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memri
June 20, 2019 No.
8130

Russia This Week – Focus On Russia's Foreign Relations – June 20, 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: Kremlin.ru)

In The News:

  • Russia-Iran Relations

  • Russia-Venezuela Relations

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit

  • Summit Of The Conference On Interaction And Confidence-Building Measures In Asia (CICA)

  • Global Security – Putin: We Have Outrun Our Competitors In Terms Of Creating Hyper-Weapon Systems. If No One Is Interested In Renewing The START-3 Treaty, We Will Not Renew It

  • Putin's Direct Line

  • Economy

  • 'Chernobyl' Series

Russia-Iran Relations

Putin-Rouhani Meeting – Putin: 'The Relations Between Russia And Iran Are Multifaceted And Multilateral'; Rouhani: 'The Situation That Is Currently Developing In The Region Necessitates Greater Interaction Between Our Countries'


(Source: Kremlin.ru)


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

On June 14, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The two leaders spoke after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

Putin: "Mr President, colleagues,

"Please accept my warmest greetings. I am happy to have this meeting.

"The relations between Russia and Iran are multifaceted and multilateral, embracing economic ties, regional stability issues, and our joint efforts to combat terrorism, including in Syria.

"We have done a great deal in this area, due, among other things, to Iran's active role. Of course, this is our joint success – Iran, Turkey and Russia.

"We are developing economic relations on several tracks. Russia and Iran have had close humanitarian ties from time immemorial, and mutual interest in the Russian world, on one hand, and in the Persian culture, on the other, has always played a significant part in our dialogue.

"I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you on the sidelines of today's event and discuss all these issues."

Rouhani: "Thank you, Mr President. I am very glad to have this opportunity to talk with you today.

"First of all, please accept my greetings on the occasion of Russia Day which you recently marked.

"Our countries have model relations and they are progressing every day. I find it difficult to list all the areas where we interact. It is much easier to say that there are no areas in which we do not interact.

"And the situation that is currently developing in the region necessitates greater interaction between our countries.

"We have good cooperation experience in countering terrorism and establishing stability in the region.

"In the current conditions, with serious external influence and imposed sanctions, there is a growing need for interaction between the countries in the region, in particular between our two countries.

"At the international level, at international platforms, we can see proximity of approaches, and this means that our interaction at international platforms is very good.

"I have absolutely no doubt that today's meeting will make another contribution to the development of our bilateral relations."

(Kremlin.ru, June 14, 2019)

Russian Reactions To The Attacks On Tankers In The Gulf Of Oman: Once Again, We Are Witnessing Events Being 'Shaped' By Washington


(Source: Oman TV)

On June 13, two oil tankers – the Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair - caught fire in the Gulf of Oman in an attack. The US immediately accused Iran of responsibility for the attack. The US also blamed Iran for four other attacks on tankers that occurred outside the Strait of Hormuz in May. Iran denied any involvement.

Commenting on the attack, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: "First of all, we would like to thank the Iranian authorities for assistance in rescuing eleven Russian mariners, crewmembers of one of the tankers (Front Altair). All of them were promptly evacuated from the burning vessel and taken to the port of Jask… Moscow resolutely condemns the attacks whoever might be behind them."

The Ministry then added: "We think it necessary to refrain from quick conclusions. It is inadmissible to place responsibility for the incident on anyone until a thorough and unbiased international investigation is over."

"We are worried over the tensions in the Gulf of Oman. We take note of deliberate efforts to whip up tensions, which are largely encouraged by the United States' Iranophobic policy. We call on all the parties to show restraint."

Russian pro-Kremlin commentators, such as Senator Konstantin Kosachev, commenting on the attacks in the Gulf of Oman, accused the US of fabricating fake news and evidence against Iran, in order to secure a pretext for escalating tensions in the Middle East.

(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8124, Russian Reactions To The Attacks On Tankers In The Gulf Of Oman: Once Again, We Are Witnessing Events Being 'Shaped' By Washington, June 18, 2019)

Russian FM Lavrov: We Have No Intelligence Indicating Who Could Have Committed The Provocation; We Must Demand That All Parties Show Restraint From Any Harsh Actions

During an interview with TASS, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov answered a question on the attacks of the two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Question: "The situation around Iran has dramatically worsened after the Gulf of Oman events. Are full-scale hostilities possible there? What can Russia do to prevent this from happening? Does Russia have any intelligence indicating who could have committed the provocation?"

