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.
Cartoon Of The Week
U.S. President Donald Trump portrayed as a super hero holding the hammer and sickle.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is one of the most-quoted Russian officials. She is known for using colorful language when describing Russian foreign policy in her weekly press briefings. The following are Zakharova's quotes of the week:
(Source: Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, February 2, 2017)
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6771, Russian FM Spokesperson Maria Zakharova Announces A Contest For Cartoons Of British FM Boris Johnson, February 3, 2017.
Zakharova: No One Is Interested In The Donbass Children's Accounts, 'Because They Do Not Engage In [Europe's] Propaganda'
"In the early hours of February 3, Donetsk came under massive rocket attacks from the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Dozens of strikes from heavy large-caliber weapon systems, including Uragan and Grad multiple rocket launchers, were delivered against residential areas. Several civilians were killed or injured... By these actions, Kiev has grossly violated not only the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949 but also all moral norms. Only vandals could bomb a sleeping city and kill innocent people. We have no other definition for the people who carried out this nighttime raid...
"Earlier this week we already expressed our concern over the serious worsening of the situation in Donbass...
We appeal to Kiev and the world community as a whole: you are so concerned about the fate of civilians everywhere, in regions that are not connected to Europe, that are separated by seas, by long distances, that you fail to see what is taking place in Europe itself. For two years now Europeans have been killing Europeans, and all of this is happening with the approval of the Europeans themselves. This is a disgrace to modern-day Europe. How can you possibly fail to understand this? You have protected Ukraine for so many years, [so] you are directly responsible for it. Where are you? Where are you hiding? Thanks to BBC footage (it should be given credit for this) we can see the mind-boggling images of tanks and heavy weapon systems being positioned near civilian facilities. Look at how this footage ends: representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stand around laughing, discussing something; presumably they are preparing for nighttime bombing attacks. The last episode in this video is totally beyond good and evil. Their representative stands, bending over an OSCE representative and telling him something. What is there to tell? Everything is out there to see: tanks using civilians as a human shield. And then you will say that Ukrainian civilians 'on the other side' are being killed. "What are you doing? Are you blind? It seems as if nobody sees this and they keep saying that Russia violates the Minsk agreements. Do you have any conscience? Do the children of Donbass not exist for Europeans? We have heard so often Europeans talk about the situation in Syria and Aleppo. Donbass is closer to you. Are you not seeing them at all? Or are they not the children to be concerned about? Are you usually concerned about other children? The whole world watched the account of the Aleppo girl. No, the Donbass children do not have accounts, because they do not engage in propaganda. They simply live and suffer, while Europe could not care less about what is happening on its territory. You have stated so often that Ukraine is part of Europe and that Ukraine is close to the European community. Do not abandon those you took so long to befriend."
(Mid.ru, February 3, 2017)
Quote Of The Week
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: "We have been following the situation in the U.S. We can see that many of the major foreign policy issues that Donald Trump has mentioned overlap with what [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has been saying about Russia's foreign policy priorities."
(Tass.com, January 23, 2017)
In The News:
Russia in Syria; Gazeta.ru: Trump's Suggestion of Safe Zones May Lead To Third World War
Russia called on the U.S. to calculate the risks of creating 'safe zones' for Syrian refugees, as proposed by U.S. President Trump. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "It is important that this does not worsen the situation with the refugees... All the possible consequences should be considered."
(Tass.com, January 26, 2017)
According to an article published in Gazeta.ru, the proposed safe zones in Syria may lead to a Third World War. Retired Colonel General Igor Maltsev, a former commander of Russia's air defense force, explained that the inclusion of a "no fly zone" within the safe zones will be intolerable from a Russian perspective if in the areas concerned armed clashes are occurring between government forces and "terrorists". In that event the Russian air force will be unable to assist Syrian governmen forces. Furthermore, according to Maltsev, Russian jets may be targeted by Western antiaircraft weapons, which will lead to unexpected consequences up to a global war.
(Gazeta.ru, January 26, 2017)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Al Nahyan and Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit following the fourth ministerial meeting of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, Abu Dhabi, February 1, 2017
Question: "Let's return to the question about Syria. Could you comment on the new US administration's stance regarding the possibility of creating safe zones in Syria? How realistic is that? Do you think it's a good idea?"
Lavrov: "I can comment on these statements. We understand that President Trump's administration has yet to specify their approaches. As you know, the idea of safe zones was discussed early on during the Syrian crisis. Back then, they wanted to reproduce a very sad Libyan experience, when the creation of this kind of zone was announced in the Benghazi area, held by the anti-government forces, and something like an alternative government was created there. The international community, in the form of NATO, 'rushed to help' this 'government' and, in flagrant violation of a UN Security Council resolution, overthrew the Gaddafi government.
