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
(Source: Vitaly Podvitsky, Ria.ru, July 27, 2018)
Trump: "Tell our farmers that we've got a bunch of contracts in Europe!"
Junker's aide: "What are we left with?"
("To be left with soybeans" is a Russian idiom meaning that someone lost a bit more than everything, literally has nothing to eat except beans.)
Quote Of The Week
Russian analyst Vladimir Ardaev wrote in his column for RIA:
"Even a cursory glance at the negotiations outcomes proves that the US has got concrete and tangible benefits. Boosting American export of soy beans to Europe is what Trump actually wanted – now he has provided himself with American farmers' support. Promoting American LNG [liquified natural gas] is also his long standing objective. That cherished objective, that he used every effort to address is closer now - Europe will start building LNG terminals for American gas. Thus, Trump has started to exert a pressure on Russia in European gas market, which may be negative for the Nord Stream-2 and the second branch of the Turkish stream projects."
(Ria.ru, July 27, 2018)
In The News:
Torture In Russian Prisons
On July 20, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a leaked video, showing the torture of the inmate Evgeny Makarov at a Yaroslavl prison on June 29, 2017.
See the video published by Novaya Gazeta (graphic images).
See the video's translation into English done by the Riga-based Russian media outlet Meduza.io.
Meduza.io interviewed Makarov's lawyer, Irina Kravtsova. After the publication of the video, she fled Russia, following threats against her.
Read the full interview.
Russian citizens are going to pay themselves for supplemental "anti-terror" protection of their residential apartments.
The Russian Ministry of Construction has prepared a draft for governmental executive order, according to which condominiums, high story building and other types of dwelling will have to provide various anti-terror security measures - starting from surveillance cameras, obligatory patrolling of different house facilities and parking lots, alarm systems. Moreover, the owners will be obliged to protect their houses with code locks and intercoms. According to experts interviewed by the RBC news agency, the property owners will most likely have to pay for the proposed measures out of their own pockets..
(Rbc.ru, July 24, 2018)
Is Russia Preparing For War?
According to the Russian media outlet Izvestia, the Russian MOD has introduce a new draft legislation according to which it intends to prepare a registry of all private vehicles in the country so they can be commandeered in a war situation. The military emergency usually comes into force in the situation of external aggression or a threat of aggression by a foreign state. The first priority is Russian made SUVs and all-terrain vehicles. The registry will include all vehicles suitable for transporting personnel.
(Iz.ru, July 24, 2018)
Commenting on the draft, the Russian MOD sought to clarify that private vehicles may be commandeered only in an extraordinary situation only and within the parameters of the current legislation. According to the MOD, the draft merely outlines the recording procedures.
(Iz.ru, July 24, 2018)
Reactions To Pompeo's Declaration On Crimea
On July 25, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stated
"Russia, through its 2014 invasion of Ukraine and its attempted annexation of Crimea, sought to undermine a bedrock international principle shared by democratic states: that no country can change the borders of another by force…
"As we did in the [Acting Secretary of State Sumner] Welles Declaration in 1940, the United States reaffirms as policy its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law. In concert with allies, partners, and the international community, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored.
"The United States calls on Russia to respect the principles to which it has long claimed to adhere and to end its occupation of Crimea… Through its actions, Russia has acted in a manner unworthy of a great nation and has chosen to isolate itself from the international community."
(State.gov, July 25, 2018; see Pompeo's full declaration)
Senator Kosachev: Crimea Is A Different Story
Commenting on Pompeo's statement, Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev, head of Federation Council Foreign Affairs committee, wrote in his Facebook account:
"The Americans have published the 'Crimean Declaration.' Invoking their own experience of non-recognition for the inclusion of the Baltic States into USSR back in 1940s, they solemnly pledge to behave likewise in the future, concerning the status of Crimea as part of Russia.
"The American strategists think (or would like to believe) that the storylines are identical and that a strategy, that was once proven effective, is applicable for any eventuality. [This is] a mindless cliché and a drastic misconception..
