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
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in Finland, May 6, 2019. (Source: Mid.ru)
In The News:
- Lavrov-Pompeo Meeting
- Russia-Venezuelan Relations
- Russia-Iran Relations And The JCPOA
- Russia In Syria
- Putin Advisor Speculates That Ukraine May Move Jews To Areas Cleansed Of Their Russian Population
- Victory Day
- Crimea TV Party: Beheading And Eating Trump
- Reactions To The Sacking Of British Defense Minister Williamson
- News In Brief: Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting; Culture
On May 6, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Finland, where he took part in the ministerial session of the Arctic Council.
Watch the video
Question: "How many secretaries of state is this now, Foreign Minister Lavrov, that you’ve met with?"
Lavrov: "I stopped counting."
Question: "After who?"
Lavrov: "Long ago…"
Lavrov Responds To Media Questions After Meeting With Pompeo
Lavrov: "We had a very good, constructive conversation. We discussed many regional issues that are on the current UN agenda and the international agenda more broadly. We discussed topics related to strategic stability. I think we took a fairly good step forward, following up on the telephone conversation that took place between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump several days ago."
Question: "Everyone has already been discussing Mr Pompeo’s line 'Russia must get out of Venezuela' and possible translations of it. Did the US Secretary of State take the liberty of saying something similar in his private conversation with you? Perhaps you answered him yourself and heard something new about the prospects for US military intervention?"
Lavrov: "We tried not to focus on public statements considering that they are influenced by too many things that have nothing to do with real politics. We tried to concentrate on real politics and we succeeded in this."
Question: "If Washington decides to start a military intervention in Venezuela, what levers or options does Russia have to stop it?"
Lavrov: "Some call your outlet CNN 'fake news' and now you are asking me a 'fake question.' We are categorically opposed to armed action in violation of international law no matter where it occurs. The use of force can only be sanctioned by the UN Security Council, or force may be used in response to aggression against a sovereign state. Nothing of the sort is happening in Venezuela. I don’t see any advocates of a reckless military solution based on my contacts with US, European and Latin American colleagues. I hope that this understanding shared by all will be translated into practical policy and that there will be no military solution because it would be disastrous."
Question: "Do US diplomats understand this?"
Question: "Did you discuss the possibility of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump?"
Lavrov: "Our presidents agreed to meet when they have an opportunity. I am sure that such an opportunity will present itself and you will hear about it from the Kremlin."
Expert Kurilla: The Absence Of A Conspiracy (Mueller) Has Opened The Doors To A Deal
Ahead of the Lavrov-Pompeo meeting, Alexey Chesnakov, director of the Center for Current Policy, stated: "Many years ago, Dean Acheson, a member of the famous sextet of wise men who assumed the post of Secretary of State under president Truman observed that there is a special quality that is indispensable for a successful secretary of state – a 'killer instinct'. Undoubtedly the old wolf knew what he was talking about.. I think that this very quality is indispensable for our foreign affairs minister as well."
(Actualcomment.ru, May 5, 2019)
Expert Ivan Kurilla speculated that the meeting could produce a deal. "The absence of a conspiracy (Mueller) has opened the doors to a deal between the Kremlin and the White House and both sides are preparing for this deal. Russian forces in Syria and now in Venezuela -are a wager prior to the start of trading. The tough declarations by Trump are his wager. True or not that we will see in the next week. If by the start of summer Pompeo flies to Moscow and (or) Lavrov flies to Washington that may prove the case."
(Actualcomment.ru, May 5, 2019)
- Vedomosti: Russia, US may see a boost in high-level contacts (Tass.com, May 8, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia is ready to consider detailed proposals from the United States amid President Donald Trump’s statements on a new nuclear disarmament treaty, Russia’s Foreign Ministry told TASS on Wednesday prior to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Russia scheduled for May 13-14. (Tass.com, May 8, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo managed to hold a constructive dialogue and hash over real politics, Russia’s top diplomat said following the negotiations in Finland. Their meeting was a continuation of a lengthy phone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump. According to the experts interviewed by Izvestia, Moscow and Washington will try to revive bilateral contacts, which were effectively frozen after the Kerch Strait incident in November 2018. (Tass.com, May 7, 2019; read the full article)
Professor Mironov: Maduro's Attempt To Flee Is Fully Possible
In his Echo of Moscow blog, professor Maxim Mironov comments on the American version of events in Venezuela voiced by Mike Pompeo namely that Nicolas Maduro was inclined to flee but was dissuaded by the Russians. Venezuelan FM Jorge Arrias and Russian FM Zakharova belittled this description as fake news while Maduro termed it unserious.