Sergey Lavrov: "We have no such intelligence. What we can see is this murky 'evidence' supplied by the United States – a videotape, some photos that raise serious questions even from their closest allies.

"We are in favor of a thorough investigation of all these incidents. By the way, the Islamic Republic of Iran wanted this in the first place.

"As for how the situation may develop, yes, indeed the developments are alarming. I would not like to make any rash negative or disastrous predictions. We must demand that all parties show restraint and refrain from any harsh actions, especially following the same 'highly likely' logic that the West used in many other cases. These 'very likely' and 'highly likely' approaches are hardly relevant when it comes to dealing with things that are way too serious. Only an investigation and an agreement to normalize the situation are relevant here. The key to normalizing what is happening is fostering a dialogue between all the Gulf states. I mean both the Arab monarchies and the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the support of their neighbors, the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the five permanent members of the UN, and the European Union.

"We have long been proposing to begin coordinating this kind of confidence building process and building a security system. Those who rely on inciting tension between Arabs and Persians, Arabs and Kurds, and inside the Arab world – between the Sunnis and the Shiites, are not guided by the interests of the peoples of the region, but by their own narrow geopolitical motives."

(Mid.ru, June 18, 2019)

Read More:

  • Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that Washington's plans to build up its military presence in the Middle East as means of putting pressure on Iran can only be seen as an intention to provoke war in the region. "Now, when we are witnessing continuing US attempts to increase political, psychological, economic and military pressure on Iran, such actions are quite provocative, I think. They cannot be viewed otherwise than a policy to provoke a war," Ryabkov told reporters. (Sputniknews.com, June 18, 2091; read the full article)

  • Teheran's steps in relation to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear deal are of a forced and sporadic nature and can be reversed, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. (Tass.com, June 18, 2019; read the full article)

  • Washington's threats of sanctions regarding the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear deal contradict logic, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated. (Tass.com, June 18, 2019; read the full article)

  • Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani arrived in the Russian city of Ufa on June 18 to attend the 10th International Meeting of High Representatives for Security Issues. Shamkhani's trip comes upon the official invitation of Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. (Mehrnews.com, June 18, 2091; read the full article)

  • The top security officials of Iran, Russia, China, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan held a meeting on the sidelines of the 10th International Meeting of High Representatives for Security Issues in Ufa, Russia, during which they stressed continuation of joint efforts in support of peace and security in the Afghanistan. At the end of the meeting, the participants agreed to hold the second edition of the top security officials of the 6 neighboring countries of Afghanistan in Tehran again later this year. (Mehrnews.com, June 18, 2091; read the full article)

  • Russia's Minister of Energy Alexander Novak said that his country is determined to develop and enhance its relationship with Iran. He made the remarks in 15th Summit of Iran-Russia Joint Economic Cooperation Commission, held in Chehelsotoun Museum Garden of Isfahan, and reiterated, "I am sure that organizing this prestigious meeting in historic city of Isfahan, moreover boosting mutual trade and economic ties, will help develop joint cultural cooperation between Iran and Russia." (Mehrnews.com, June 18, 2091; read the full article)

  • Tehran and Moscow signed a Memorandum of Understanding after the third meeting of the Iran-Russia Energy Working Group in Tehran. (Mehrnews.com, June 18, 2091; read the full article)

  • Iranian Minister of Energy Reza Ardakanian said Iran's accession to the Eurasian economic region is currently in its final stages. He made the remarks on the sidelines of the 15th meeting of Iran-Russia Joint Trade and Economic Cooperation Commission. Once Iran is joined to Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), it can get access to the target market of 180-millon population of EEU member states, Ardakanian emphasized. (Mehrnews.com, June 16, 2091; read the full article)

  • Russian-Iranian trade exceeded $1.7 billion in 2018, but the two countries have the potential to increase this indicator, Russian Minister for North Caucasus Affairs Sergei Chebotarev said. (Mehrnews.com, June 16, 2091; read the full article)

Russia-Venezuela Relations

Russian FM Lavrov: we are always ready to meet with our Venezuelan colleagues at the high and top levels

During an interview with TASS, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov answered a question on the Venezuelan crisis.

