"I am delighted to be meeting with you again. Thank you for your kind words and for your hospitality here in Sochi. My dear friend, thank you very much for finding the time in your busy schedule for meeting with us. Of course, this is a great privilege for me and for all of us.
"Every meeting with you is very important for my country, Serbia. I would like to thank you once again for your invariable support for Serbia, for helping us to preserve our territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty, and for your support on the international stage.
"I must tell you that I am not optimistic about – how shall we put it? – the final solution that could become a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina. However, as you have just mentioned, we will talk about this later.
"I must also say that our economic cooperation and trade are growing every year. In addition to this, we have accomplished a great deal in the sphere of gas pipeline construction. In fact, we have almost completed laying the gas pipeline across Serbia.
"It is a huge investment project and a great opportunity for the development of my country and a safe future for our people.
"I would like to point out that we are working closely together with Russian Railways (RZD), a highly professional and responsible player and Serbia’s partner.
"Of course, we are grateful to you, Mr President, and to Mr Shoigu, for the high standards of our military-technical cooperation. I believe that there is much more that we can do in the future.
"We have very fond memories of your landmark visit to Serbia and Belgrade, because it gave a powerful boost to the further development of our relations. We invite you to visit Serbia again in the near future.
"I have brought you a letter from Serbian Patriarch Irinej. Thank you once again. I wish the Russian people and Russia all the best."
Putin: "Thank you. We hope you will come to Moscow next May."
Vucic: "Thank you for the invitation."
(Kremlin.ru, December 4, 2019)
Serbian President Vucic: I Am Proud And It Is A Great Honor For Me That Such A Man And Leader As Putin Finds The Time For Me, For Us
After completing the consultations, Putin and Vucic made press statements and answered journalists’ questions.
Putin: "… Relations between Russia and Serbia have a rich history, are based on a centuries-old friendship, spiritual affinity and longstanding traditions of support and mutual assistance.
"The peoples of Russia and Serbia fought shoulder to shoulder during the Second World War; they fought together against Nazism. We are deeply grateful to our Serbian friends for preserving the memory of the Soviet soldiers who gave their lives to liberate Yugoslavia, and for the careful attitude towards the monuments and burial sites of Russian and Soviet soldiers.
"Next year we will mark an important date, the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Mr Vucic accepted the invitation to attend the celebrations that will be held on May 9 in Moscow. We will also see the Serbian military as participants in the military parade on Red Square.
"I would like to note that cooperation between Russia and Serbia is a truly strategic partnership in all areas; we continuously maintain an intensive political dialogue. The President of Serbia and I always keep in touch.
"Russian-Serbian economic cooperation has also reached a good level… Russia is the largest gas supplier to Serbia. The volume of gas exports to Serbian consumers exceeded 2.5 billion cubic meters last year.
"Serbia is now taking part in the construction of a gas transit system that extends the TurkStream as a surface level pipeline in southern Europe. The pipe laying in Serbia will be completed in the next few weeks…
"In turn, Serbian companies are broadly represented in the Russian economy, in such areas as the construction and production of building materials, medicines, food manufacturing, and tourism.
"Russia and Serbia are developing cooperation in the military and military-technical areas, supporting Serbia’s commitment to military-political neutrality. Russia is helping Serbia build up its defense capability. Russian defense industry companies are supplying their Serbian partners with modern weapons and have established close production cooperation with them.
Every year, representatives of Serbia’s Armed Forces take part in Russia’s International Army Games, joint exercises and security conferences. The Serbian city of Nis has modern humanitarian centers that render assistance in times of disaster and in emergencies…
"In the context of our discussion of the developments in the Balkans, I would like to emphasize that, like Serbia, Russia attaches much importance to ensuring stability and security in this region. We hold meaningful dialogues with all Balkan countries, trying to promote an atmosphere of good-neighborly relations and understanding and helping to reduce the conflict potential in this part of Europe.
"As for the developments around Kosovo, our position remains unchanged: any settlement should be based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244 that sets forth the fundamental principles for the peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis. These include respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as adequate support for the lawful interests of all ethnic groups living in the region.
"That said, Russia is ready to support potential compromise solutions to the Kosovo problem if they are reached by Belgrade and Pristina. Naturally, we will back Serbia’s position.
"In conclusion, I would like to note once again that our talks with Mr Vucic were practical and meaningful. There is no doubt that the results will further promote Russian-Serbian friendship and strategic partnership.
"Thank you for your attention."
Vucic: "… I must convey my sincere gratitude to President Vladimir Putin for his hospitality and the time that he found in his busy schedule for a small country like Serbia; but this speaks of his greatness, his respect and attitude towards our people.
"I would like to report to all Serbian citizens that we had very good, very meaningful talks. As the President of our country I am very pleased with the results. I am grateful to President Putin for his personal contribution to making our relations very good.
"I am grateful to him for the many things he has done for Serbia in the past. In Serbia we appreciate [President] Putin more than any of his predecessors. We do not want the Russians to be angry at us for this, but we believe if Vladimir Putin had been the decision-maker in Russia in 1999, nobody would have bombed us.
"Neither will we forget the year 2015 when Mr Putin saved us from the stigma of shame that we would have had if the UN Security Council had accused us of genocide.
"The rational side of our political, economic and cultural cooperation looks very good, I would even say great. Our political cooperation is such that we count on Russia's support in all international organizations, institutions and formats, and Russia can always count on our support.
"There are no documents against Serbia’s interests that Russia would vote for. By the same token, there is not a single document, which, God forbid, has anything against Russia’s interests, which Serbia would vote for.