"[My] confidence in the declarations by American officials is greater than [my] confidence in declarations by Russian officials. This does not mean that American officials cannot err or lie. They can. But for them the cost of a similar lie is higher. First their press will take it through the ringer. Second, getting caught in a lie incurs serious political damage. Remember Bill Clinton who lied...or the case in Iraq with the ...weapons of mass destruction. Russian officials habitually get away with lies."
He then added that the bottom line is that Maduro's attempt to flee is fully possible but those who dissuaded him from fleeing were not the Russian (or not that much) but more likely his own soldiers and the Cubans.
(Echo.msk.ru, May 6, 2019)
Senator Kosachev: The Venezuelan Army Is Loyal To Maduro
Commenting on Guaido's call to uprise again the regime on April 30, Senator Konstantin Kosachev said:
"The admission by the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, Juan Guaido of the failure of his attempts to rely on the soldiers confirms the conclusion that the Venezuelan army as before is loyal to the country's president Nicolas Maduro. But his preparedness to consider the US proposal of military intervention dispels all doubts about on behalf of whose interests he was acting."
Kosachev then added: "One way or another, we will consider any scenario of US military intervention as aggression insofar as Venezuela has but one president that even Guaido now acknowledges, having confirmed that he cannot rely on neither the army nor the people."
(Ria.ru, May 5, 2019)
Vice-Admiral Kostyukov: The ‘Color Revolution’ Technologies That Are Being Tested In Venezuela Could Soon Be Used In Nicaragua And Cuba
Vice-Admiral Igor Kostyukov, Head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate, said at the Moscow Conference on International Security on April 25:
"The ‘color revolution’ technologies that are being tested in Venezuela could soon be used in Nicaragua and Cuba. The US-sponsored Nicaraguan opposition is actually derailing the emerging national dialogue by putting forward demands, which are unacceptable for the authorities…
"In particular, the US Helms-Burton Act, which makes it possible for the Americans to seek compensation for the property seized in the republic, was revived in March. That may affect about 200 Cuban enterprises. A substantial reduction in Venezuelan oil supplies because of US sanctions dealt a blow to Cuba."
(Tass.com, April 25, 2019)
Russia-Iran Relations And The JCPOA
On May 8, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. During the joint press conference Lavrov stated:
Russian MF Lavrov: We Reiterate Our Commitment To The JCPOA
"We focused on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which was unanimously approved by a UN Security Council resolution four years ago in the summer of 2015. A year ago, the United States announced its withdrawal from this agreement, which was a gross violation of the JCPOA and the UN Security Council resolution, which is binding not only for the UNSC members, but also all UN members. The current state of affairs created by the United States is causing great difficulties, both in terms of meeting the obligations assumed by the parties to this deal with regard to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the overall situation regarding the non-proliferation regime. This is particularly unpleasant in the run-up to the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which will be held next year.
"Today, we were informed about the steps that the Iranian leadership made public yesterday. These steps were taken on the basis of the provisions contained in the JCPOA as approved by the UN Security Council. We reiterated our commitment to this plan and this resolution, and agreed to work with all the other JCPOA participants, except the United States (which had withdrawn from this agreement), so that they strictly fulfill their commitments as they pledged to do during two meetings between the foreign ministers of the European troika, Russia and China in September and July last year. To reiterate, concrete commitments have been made there. Russia is committed to honoring them in full. We hope that our colleagues, primarily the Europeans, who volunteered to find a solution to the problem created by the Americans, will deliver on their promises."
Lavrov: We Need To Convince All The Remaining Participants In This Plan Of The Need To Fulfill Their Commitments
Question (for both ministers, retranslated from Farsi): "My question concerns the decision of the Republic of Iran to suspend some voluntary measures under the JCPOA. What practical steps do Russia and Iran plan to take? Do you think it is possible to save the JCPOA in these difficult circumstances?"
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Mohammad Javad Zarif): "I think the only practical step that should be taken to resolve the situation around the JCPOA is to convince all the remaining participants in this plan of the need to fulfill their commitments.
"The JCPOA has a very complex design. It took more than a year to create it. All of its elements are extremely carefully balanced. And so it became very fragile once the Americans left it. This was clear to everyone. As I said, the foreign ministers of the countries that remained loyal to the JCPOA met at least twice last year and made a solemn commitment to do everything to implement the JCPOA despite the US withdrawal from it.