"I do not see in today's ideas that we are hearing from Washington any attempts to go down that same path. Again, that path was very unfortunate. Everyone realized it after Libya had been destroyed. To this day, we are trying to help the Libyans to restore their territorial integrity, their own state. As I understand it, when the Americans talk about safe zones, they are primarily interested in reducing the number of migrants coming to the West from that region, including Syria. I repeat, we are ready for discussions and debates, and we are ready to listen to the evaluation of the new U.S. administration's ideas. As soon as the leadership of the U.S. State Department takes its final shape, I'm convinced that we will establish contacts with them and embark on a full-fledged regular dialogue. I'm confident that it will be aimed at achieving pragmatic results, calming the situation and promoting settlement in Syria, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the region. I'm also certain that this dialogue will not come under a dictate of profoundly ideological motives when it comes to 'democratization' and the like."
(Mid.ru, February 2, 2017)
See: JOINT STATEMENT BY IRAN, RUSSIA, TURKEY ON THE INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON SYRIA IN ASTANA, January 23-24, 2017
The clashes around Donetsk city, controlled by the rebels, and Avdeevka, controlled by Kiev, have seriously intensified during the past week, spreading also to the Luhansk and Mariupol regions. The sides are using heavy artillery, mortar shelling and Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems (MLRS GRAD BM-21).
(Pravda.com.ua, February 2, 2017)
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said: "The essence of what is happening around Avdeyevka and already other communities at the engagement line is that Kiev is trying to use combat engagements it has provoked as a reason for completely giving up the Minsk accords... As it seems to us, Kiev wants with the help of this latest and rudest provocation in the area of Avdeyevka to check the degree of readiness of the already new U.S. administration: whether or not it is ready habitually to support any trick by the Ukrainian military. This seems to be a certain test." He then added: "Kiev does not want the situation to be resolved. Kiev does not need the Minsk agreements. It only needs the Minsk format as a cover and a way of exerting pressure on Moscow... Kiev is defiantly reluctant to comply with the Minsk agreements... Ukraine has not actually made a single step to implement them over the past two years. Everyone sees that, it is obvious. Meanwhile, the sanctions imposed by the European Union and the US over the lack of progress in the context of the Minsk process are still directed against Russia."
(Tass.com, February 1, 2017)
On February 1, a Ukrainian Antonov An-26 plane made two passes at an extremely low altitude near Russian drilling towers in the Black Sea. A spokesman for the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters said: "This morning, between 11:30 and 12:00 a.m. Moscow time, an An-26 plane of the Ukrainian armed forces with board No. 53 made two clearly provocative passes at an extremely low altitude near the Russian Tavrida and Crimea-1 oil rigs in the Black Sea. All the statements by the Ukrainian side that the An-26 plane was allegedly fired upon are an absolute lie [Ukraine accused Russia of opening fire at Ukrainian military cargo/personnel aircraft in the Black sea]. During the Ukrainian An-26's second pass, an employee of the drilling platform's security guard fired four flash signals from a signal pistol to prevent a possible air crash resulting from a collision with the drilling tower."
(Tass.com, February 2, 2017)
Igor Korotchenko, the editor-in-chief of the Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defense) magazine said: "The Kiev government sees the new Administration in Washington is posing risks in the sense that it may revoke the anti-Russian sanctions or ease them notably and that's why it's picking fights in order to trigger a reaction and then accuse Russia of aggression." He then added: "On the face of it, Kiev will portray itself as an innocent victim... I'm confident NATO won't let itself be drawn into just any option because of Ukraine, especially as all the vital decisions in that bloc emanate from Washington... I believe Ukraine itself doesn't entertain special hopes that any attempted provocations will push NATO into something."
(Tass.com, February 2, 2017)
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko intends to hold a nationwide referendum on the country's accession to NATO. (although NATO has not invited Ukraine to join the alliance)
(Pravda.com.ua, February 2, 2017)
Russian President Vladimir Putin also commented on the resumed fighting in Eastern Ukraine: "With regard to the current flare-up, we stated that it is already happening. Our position is, in fact, known: it was provoked by the Ukrainian side. Actual fighting began last Friday. On Sunday, the so-called Ukrainian voluntary units captured an opposition stronghold and moved 200 meters into the territory controlled by the militias. On Sunday, they were driven out of there.
"Why is this happening now? I believe there are several reasons for that. First, the Ukrainian leadership needs money, and the best way to drum up some money is to go to the European Union, individual countries of Europe, the United States, or international financial institutions, posing as a victim of aggression. This is my first point.
"Second, as we all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate. More than that, certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate, or female candidate, to be more precise. Now they need to improve relations with the current administration, and using a conflict to do so is always a better, easier way to draw the incumbent administration into addressing Ukrainian problems and thus establish a dialogue.