Question: "Could you please comment on the possible visit by President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and the statement made by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton that Maduro has signed a defense contract with Russia in order to 'buy' permanent support from Moscow."

Sergey Lavrov: "Regarding the statement made by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro about his plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin – yes, we are always ready to meet with our Venezuelan colleagues at the high and top levels, and such contacts will certainly take place in the foreseeable future. So far, no specific dates have been discussed and, accordingly, no specific contacts have been planned. But I repeat, we are always open to such meetings.

"As for John Bolton's statement, you must understand that I am even reluctant to comment on this... Our colleagues are harping on about the same topic, when all explanations have been given a long time ago. We send our experts to Venezuela to service the equipment supplied to Venezuela under contracts signed with Hugo Chavez – contracts that are fully based on the Venezuelan legislation. There are no problems here, and there cannot be any. Russian-Venezuelan cooperation in the military technical, economic, humanitarian, or political spheres is an aspect of relations between Moscow and Caracas. Outsider advice seems completely irrelevant here, although we understand that the United States is now advising everyone."

(Mid.ru, June 18, 2019)

Putin: We Are Not Creating Anything Specific In Venezuela, No Core Military Bases


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

On June 6, Vladimir Putin met with heads of the world's leading news agencies. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 2019 St Petersburg International Economic Forum for the sixth time. During the meeting, Putin answered a question on Venezuela.

Bloomberg News Executive Editor for International Government Rosalind Mathieson: "… I have a question about oil – two questions, actually. Russia's deal with OPEC is up for renewal this month. Do you favor keeping production at current levels or is your preference – for Russia and for OPEC – to increase output as we go into the second half of the year? And given the importance of oil to your economy and to Russia more broadly, I wanted to ask you about the comments this week by US President Donald Trump, who said that he had been told that Russia is pulling its people out of Venezuela. Moscow has said that this is inaccurate. Is Donald Trump just getting bad information or are you still concerned that the ultimate goal of the US is regime change in Venezuela, and perhaps the ultimate goal beyond that is to have control of Venezuela's oil assets? Thank you."

Vladimir Putin: "… As for your questions, let's begin with the final one on whether we withdrew our people from Venezuela or not and if we are afraid of a regime change. We are generally against interference in the internal political affairs of other countries. We believe it leads to grievous if not tragic consequences. And the example of such countries as Libya and Iraq is the best proof here.

"As you know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is a well-known phrase and it's obvious. So, it is necessary to be patient. It is possible to work with anyone, whether it is the opposition or the current authorities, but you cannot interfere in internal affairs.

"It is all the more improper to use sanctions and so on because usually they hurt millions of common people who have nothing to do with the authorities. The global economy suffers.

"Take, for example, the fact that Venezuela has cut its oil production in half over the past several years (in half!). If we look at the lives of the millions of people in Venezuela, who are they fighting: Maduro or the people?

"This is why we do not approve but, on the contrary, condemn such actions. And more than that, military interventions are invariably a disaster. According to my information, even the US' allies do not support military intervention, none of them. I do not know anyone who does among Venezuela's neighbors and even those who condemn Maduro for his domestic political processes. God forbid anyone supports this idea or does anything like that.

"About our people in Venezuela. We absolutely, officially sold weapons to Venezuela. We have not been doing so for quite a while now. You represent a publication and a television channel which deals with the economy.

"Under the contracts, we are required to service these weapons, and we must fulfill our contractual obligations. Our technicians are doing this and have always done this in recent years.

"Truth be told, not everything was technically clean there based on Venezuela's priorities. There were things they wanted us to fix, and other things they did not want us to do. But we were obliged to do it under the contracts; otherwise we would face sanctions. That is all there is to it, nothing more.

"It is quite likely that our specialists did some work there, not only defense specialists, but our people from the manufacturing industry as well. Some of them left, some, maybe, returned. We are not creating anything specific there, no core military bases. Nor are we sending troops there, this has never happened. However, we have always fulfilled and will continue to fulfill our contractual obligations as regards military technical cooperation. This is my second point.

