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:
- Vladimir Putin – Kim Jong-un Summit
- Elections In Ukraine
- Notre Dame Fire
- Stalin's Popularity
Vladimir Putin-Kim Jong-un Summit
See the video of Kim Jong-un's arrival in Vladivostok.
Russky Island is hosting talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-unl Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
According to the Kremlin website, the talks started with a one-on-one conversation between the two leaders, with members of national delegations joining the consultations later on.
Kim Jong-un came to Vladivostok at Putin's invitation. This is the first meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un, as well as the first foreign visit by the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea since his re-election to this post.
After the consultations, an official reception was held on behalf of the President of Russia in honor of Kim Jong-un.
(Kremlin.ru, April 25, 2019)
Beginning Of Conversation With Kim Jong-un – Putin: We Welcome Your Efforts To Promote Normalization In DPRK-US Relations
"I am very pleased to meet with you in Russia. Our colleagues agreed to hold this meeting a long time ago…
"In this connection, let me note that last year we marked 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. The founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea paid his first visit to Moscow in 1949. I also remember my visit to your country.
"Your father was among those who spearheaded the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between our countries, which is a fundamental instrument. I have no doubt that today's visit to Russia will help further develop bilateral relations and help us better understand ways of bringing about a settlement on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, and what Russia can do to facilitate the positive processes that we are witnessing today.
"We certainly welcome your efforts to promote inter-Korean dialogue and normalization in DPRK-US relations.
"Of course, there is a lot we have to achieve on the bilateral track to promote trade and economic relations, as well as cultural and educational ties.
Kim Jong-un: "I would like to thank you, Mr President, for your kind invitation and for paying so much attention to my visit despite your extremely packed schedule. You have travelled thousands of kilometers from Moscow in order to meet me here.
"I would also like to congratulate you on the fact that last year the people of Russia elected you as the head of Great Russia, as well as on your successful efforts to build a stronger Russia.
"Mr; President, just as you, I hope that our meeting will help strengthen and expand the traditional and long-standing ties of friendship between DPRK and Russia.
"I would also like to say that the international community has been following very closely the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula. I hope that our talks make a significant contribution to this process, by offering us an opportunity to assess these developments, exchange views and combine our efforts to settle this matter. I look forward to a meaningful exchange of opinions today."
Putin: "I am sure it will be that way."
(Kremlin.ru, April 25, 2019)
Putin And Kim Jong-un Had A Face-To-Face Meeting, Which Lasted About Two Hours
"Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had a face-to-face meeting, which lasted about two hours. It is twice as long as the 50 minutes stipulated for this part of the meeting by the protocol.
"The conversation was held behind closed doors in a room in facility S of the Far Eastern Federal University. The delegation members did not take part in the conversation, with just interpreters following the leaders."
(Tass.com, April 25, 2019)
Putin: There Is A Need To Abandon Rule Of Force To Resolve Situation On Korean Peninsula
Following talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Putin told reporters: "Restoring the rule of international law is crucial, we have discussed it during today's talks, there is a need to restore a situation where international law and not the rule of force regulates global developments. If we succeed in achieving this goal, it will be the first step, the most important step on the way to resolving complicated situations such as on the Korean Peninsula."
He then added: "What does denuclearization mean? In fact, it means North Korea's disarmament." Putin further explained that both Moscow and Pyongyang believed that North Korea "needs security and sovereignty guarantees." "And what other guarantees can there be, apart from those based on international law?" Putin said. According to Putin, it is premature to talk about the guarantees, but – he added - "there is a need to take the first steps to build trust."
(Tass.com, April 25, 2019)
The North Korean side at the negotiations also includes Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong-ho and First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui.
The Russian Federation is represented by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora, Minister of Transport Yevgeny Ditrikh, Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic Alexander Kozlov, Deputy Minister of Energy Anatoly Yanovsky and Russian Railways Director General Oleg Belozerov.
(Tass.com, April 25, 2019)
Pyongyang Needs Moscow's Support To Advance Lifting Sanctions Against North Korea And To Expand Economic Ties
"On April 25, the long-awaited summit of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un is to be held in Vladivostok. The North Korean leader has had several meetings with the leaders of the United States and China, but the only Russian top official he has met so far is Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. His most recent summit meeting with US President Donald Trump did not yield tangible results. The US-North Korean relations must have entered a period of stagnation. Pyongyang's relations with China and South Korea are not in their best shape either.
"Today Pyongyang needs Moscow's support no only to advance lifting sanctions against the North Korean regime, but also to expand economic ties. The meeting has a special significance for the Russian side, which will have an opportunity not only to establish direct contacts with the North Korean leadership, but also to take the talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula to a new level.
(Valdaiclub.com, April 23, 2019)
Russian Expert Zakharova: One Should Not Expect Any Sensational Results From This Summit
Lyudmila Zakharova, senior researcher at the Centre for Korean Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, wrote: "One should not expect any sensational results from this summit. There could be verbal statements of adherence to a peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula's nuclear problem, the need to ease sanctions in response to DPRK's steps toward denuclearization, etc. Judging by the time taken in planning this summit, real difficulties may be encountered in fulfilling its agenda.