"The third reason is related to domestic politics. In the wake of the utter failure of economic and social policies, the internal opposition has stepped up its activities and needs to be shut up. It is also necessary to rally the people around the current leaders. This issue can also be resolved more easily if the conflict resumes.
"There is another consideration. I think that the current Ukrainian government is not at all willing to implement the Minsk agreements and is just looking for an excuse not to do so. The resumption of the conflict would serve that purpose. I very much hope that sensible people in Ukraine, as well as those who are interested in addressing such issues through political means, will not allow the situation in southeastern Ukraine to follow the worst-case scenario, but will instead concentrate all their attention and efforts on complying with the Minsk agreements."
(Kremlin.ru, February 2, 2017)
Sanctions on Russia
Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev does not believe that U.S. sanctions against Russia will soon be lifted. Medvedev said: "We should part with illusions that the sanctions against our country will be lifted. Apparently, all that has happened is for the long term– there is nothing to hope for in other peoples' elections or the advent of some foreign leaders."
(Ria.ru, January 22, 2017)
Putin- Trump Phone Conversation
On January 28, Putin had a telephone conversation with Trump. Acording to the Kremlin's website, Putin congratulated Trump on taking office and wished him every success in his work. The Kremlin's website reported: "During the conversation, both sides expressed their readiness to make active joint efforts to stabilize and develop Russia-US cooperation on a constructive, equitable and mutually beneficial basis. Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump had a detailed discussion of pressing international issues, including the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict, strategic stability and non-proliferation, the situation with Iran's nuclear program, and the Korean Peninsula issue. The discussion also touched upon the main aspects of the Ukrainian crisis. The sides agreed to build up partner cooperation in these and other areas.
"The two leaders emphasized that joining efforts in fighting the main threat – international terrorism – is a top priority. The presidents spoke out for establishing real coordination of actions between Russia and the U.S. aimed at defeating ISIS and other terrorists groups in Syria. The sides stressed the importance of rebuilding mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between the two counties' business communities, which could give an additional impetus to progressive and sustainable development of bilateral relations.
"Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump agreed to issue instructions to work out the possible date and venue for their meeting. Donald Trump asked to convey his wishes of happiness and prosperity to the Russian people, saying that the American people have warm feelings towards Russia and its citizens. Vladimir Putin, in turn, emphasized that the feeling is mutual, adding that for over two centuries Russia has supported the United States, was its ally during the two world wars, and now sees the United States as a major partner in fighting international terrorism. The two leaders agreed to maintain regular personal contacts. The conversation took place in a positive and constructive atmosphere."
(Kremlin.ru, January 28, 2017)
The Iskander missile system will be deployed to Kaliningrad region until the threat to Russia's security from that direction ceases to exist. Deputy chair of the Duma Defense committee Andrey Krasnov, said: "As long as the threat to the Russian Federation's security exists, the missiles will be deployed to Kaliningrad. What is that threat to security? Undoubtedly, this is the deployment of global (U.S.) anti-missile shield, positioned in Romania and Poland."
(Izvestia.ru, January 21, 2017)
Addressing the State Duma, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "Together with other agencies, we have been taking reciprocal measures for NATO's steps aimed at changing the military and political situation in Europe, including its military build-up near Russia's borders and the establishment of the United States' global missile defense system facilities, particularly in Europe."
(Tass.com, January 25, 2017)
Discussing Montenegro's accession to NATO, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov said at a meeting with leaders of Montenegro's Democratic Front Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic: "The Montenegrin counterparts were briefed on Russia's position of principal concerning NATO's counterproductive expansion and attempts to drag Montenegro into the bloc... A deep rift in the country's society can lead to further instability. Russia understands the Democratic Front leaders' position on the need to take the citizens' opinion into consideration and conduct a referendum on Montenegro's NATO membership."
(Tass.com, February 1, 2017)
Discussing NATO's naval exercises in the Black Sea, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said: "As you may know, a large group of ships will participate in the Black Sea exercise. Some are already there while others are still on the way. The General Staff and the commander of the Southern Military District have naturally taken all measures to keep a close watch on this group and its activities in the Black Sea. Currently we can see and keep under control everything that is happening there. We hope that the exercises will be held in the most safe environment and without any challenges to Russia. Otherwise we will be ready to take on these challenges."
(Tass.com, February 1, 2017)
Russia Slams Foreign "Interference" In Macedonia
The Russian Foreign Ministry published the following statement on political developments in Macedonia: "We note a serious aggravation of the political crisis in the Republic of Macedonia. It is obvious that the contrived early parliamentary elections, which were held on December 11, 2016, have not helped stabilize the situation. It appears that the political forces in Macedonia are being subjected to crude foreign influence under pseudo-democratic slogans. The obvious goal of these activities is to get rid of Macedonian politicians who do not suit the West and to reshape the government contrary to the public vote in favor of the For a Better Macedonia coalition led by Nikola Gruevski and the Democratic Union for Integration led by Ali Ahmeti.