"The third point is about our relations with Venezuela and other oil producing countries. As I said, Venezuela cut production. This is due not only (you are probably aware of this) to the sanctions, but to the state of the oil and gas industry in Venezuela.

"Venezuela's credit exposure to Russia is about $3.5 billion, but there is no debt. Venezuela pays regularly and in full and is servicing its loan obligations properly.

"Now let us move on to our relations with OPEC. We will continue maintaining these relations. We have no intention of joining OPEC, but we have developed a certain mechanism for cooperation and we will consolidate our positions to take a decision. Yes, indeed, there are some disagreements between us that stem from a different understanding of what can be called fair price. It is also natural, and there is no need either to speak about things you do not know.

"Look at the price per barrel of oil that is used to calculate, say, the budget of Saudi Arabia. It is much higher than what we use. Ours is $40 per barrel, and their price is higher. That is why, of course, they want to keep the price higher. We do not need to do this, given, among other things, that our economy is more diversified.

"Yes, we still heavily depend on oil and gas, but, of course, [our economy] is much more diversified than, say, the economy of the Persian Gulf countries. For this reason, our manufacturing sector is not interested in the oil price climbing too high.

"The average price of $60-$65 per barrel suits us, and we do not need to drive it higher. We have quite a decent margin, budget-wise, given that our budget calculations are based on $40 per barrel, which allows us to replenish our gold and foreign currency reserves and, in general, the government's and the Central Bank's reserves.

"So we have to consider all circumstances: the decline in oil production in Iran – by a million [barrels] – and Venezuela, as well as problems in Libya and Nigeria. We have to take all these factors into account, including the growth in consumption throughout summer.

"We have reached certain agreements. I will not get ahead of myself and will not tell you now what we think we should do in the second half of the year. But our colleagues in OPEC and we will take a decision based on a consolidated position."

(Kremlin.ru, June 6, 2019)

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit


Participants in the expanded meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Main points of Putin's speech at the 2019 Shanghai Cooperation Summit, held in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on June 13-14:

  • "The developments in Afghanistan require special attention; my colleagues have already spoken about this here. The Afghan people need help in achieving national reconciliation and economic recovery."

  • "Our immediate task now is to ensure the complete elimination of hotbeds of terrorism that remain in Syria, primarily in Idlib, and at the same time to increase the volume of humanitarian aid and assistance to the economic reconstruction of Syria provided by the international community."

  • "The Iranian nuclear program still raises concerns. The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – as a reminder, it was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council in 2015 – is not only destabilizing the region, but also can undermine the nuclear non-proliferation regime."

  • "We see a promising potential in integrating the Eurasian Economic Union with China's Belt and Road project with a future aim of building a larger Eurasian partnership and an open and equal constructive cooperation space based on the principles and norms of international law without any political or economic bias, but with consideration of each other's legitimate interests."

  • Next year marks the 75th anniversary of Victory over Nazism in the Second World War. We in Russia attach great importance to preserving the memory and historical truth about this great and tragic event of the 20th century.

(Krenlin.ru, June 14, 2019)

Summit Of The Conference On Interaction And Confidence-Building Measures In Asia (CICA) – Putin: Real Trade Wars Are Breaking Out In The World


Participants in the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

On June 15, Putin spoke at the plenary session of delegation heads of the states and international organization attending the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). The summit was held in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on June 14-15.

Putin: "… We advocate increasing mutual trade and rejecting protectionism, illegal sanctions, politically motivated restrictions and barriers. We are committed to enhancing investment cooperation in all areas and expanding industrial collaboration on the basis of the universal WTO rules on the principles of equality, respect and consideration for each other's interests.

"We spoke in detail about this quite recently, just a week ago, at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. The essence of what we meant to say at the forum is that, unfortunately, real trade wars are breaking out in the world. In fact, fights without rules are underway, with intimidation and removing competitors using non-market methods. And our collective efforts are needed more than ever now to find a way out of this situation.

"We need to reassert trust and establish standards for fair economic interaction. As a first step, we should at least ensure that trade and sanction restrictions do not apply to the social and humanitarian sphere. I am referring to essential commodities, medications and medical equipment. I think it is hard to disagree with that.