"We will try to convince our European partners of the need to abide by their commitments. You know, they volunteered to create a mechanism that will allow them not to depend on the US financial system in bank transactions. This mechanism has been established but as I see it, it is much less effective and sweeping than planned. It is important for Iran to use this mechanism for exporting its oil. We support this. This is an absolutely lawful requirement that is enshrined in the JCPOA.
"However, for the time being, even this limited European mechanism is not yet being used. We urge the Europeans to draw conclusions from the current situation and start meeting their obligations in full. We will do everything to facilitate this. Regrettably, in talking about the situation around Iran, some of our European colleagues try to suggest ideas that have nothing to do with the JCPOA and look like an attempt to distract attention from their inability to abide by the JCPOA in full. We will call on them (as we have already done so repeatedly) to nevertheless concentrate on implementing everything enshrined in the JCPOA and approved by the UN Security Council."
Question (retranslated from Farsi): "What practical steps will Russia take and what message will be sent to the remaining JCPOA member states so that the document remains a political achievement?"
Sergey Lavrov: "We will make every effort to ensure that all remaining JCPOA member states fulfill their obligations in full as regards the Plan and UN Security Council Resolution 2231, as well as the obligations undertaken at the meeting of foreign ministers of European countries, China and Russia last July and September."
Lavrov: The Willingness To Use Force Has Already Become Typical Behavior For Our US Colleagues
Question: "Is it necessary for the foreign ministers of the five countries and Iran to meet and discuss current developments, or is an emergency session of the UN Security Council required?
"US National Security Advisor John Bolton has stated that the United States will send a carrier group to the Persian Gulf. Could this lead to further escalation? How does Moscow assess such intentions?"
Sergey Lavrov: "As regards the meeting of foreign ministers as part of the Joint Commission established in accordance with the JCPOA and the UNSC resolution, we will definitely hold consultations in this format. I am not sure that this will require anything at the ministerial level at the beginning, but such consultations are needed.
"I see no reason to convene a UN Security Council session. It adopted Resolution 2231, which no one has rescinded. The United States is blatantly violating it. Demands could be made for the US to return to the JCPOA, but this would be nothing more than a publicity statement. We understand this is not going to happen: the administration in Washington was very specific regarding their intentions.
"As for escalating tensions in the region, the US intentions to send aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf and boosting its overall military presence there to imply a willingness to use force – sadly, this all has already become typical behavior of our US colleagues, be it in the Middle East, Persian Gulf or regarding Venezuela. It’s all lamentable. On Monday, during my meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Finland, I urged him to use diplomatic means rather than threats when addressing problematic issues, in strict compliance with international law and the provisions of the UN Charter, which demand the peaceful resolution of disputes. But this requires a taste for diplomacy, which not everyone has now. We will continue to make efforts to establish a dialogue aimed at seeking compromise and a balance of interests. This is the only way. Imposing one's approaches on everyone and everything is a counterproductive and dead-end position."
(Mid.ru, May 8, 2019)
Russia In Syria
55% of Russians polled by the Levada Center want the government to end the campaign in Syria as opposed to 30% who favor its continuation. About a third of the respondents fear Syria may become another Afghanistan although a majority of the respondents believe that is unlikely.
(Rbc.ru, May 6, 2019)
Putin Advisor Speculates That Ukraine May Move Jews To Areas Cleansed Of Their Russian Population
Sergey Yurievich Glazyev, an advisor to Vladimir Putin, speculates that under Zelenskiy, the Ukrainians will try to cleanse the Russian population of Donbass and replace them with Jews tired of endless war in the Promised Land and with Christians fleeing Islam. In his blog in Zavtra.ru he wrote as follows:
"It is possible that the [Western] wager on Zelenskiy was made long before the elections and connected with the general bias of the Trump Administration on behalf of extreme right forces.
"Probably they are assigning the new Kiev regime with new tasks. I would not rule out for example the possibility of a massive move to the land of Southeast Ukraine cleansed of its Russian population of those inhabitants of the Promised Land tired of the permanent war in the Near East and likewise those fleeing Europe that is becoming Islamized."
(Zavtra.ru, May 6, 2019)
Victory Day military parade on May 9 (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Victory Day military parade on May 9 (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On May 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the military parade marking the 74th anniversary of Victory in the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War. Thirty-five marching military bands and over 130 units of modern military equipment took part in the parade. Overall, more than 13,000 service personnel were engaged.