"It is especially alarming that politicians representing one ethnic community have the power to decide, based on ultimatums prompted by external forces, what blocks representing other ethnic communities will be included in the future ruling coalition in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith country. The shameless Machiavellian manipulation of the voters' will could cause the situation in Macedonia to explode and disrupt a fragile stability in the Balkans as a whole.
"We are convinced that only full renunciation of the flawed practice of foreign management, reliance on truly democratic principles and the right of the Balkan nations themselves to deal with their internal problems can strengthen trust between the regional peoples and develop an atmosphere of security and cooperation in the region."
(Mid.ru, February 2, 2017)
China's Deployment Of Dongfeng-41 Ballistic Missile
Dongfeng-41 intercontinental missile (rfa.org/mandarin, January 24, 2017)
China has deployed Dongfeng-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles in the northeast Heilongjiang province, which borders the Russian Far East. The Chinese media outlet Global Times wrote:
"The Dongfeng-41 is a nuclear solid-fuel road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. With a range of 14,000 kilometers and a payload of 10-12 nuclear warheads, it can target anywhere in the world and is widely considered one of the most advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles. There has been constant speculation about the Dongfeng-41. Its deployment is classified at the highest military levels. But most military experts believe that China has finished the research and production of the Dongfeng-41 and the conditions for deployment are optimal. But there has been no authoritative information on whether China has a Dongfeng-41 strategic missile brigade, how many such brigades it has and where they are deployed.
"Some media claimed that the Chinese military intentionally revealed the Dongfeng-41 and connected it with the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. They think this is Beijing's response to Trump's provocative remarks on China... It is logical that Beijing attaches particular importance to the Dongfeng-41 as a strategic deterrence tool. With China's rise, China's strategic risks are growing. China bears the heavy task of safeguarding national security. Nuclear deterrence is the foundation of China's national security, which must be consolidated with the rising strategic risks.
"The U.S. has the world's most powerful military strength, including the most advanced and powerful nuclear arsenal. But Trump has called for a nuclear arms build-up many times. Even Washington feels that its naval forces and nuclear strength are lacking, so how can China be content with its current nuclear strength when it is viewed by the U.S. as its biggest potential opponent?
"China's nuclear capability should be so strong that no country would dare launch a military showdown with China under any circumstance, and such that China can strike back against those militarily provoking it. A military clash with the U.S. is the last thing China wants, but China's nuclear arsenal must be able to deter the U.S.
"The U.S. has not paid enough respect to China's military. Senior US officials of the Asia-Pacific command frequently show their intention to flex their muscles with arrogance. The Trump team also took a flippant attitude toward China's core interests after Trump's election win. Enhancing communication and mutual understanding is not enough. China must procure a level of strategic military strength that will force the US to respect it.
"A China with or without the Dongfeng-41 is different to the outside world. That is the significance of the Dongfeng-41. We hope this strategic edge will be revealed officially soon. It will not bring the China Threat theory, but will only add authority to the People's Liberation Army."
(Globaltimes.cn, January 23, 2017)
Moscow does not regard China's deployment of inter-continental ballistic missiles near the Russian border as a threat. Peskov said: "We do not regard China's efforts to develop its armed forces as a threat, and even if this information (about the deployment of intercontinental ballistic missiles near the Russian borders) is true, we see no risks for our country... China is our strategic ally and our partner in political, trading and economic terms. We appreciate our relations."
(Tasss.com, January 24, 2017)
RIA defense columnist Aleksandr Khrolenko wrote: "The Deployment of Chinese ICBMs in a close proximity to the Russian territory (as well as deployment of the Novosibirsk ICBM regiment –a few hundred kilometers from Chinese territory) is a sign of a high intergovernmental trust and confidence. The Chinese ICBMs Dongfeng -41 threaten Russia no more, than American 'Minuteman-3' ICBMs which are located in the bordering states of Northern Dakota and Montana threaten Canada."
(Ria.ru, January 24, 2017)
Lieutenant general (ret) Evgenii Buzhinsky said:" We warned the Americans: you provoke China to strengthen their strategic attack capabilities. The Americans are nevertheless stubbornly creating their global missile defense shield. This provokes serious concern for us andfor , since those actions destroy strategic stability and parity. If the Americans are building the shield, either we or the Chinese are making are 'swords' longer and develop capabilities to overcome it. This is only natural".
(Ria.ru, January 24, 2017)
News In Brief:
- Talks between Lavrov and Foreign Minister of Venezuela Delcy Rodrigez, who will arrive in Russia on a working visit, will be held in Moscow on February 6. (Mid.ru)