"I would also like to note with satisfaction that the idea of aligning the ongoing integration processes within the Eurasian Economic Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and China's Belt and Road Initiative is gaining increasing support, including from the Conference members. This approach certainly meets our common interests."

(Kremlin.ru, June 15, 2019)

Global Security – Putin: We Have Outrun Our Competitors In Terms Of Creating Hyper-Weapon Systems. If No One Is Interested In Renewing The START-3 Treaty, We Will Not Renew It

On June 6, Vladimir Putin met with heads of the world's leading news agencies. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 2019 St Petersburg International Economic Forum for the sixth time.

TASS Director General Sergei Mikhailov: "… Why do we have to start our conversation in 2019 with the same question: why is the world not becoming any safer? Where is our civilization going? Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel? What can the countries that are the main players in the political process do about it? This is a generalized question, Mr President."

Vladimir Putin: "If we look around at the murals, at the frescoes, look up – there is war everywhere. Unfortunately, this has been the case for ages. Human history is full of stories of conflict. It is true that all conflicts were followed by periods of peace. But it would be better to avoid the conflicts altogether.

"After the invention and creation of nuclear weapons, humanity has maintained a state of relative global peace for almost 75 years – relative, of course, with the exception of regional conflicts.

"Let's recall Winston Churchill, who first hated the Soviet Union, then called Stalin a great revolutionary when they had to fight Nazism, and then, after the Americans developed nuclear weapons, he practically called for the Soviet Union to be destroyed. Remember his speech at Fulton that kick-started the Cold War?

"But as soon as the Soviet Union acquired nuclear weapons, Churchill initiated the coexistence of the two system concept. I do not think he was such an opportunist, but he worked with reality. He accepted reality. A clever man and a pragmatic politician.

"Little has changed since that time. We should just keep in mind, should understand what kind of world we live in, and what threats and dangers might await us. If we do not keep this "fiery serpent" under control, if we let it out of the bottle, God forbid, this could lead to a global catastrophe.

"Look, today everyone is addressing environmental issues, and they are right to do so, because there are global threats such as climate change, anthropogenic emissions, and so on. All this is correct. Even children are engaged in this, girls and boys all over the world.

"But they do not realize, these young people, especially teenagers and children, they are not aware of the global threat and serious challenge posed by possible global conflicts. This is something adult men and women should think about.

"However, I get the impression that these issues have somehow become commonplace, and have kind of been shifted to the background. This raises natural concerns.

"Our US partners upped and withdrew from the ABM Treaty. So, ladies and gentlemen, I want to ask you: Did any one of you go out with a poster and protest?

"No one, silence. As if this is the way it's supposed to be. Incidentally, this was the first step towards a fundamental destabilization of the global security framework, and a major step at that.

"Now, we are talking about our American partners terminating, also unilaterally, their INF Treaty membership.

"In the first case, they at least acted honestly and withdrew from the treaty unilaterally. However, in the second, apparently fully aware that they will bear responsibility for it, they try to blame Russia.

"Listen: you and your readers, your audience should open the INF Treaty and read it. Its articles clearly stipulate that short- and medium-range missile launchers cannot be deployed on land. The treaty says so outright. However, they went ahead and deployed them in Romania and Poland which is a direct violation.

"Check out what short-range and medium-range missiles are, and then compare them to UAVs. They are the same thing. Now, look at the specifications of the targets for the antimissiles. They are exactly medium- and short-range missiles.

"Everyone is pretending to be deaf, blind or dyslexic. We have to react to this somehow, don't we? Clearly, so. They immediately start looking for perpetrators in Russia. Of course, the threat is serious.

"Renewing the START-3 Treaty is on our agenda. However, we can choose not to. Our latest systems guarantee Russia's security for a fairly long period into the future, I mean we have made significant strides.

"And, I must put it bluntly, we have outrun our competitors in terms of creating hyper-weapon systems. If no one is interested in renewing the START-3 Treaty, we will not renew it. We have already said a hundred times that we are ready to do so, but no one is willing to talk about it with us.

"Please note that there is no formal negotiating process, and everything will expire in 2021. Mind you, there will be no more instruments to limit an arms race.