Watching the parade on the stand together with the President of Russia were Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and a guest of honor, the first President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Officers, sergeants and soldiers of military formations and units, cadets from military schools, Suvorov and Nakhimov military academies, cadet corps, Young Army members, and servicemen of other military and law enforcement agencies marched on Red Square.
The mechanized column of the parade involved the legendary T-34 tank, Taifun armored vehicles, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, BTR-82A and BTR-MDM armored personnel carriers, Terminator tank support armored fighting vehicles, Yars missile system launchers, S-400 air defense missile system, Pantsir-S1 gun-missile air defense systems and other equipment.
(Kremlin.ru, May 9, 2019)
Putin's Speech At The Victory Parade: The Lessons Of The Past War Are Still Relevant. We Will Continue To Do Our Best To Ensure High Combat Capability Of Our Armed Forces
"… Congratulations on Victory Day, the day of our pride and grief, our boundless gratitude to the defenders of the Fatherland who crushed Nazism.
"They are all on the pedestal of the tremendous Victory. It is for this Victory that they fought and labored, passed that self-sacrificing road of horrendous ordeals, stood up as an unbending stronghold in the fire of the battles, gave everything they could and through suffering they garnered Victory!
"With every new year we come to a deeper realization of the moral power of that unparalleled feat and the eternal value of the military triumph of our people.
"It was the people who defended and saved our Motherland, became the hope and a tower of strength for the humankind, the main liberator of European nations.
"Our country’s history counts a number of heroic deeds yet the victory over Nazism stands out as retribution to the Nazis for all their crimes, for thinking of themselves as a 'superior race' and starting the terrible war.
"This insolent force subjugated many nations, and impunity veiled the Nazis’ eyes. They thought they would also be able to conquer the Soviet Union within several weeks – the thousand-year-old historic Russia. They failed.
"Yes, after the enemy’s treacherous attack on our territory we suffered defeats, retreats and heavy losses but it did not break Russia's spirit.
"As early as July 1941, over 5 million soldiers joined the army ranks, tens of thousands of volunteers became militiamen.
"Under fierce fire, hundreds of large factories were evacuated to the east, and in incredibly short time manufacturing was resumed in the Urals, in the Volga region and Siberia.
"'Everything for the Victory' became the slogan of the home front. This is what marked the opening of our 'second front' – the heroic labor front. Its powerful arsenal worked seamlessly.
"The victory was forged by the whole nation. The garrison of the Brest tower was the first to take the sudden treacherous brunt of the invaders. The defenders of the fortress fought to the last soldier, they left writing on the citadel’s walls which still make us gasp for air. They sound like an oath and a testament to us: 'I am dying but I do not surrender.'
"The feats of Russian soldiers today are telling us that this charge has not been forgotten. This oath has been adopted by the current generation of defenders of the Fatherland and is the main guarantee of absolute reliability and invincibility of Russian weapons.
"That is exactly what the people thought and how they acted during the Great Patriotic War, as they were fighting for their Motherland in the decisive battles for Moscow and in Stalingrad, at the Kursk Bulge and on the Dnieper River.
"The victory was secured with the courage of the defenders of ancient Russian capitals of Kiev and Veliky Novgorod, the fearless defenders of Smolensk, Odessa, Sevastopol, and the infinite fortitude of the inhabitants of the besieged Leningrad.
"At each bridgehead and at each military line, feats of tremendous spiritual power were accomplished, often by very young people. More than half of the Heroes of the Soviet Union were under 25.
"Many went to the front straight from school and forever remained there, on the front line, never knowing the happiness of love, family, or children.
"As soldiers of their country, they did not spare their lives for the sake of its freedom, peaceful future, and each of us. We will never forget their courage and self-sacrifice, and the great price paid for Victory.
"We bow our heads in respect before the memory of the sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fellow soldiers, families and friends. We grieve for the veterans who are no longer with us.
"Let us hold a minute of silence.
(A minute of silence.)
"The memory of the Great Patriotic War and the truth about it is part of our conscience and our responsibility.
"Today, we see how a number of countries are deliberately distorting war events, and how those who, forgetting honor and human dignity, served the Nazis, are now being glorified, and how shamelessly they lie to their children and betray their ancestors.