"The unsuccessful Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi contributed to the intensification of Pyongyang's efforts to organize the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin. In Hanoi, Kim did not succeed in easing economic sanctions. Now, North Korea will probably try to get the support of other parties in promoting its approach to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula... In principle, Russia understands this approach and finds it acceptable in the context of ensuring its own national interests in Northeast Asia. Therefore, after the Hanoi Summit, which ended without any positive results for the DPRK, the meeting in Vladivostok could become the first positive step towards reviving diplomatic efforts to resolve the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue. Regardless of this, the leaders of Russia and North Korea are unlikely to sign any documents...
"I would not expect any sensational results from this summit. There could be verbal statements of adherence to a peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula's nuclear problem, the need to ease sanctions in response to DPRK's steps toward denuclearization, etc. Judging by the time taken in planning this summit, real difficulties may be encountered in fulfilling its agenda. Pyongyang, of course, is interested in expanding economic cooperation and receiving economic assistance from Russia. However, possibilities for the development of relations are significantly limited by the UN Security Council sanctions, so there is not much to expect in this area. However, in the event that sanctions are loosened, there is an existing joint Rajin-Khasan logistics project, which needs to be developed. There are Russia's needs for North Korean labor, [and] there is a request from the Northerners for the construction of an automobile bridge between the two countries to expand trade and tourism ties, as well as electric power development projects.
"Moscow has consistently advocated the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, via political and diplomatic methods and the creation of a multilateral security structure in the Northeast Asia region. Russia's efforts in the framework of the six-party talks confirm this. Then the negotiations were interrupted for many years and Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests, causing a response from the world community in the form of UN Security Council sanctions. Recently, the DPRK probably thought that it would be able to resolve all of its issues directly with the United States without the participation of other parties.
"However, the Hanoi Summit showed that this is not the case. Kim Jong-un failed to exchange part of his nuclear facilities for substantial relief from the sanctions regime. The prospects for American-North Korean dialogue are vague. Such a development requires the involvement of other significant regional players to resolve the nuclear crisis. One of them, of course, is Russia. In 2017, Moscow proposed a 'road map' to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which was supported by China. The 'double freeze' initiative suggested that North Korea must not test nuclear warheads and must not launch rockets, and the United States and South Korea must not conduct or, at least, should drastically reduce the scale of military exercises. As we can see, at the moment, this path is being implemented in practice, which indicates an adequate assessment of the situation by Russia and its ability to make constructive proposals. Last autumn, Moscow raised in the UN Security Council the question of the possibility of easing sanctions in response to the steps taken by the DPRK to denuclearise the peninsula. It appears that this position is still maintained. The implementation of Russia's proposals will contribute to the further easing of tensions, allowing Moscow to develop a realistic action plan for ensuring the non-proliferation regime on the Korean Peninsula."
(Valdaiclub.com, April 24, 2019)
Elections In Ukraine
On April 21, in the second round of the Ukrainian elections, Volodymyr Zelenskiy won the Ukrainian presidency in a landslide.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy (Source: Kyivpost.com)
Former Russian Finance Minister Kudrin: I Hope Moscow-Kiev Negotiations Will Be Renewed
Commenting on the elections, former Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin tweeted: "The elections in Ukraine confirm that we are living in an era of nonstandard decision. I would like to hope that under the new Ukrainian authorities, the negotiating process between Moscow and Kiev will be renewed."
(Twitter.com/Alexei_Kudrin, April 21, 2019)
Russian Commentator Rodionov: Everybody Is Celebrating Poroshenko's Departure
The nationalist Vzglyad political scientist Dmitry Rodionov painted a dismal outlook for Ukraine: "The Ukrainians frequently point out to the Russians that the inhabitants of Ukraine are much greater freedom lovers and take pride in constantly overthrowing an unwanted government. Unfortunately this peculiarity of their mentality as distinct from the Russian flows in line with emotions and fails to consider that the overthrow of a wearisome authority at any price frequently leads to the country's destruction. This is indeed untrue of the Russians and even more so of the Europeans to whom they [the Ukrainians] so desire to unite with. A European mentality is the triumph of the rational; the Ukrainian [mentality] is the reverse..."
Rodionov observed that Zelenskiy had scored well in all Ukraine's regions despite their highly disparate views, and that this had accounted for his landslide victory. He added that now the contradictions would come home to roost and Zelensky would be unable to deliver on his promises. "Unfortunately, in Ukraine today, few are reflecting on this – everybody is celebrating Poroshenko's departure. They forget that five years ago they celebrated the departure of Yanukovich in the very same way, without understanding what awaited the country going forward. The peculiarity of the Ukrainian political mentality also includes every new leader beginning as the national icon, and finishing... generally as all finish in this country. God grant that at least without war," Rodionov added.