"Or, for example, deploying weapons in outer space. Do we understand what this means or not? Ask the experts. It means that each of us will have to live at all times, say, under a nuclear weapon. Permanently! But we are doing this, and doing it quickly. Will anyone ever think about it, talk about it, or show any concern? No, complete silence.

"Or, take low-yield nuclear weapons, or non-nuclear strategic missiles. What if a global-range strategic missile is launched from a submarine in the middle of the ocean? How do we know if it carries a nuclear charge or not? Do you realize how serious and dangerous this is?

"What if the other side responds right away? What will happen then? I am deeply convinced that this should be the subject of an open and absolutely transparent professional discussion, and the international community should be involved in this process as much as is possible in matters of this kind. In any case, people have the right to know what is happening in this sphere.

"To reiterate, we are ready to do this. Once again, we are confident in our security, but there is, of course, a concern about the complete dismantling of the entire mechanism of control over strategic armaments and non-proliferation.

"What's the solution? It is in cooperation, period. The most recent conversation I had with President Trump, I must say, inspires certain optimism, because Donald told me that he, too, was concerned about this. He is fully cognizant of the amount of arms-related expenses incurred by the United States and other countries. This money could be used for other purposes. I completely agree with him.

"The US Secretary of State came here. We met in Sochi, and he spoke along the same lines. If they think so, we should take some practical steps towards making a joint effort.

"Again, today, talks between the countries with the most powerful nuclear potential are the most important ones. However, on a personal note, I think that all nuclear countries should be involved, including official and unofficial.

"Talking only with the officially recognized nuclear powers and leaving out the unofficial countries means they will continue to develop nuclear weapons. In the end, this process will grind to a halt even between the official nuclear states. So, by and large, we need to create a broad platform for discussion and decision-making.

"In this sense, of course, this could be the light at the end of the tunnel."

(Kremlin.ru, June 6, 2019)

Putin's Direct Line

On June 20, the Direct Line with Vladimir Putin annual special television program will be broadcast. Russian President’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov informed that the Direct Line will be running as much as needed, and its running time is not going to be determined in advance. "We have no restrictions in this regard," he said. This will be Putin's 17th Q&A session.

(Tass.com, June 18)

Economy

Kremlin press-secretary Dmitry Peskov dismissed Council of Auditors Chief Alexey Kudrin's remarks about a social explosion in Russia as overblown. "We cannot agree with formulas about some sort of 'explosions' and so on and we relate to them as emotional announcements".

(Kommersant June 18, 2019)

Speaking on the Posner interview program Kudrin said "poverty in the country had become a disgrace". He said the standard of living in the country had declined by 9% in recent years but the problem was neither oil prices nor sanctions "our internal problems, our inability to carry out, or incapability, or unpreparedness or lack of political will for certain measures."

Kudrin then added: "the role of government in the economy is increasing; competition is decreasing; and private initiative is decreasing. Companies are falling into the property of state companies or the government. This is moving backwards."

Kudrin also stressed that Russia in the last six years did not exploit its chance and the country's share of the global economy has fallen. "We have not become more competitive and effective. In this sense we find ourselves in that situation of stagnation." Kudrin said. Kudrin uses the word Zastoy, to describe "the period of stagnation" that Russia is going through, the precise term used by Gorbachev to describe the Brezhnev era.

(Rbc.ru, June 17, 2019)

'Chernobyl' Series

The Communists of Russia party demanded of Roskomnadzor, Russia's TV regulator, to bar the HBO "Chernobyl" series from broadcast in Russia. Communists of Russia party executive secretary Sergey Malinkovich said: "In the Chernobyl series, the HBO channel makes a genuine tragedy the target for ideological manipulation. Since its release, the series about the dramatic events of April 1986 constitutes an ideological weapon, aimed at demonizing and defaming the image of Soviet Union authorities and Soviet people… If we have self-esteem and decency, as people and state, then we [Russia] should hit back against the series' producers".

According to Malinkovich, though the timeline and key moments of the series in general correspond to reality, the motivations of the heroes, the official conduct and moral climate of Soviet society portrayed in the series constitute an absolute lie. Malinkovich also demanded to open a criminal investigation against the producer, screenplay writer and the director of the series on the charge of "public defamation".

(Ria.ru, June 13, 2019)