"We are grateful [to Russia] for supporting international law and Serbia on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, and on maintaining Serbia’s territorial integrity. I told President Putin about my hopes for talks with Albania, primarily focusing on their statement and their announcements, and also their attempts to use pressure to make us recognize their independence. This is unrealistic for Serbia, impossible, and it will not happen. I am grateful to the Russian Federation and President Putin for never stopping to provide us with firm support in this area.
"We enjoy exceptionally good cooperation on other political matters as well. We focused on economic cooperation, which is crucial for Serbia. Our trade numbers are growing year in and year out, and I believe they will be higher in 2020 than in 2019.
"I would like to congratulate you on completing the construction of the Power of Siberia gas pipeline. We always take joy in your successes, and this is a big event for the entire world. And in this regard, we, in Serbia, have a small problem regarding gas supplies to us. We are not sure how things will turn out next.
"I must reassure the people of Serbia today by saying that I received assurances from President Putin and Mr Miller to the effect that we will always be able to buy more gas from other countries and that we can rely on that assumption in the first and second quarter of 2020 regardless of the outcome of talks between Russia and Ukraine.
"Frankly, I feel more reassured now. I can’t even hide my smile. Thank you President Putin and our Russian friends for this…
"I received, as a great honor, the invitation to attend Victory Day in Moscow. This is a big honor for us, especially for the nations that took part in the anti-Hitler coalition and that do not want to allow anyone to rewrite history today.
"I would like to express special gratitude to President Putin for his respect for the independence of the Republic of Serbia, our sovereignty and our right to make our own decisions. Serbia is on the European track but Serbia has also signed a trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union.
"And though we are on the European track, we will not limit our cooperation or become less friendly with Russia. Moreover, we will not allow anyone to interfere in our relations with the Russian Federation.
"We will cherish and promote our friendship; we will protect our close relations and will further develop our fraternal ties. No one can take them away from us with any attempt. I have told many representatives of various countries (and I mentioned this to President Putin today) when they come to see me and ask: What do you want from this Russia? I have always replied that I am proud and it is a great honor for me that such a man and leader as Putin finds the time for me, for us. And this shows that we enjoy more respect than you do, and we will see each other even more often.
"So we will continue our cooperation with the Russian Federation no matter what anyone says. And we are confident that it will benefit both Russians and Serbs.
"Thank you once again."
(Kremlin.ru, December 4, 2019; read the full transcript)
- Serbian Minister of Innovation and Technological Development Nenad Popovic stressed that his country appreciated the Russian leader’s support voiced to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during their talks in Sochi on December 4, including on the Kosovo issue. (Tass.com, December 9, 2019; read the full article)
- After the talks in Sochi, Putin presented a shotgun previously owned by Serbia’s 19th century ruler Milan I to his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic and received a 19th century icon in return, the Serbian leader’s official Instagram page said. (Tass.com, December 5, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that it is possible for Serbia to participate in the transit of Russian gas through the TurkStream. (Tass.com, December 4, 2019; read the full article)
- Serbia has no plans of becoming a NATO member-state since the overwhelming majority of citizens opposes this idea, Serbian Foreign Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic told TASS ahead of the Serbian president’s visit to Russia. (Tass.com, December 3, 2019; read the full article)
- Serbia Exploring Possibility of Purchasing Russian MC-21. (Sputniknews.com, December 6, 2019; read the full article)
Anti-Greta From Sweden Conquers Russia
The Russian media outlet Vzglyad wrote that the Russian media and bloggers are eager to write about Izabella Nilsson Jarvandi, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who challenges feminists, globalists and liberal politicians with "traditional values". She has already been nicknamed "anti-Greta" in defiance of Greta Thunberg.
Vzglyad wrote that, last summer, Russians got acquainted with Greta Thunberg and, after having experienced a slight informational shock, they found that this kind of activism was "cynical", "outrageous" and "even dangerous."
According to Vzglyad, sooner or later, an “anti-Greta” was bound to appear. Izabella Nilsson Jarvandi, the new heroine of the Runet, who attacks "the official ideology of European elites" and "world globalism". To the best of her strength, ability and desire, Vzglyad wrote, she is not fighting the fictional world of "bad adults" like Greta, but aiming at the Western establishment. And this is a real struggle, not the whims of a child.
(Vz.ru, December 9, 2019)
News In Brief:
- Navalny links the $50M jet to Russian PM Medvedev’s wife. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s wife jetsets on the government’s dime, prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has said in a new video published ahead of Medvedev’s annual end-of-year press conference with reporters from 20 television channels. (Themoscowtimes.com, December 4 2019; read the full article)
- The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and several Kremlin officials fly on a $43 million jet linked to a major state lender, The Bell business website reported. The report follows prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s claims that week that the state VTB bank CEO’s alleged partner and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s wife fly on private jets operated by a VTB-linked offshore. In both cases, Navalny matched the jets’ flight data with the dates and locations of their alleged passengers. (Themoscowtimes.com, December 6, 2019; read the full article)
- Erdogan invited to attend Victory Day Parade in Moscow in 2020. The Victory Day Parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War will be held in Moscow on 9 May 2020. (Tass.com, December 7, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia’s delegation to the Vienna meeting on the Iranian nuclear deal stressed the necessity of consolidated efforts to keep the Fordow and Arak projects in place, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. (Tass.com, December 6, 2019; read the full article)
- WADA’s Russia doping ban is a ‘war of politics’ that ‘robs clean athletes of glory’. (Rt.com, December 9, 2019; read the full article)
- Former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, who presided over the Russian capital for 18 years from 1992-2010, died on December 10. (Tass.com, December 10, 2019; read the full article)
- The Life and Fate of Yury Luzhkov, the Embodiment of Moscow State Capitalism. Although former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was actually the first senior official to demand the return of Crimea, he remains best known for his signature cap and business approach to managing the capital. (Themoscowtimes.com, December 11, 2019; read the full article)