(Vz.ru, April 22, 2019)
Russian Commentator Illarionov: The Ukrainian Elections Demonstrated That Ukraine Is A Free Country
Andrey Illarionov, writing in the liberal Echo of Moscow, takes a more optimistic and laudatory view of the elections noting that Volodymyr Zelenskiy accomplished the biggest landslide in Post-Soviet Ukrainian political history. He carried all the regions and polled strongly amongst all the age groups and his margin of victory was the largest ever recorded. His TV series was the longest pre-election campaign. Illarionov of course empathized with the victor's words on election night: "I want to say to the citizens of Ukraine and all countries of the post Soviet Union look at us everything is possible."
"The seventh Ukrainian presidential elections have once again demonstrated that Ukraine as a whole is a free country. Ukrainian society knew tis even earlier. But this reminder is invaluable and most beneficial for the Eastern Slavic neighbors –Russia and Belarus. For the Kremlin propagandists spreading the cock and bull story about 'nationalist', 'Nazi' and 'anti-Semitic' Ukraine, the elections of Volodymyr Zelenskiy as president of the country by the votes of three quarters of the voters was a knockout blow."
Russian Commentator Driz: The Kremlin's Position Will Be The Same As Before – Wait And See
Russian commentator Dmitry Driz notes in Kommersant that Putin as opposed to Medvedev did not congratulate Zelenskiy. Driz wrote: "To begin with this was a message not only to Zelenskiy but also to the West the present Ukraine and all that happened there is the result of the destructive activity by the European and American partners so to participate in this [the congratulations] we do not want and will not. We have our own way and will not keep in line and march to the tune of Europe and the US. For that reason we will wait, we will look not at the words but at the deeds of that so called public servant...
"The Kremlin's position will be as it was earlier wait and see. Here they await when the young foolish neighbor is done with his democracy and finally swerves back to the right track and calms down. Look winter without gas is coming and then in Kiev they may sing a different tune. Ahead are parliamentary elections and the Kremlin is helping the former [pro-Russian] 'Party of Regions'...in the Donbass they are distributing Russian passports and there they are also recognizing the [separatist] republics."
(Kommersant.ru, April 23, 2019)
Notre Dame Fire
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russian politician and leader of the LDPR party, said about the Notre Dame fire: "It is unpleasant for the French, with the most famous church. But some among us are beginning suggestions of lending some sort of assistance to express commiseration. But who forgot how the French burned Moscow, plundered half the country, and killed thousands of people."
Duma deputy Vitaly Milonov agreed with Zhirinovsky and advised those willing to sacrifice funds for France to turn their attention first to homeland holy places in need of repair.
(Aif.ru, April 17, 2019)
Levada Center Director Gudkov: Stalin's Popularity Is A Sign Of Society's Degradation
A Levada Center poll found that 70% approved of Stalin, Lev Gudkov director of the center told Kommersant: "Stalin's popularity is not merely a symptom of social reaction, but a sign of society's degradation, incapacity for understanding, self-analysis a most worrying symptom. The sustained dynamic of a positive regard for Stalin is explainable by a very marked change in domestic politics.
"If at the start of perestroika towards the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s the attitude towards him was unambiguously negative and he was perceived as a pathological personality, a sadist and the creator of the Soviet totalitarian system, then gradually as a measure of disenchantment with the reforms, the worsening economic situation, the rise of Russian nationalism, the attitude began to change. A reverse policy began – rehabilitation of socialism, glorifying him in the capacity of the organizer of victory. Behind this were consistent agitation work, and a change in education and teaching policy."
(Kommersant.ru, April 16, 2019)
Journalist Shevchenko: 'The New Stalin Cult Was Coordinated From Above'
The journalist Maxim Shevchenko claimed that the new Stalin cult was coordinated from above and designed to help Putin in his fight against the contemporary left opposition that criticized the government pension reform.
"Who was against Stalin? The Trotskyites.
"And who is against Putin? The contemporary Trotskyites as well.
"And who are the neo-Stalinists?
"[Sergey] Kiriyenok and the rest of the loyal 'liberals' and 'conservatives' servants of the regime who deal with the challenges of strengthening the verticals and realizing national projects, as 'foundations of national development'"
(Echo.msk.ru, April 18, 2019)
Russian Commentator Yakovenko: The Only Criticism Of Putin That Is Permitted Are Remonstrances To Putin That He Is Not A 'True Stalin'
Igor Yakovenko in Everyday Journal:
"The only criticism of Putin that is permitted and not quashed on the national TV channels are remonstrances to Putin that his Stalin-lite, and he is not a 'true Stalin'. In 2008'he did not seize Tbilisi' and 'he did not hang Saakashvili', as Stalin would have done. He only occupied Crimea and part of Donbass, and not all Ukraine as Stalin would have done. He locks up a few oppositionists and does not shoot them by the hundreds of thousands. This is the effectively the message spoken on the country's main public channel by the chief front man for Putinism-Vladimir Solovyev."
(Ej.ru, April 17, 2019)