"Our sacred duty is to protect the real heroes. We bow to all veterans from the generation of victors. You live in different countries, but the feat that you accomplished together cannot be divided. We will always honor all of you and glorify Victory, which has always been and remains one for all of us.
"The lessons of the past war are still relevant. We have done and will continue to do our best to ensure high combat capability of our Armed Forces, the defense potential of the most modern level, and we will continue to reinforce the prestige of military service and the standing of soldiers and officers, the defenders of the Fatherland.
"At the same time, Russia is open to cooperation with everyone who is willing to resist terrorism, neo-Nazism and extremism. Collective resistance to bearers of deadly ideas has become crucial again.
"We call on all the countries to become fully aware of our shared responsibility for creating an effective and equal for all security system.
"Our nation is well aware of what war is. It brought grief and innumerable suffering to each family. We have not forgotten anything. We remember everything and hold sacred the valor of the soldiers of Victory. Our military parades, the thunder of fireworks and the Immortal Regiment march serve the purpose of honoring them.
"Victory Day always brings together and unites all generations, and opens people’s hearts. Today, we are not hiding our emotions, and these sincere feelings are uniting Russia.
"We are proud of our unity, and we are glad to have our children and grandchildren with us here, so that we can pass on to them the sacred memory of the heroic accomplishments of our fathers and grandfathers and be confident that their feats and their victories will live forever.
"Glory to the victorious nation!
"Happy holiday to you!
"Happy Victory Day!
(Kremlin.ru, May 9, 2019)
Russian FM Lavrov: It Is Indecent To Accuse Us Of Militarizing Public Consciousness
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks while laying a floral tribute at the memorial plaque commemorating Foreign Ministry employees who died during the Great Patriotic War:
"… We are not dividing Victory into ours and someone else’s. We appreciate the contribution of all states, peoples, and guerilla movements to our common Victory. We proceed from the assumption that it could not be otherwise. Today, too, by a collective effort, we are working to make sure that the horrors of World War II will never be repeated.
"Many people, primarily those abroad, are saying that our focus on the memorial dates of the Great Patriotic War is aimed at militarizing our society. I am aware that certain countries would like to forget as soon as possible about the role they played during the years of preparation for World War II. But I think that it is just indecent to accuse us of militarizing public consciousness. Everything that we are doing is aimed at not letting the present generation and all future ones forget the horrors of that war and inducing them to prevent the recurrence of anything of the kind…"
(Mid.ru, May 8, 2019)
Crimea TV Party: Beheading And Eating Trump
Staffers of Crimea TV threw a party to mark the TV station's 60th anniversary. During the party a Trump-shaped cake was served to the invitees.
"For five years, they have been harassing us. For five years, they have hindered our work. They deny us entry to many countries. Thus, we decided to respond. Today, Crimean 'Kremlin propaganda' will officially eat Trump and all the sanctions,” said Crimea TV journalist Oleg Kruchkov, before cutting the cake.
(Echo.msk.ru, May 2, 2019)
Watch the video
Reactions To The Sacking Of British Defense Minister Williamson
On May 1, UK Prime Minister Theresa May fired British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson, after accusing him of leaking information from a secret government meeting. There was no love lost between Williamson and the Russian government, as the former defense minister had sharply condemned Russian actions and particularly after the Skripal case.
Commenting on the sacking of Williamson, Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova wrote in her Facebook page: "Media: 'British PM has requested the Defense Minister to resign because she has lost confidence in his capability to serve- PM’s office.'
"This is brilliant, albeit too late. We have long lost our faith and trust in Williamson’s capability to serve. I’ll remind you, this is the same deranged person, pretending to be the British Defense Minister, who said that 'Russia should move away and shut up'."
(Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, May 1, 2019)
Senator Pushkov wrote in his Twitter account:
"British Defense Minister Wiiliamson was fired by May because 'she lost a faith in his capability to serve '. That is – he totally failed. No great loss. Williamson preached a primitive-aggressive style, while distinguishing himself only with his assaults on Russia. Yet, people like him in London are a dime a dozen."
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 1, 2019)
News In Brief
Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 11th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, Rovaniemi, May 7, 2019. (Mid.ru, May 7, 2019; read the full transcript)
- Russian Director Kirill Serebrennikov, released on bail a month ago after 1.5 Years of house arrest, was still unable to visit the Cannes Festival where his rock biopic "Leto" was presented. A placard bearing the absent director's name was hoisted in protest. (Imdb.com, May 8, 2019; read the full article)