"In the case of the Baltic republics the decisions of the current Soviet authorities decisions were based on the support of a narrow group of local politicians and were not supported by the majority of population. Back then they [the Soviets] relied on coercion by military force the strength of a repressive apparat. History indeed put everything back in its right place.
"Crimea is the directly opposite story. There was no military force or coercion. The return to Russia is supported decisively and unequivocally by a crushing majority of the population, the opponents constitute a diminishing minority of the population. This is not a fake Soviet-style propaganda. This is an absolute reality.
"By implementing their strategy in 1940 the Americans opposed the actions of the current Soviet authorities and injustice. At the moment they are trying to stand up against the people's will, by depriving the people of justice.
"Feel the difference. This is doomed to failure, both historically and politically."
(Facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002123135703, July 26, 2018)
Russian Embassy To The US: Our American Partners Live In Another Dimensions
The Russian Embassy to the US wrote:
"The State Department comes up with new statements and declarations on a quarterly basis. We have not learned anything new. It is yet another proof that our partners live in a different dimension. They try to use international legal acts, which contain 'all peoples have the right to self-determination' provisions that laid the foundation for Crimea’s return to Russia in 2014.
"Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians choose Russian Crimea as their vacation resort, therefore debunking myths on Russian 'occupation' and 'aggression.' American musicians and athletes perform on the peninsula on a regular basis, despite U.S. State Department’s warnings about non-existent 'threats.' Over 90 thousand U.S. soccer fans saw for themselves during the FIFA World Cup that U.S. that foreign agency’s recommendation to reconsider visiting our country was inadequate, not to mention the bogus image of Russia forced by the U.S. mainstream media.
"We wait for the U.S. State Department to issue a declaration that Kosovo is Serbia."
(Facebook.com/RusEmbUSA, July 26, 2018)
Russian MFA: The Arrest Of Maria Butina Is Motivated Solely By US Domestic And Foreign Politics
Maria Butina (Source: Facebook.com)
During the weekly briefing, Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesman Artyom Kozhin commented about the arrest of the alleged Russian spy Maria Butina in the US:
"We continue to closely monitor the fate of Russian citizen Maria Butina, arrested in Washington on July 15. Russian Embassy employees have visited her in prison, and have attended the court sessions where a measure of restraint and other procedural issues were determined, including yesterday. We have sent a resolute protest to the US State Department against the actions taken against her, including the severe psychological pressure she was subjected to.
"Butina was subjected to an eight-hour search in the arrest process, as FBI agents armed with automatic firearms burst into her rented apartment, literally breaking furniture, shaking and even tearing up things, opening floors and walls. They found nothing incriminating, but despite the complete lack of evidence, Maria Butina was refused release.
"The FBI’s thin case against Butina, as anyone can read on the internet, is actually based on decontextualized excerpts from her personal correspondence in social media. They are trying to incriminate her in a violation of the US foreign agents law, although she did not work for any foreign state, but studied at a Washington university and, taking a great interest in weapons, went to National Rifle Association of America events. She did this openly, not hiding her Russian citizenship, not hiding acquaintances or contacts, because there was nothing to hide.
"However, certain political forces in the United States, pursuing self-serving interests, invented a story of Russian interference in the US elections, and this mudslinging campaign against Russia actually sent Butina to prison on a framed case – in fact, simply due to her nationality. What is this, if not a witch-hunt? There are fears that any of our compatriots in America might find themselves to be the next targets.
"We demand that the US authorities immediately stop this arbitrariness and release Maria Butina. Her arrest is motivated solely by US domestic and foreign politics, and, therefore, she is a political prisoner."
(Mid.ru, July 26, 2018)
Russian Expert Sushentsov: Butina's Arrest Was A Message To Trump
Commenting on US-Russia relations, Andrey Sushentsov, program director of the Valdai Club Foundation, wrote: "The mid-level Washington bureaucrats tend to distrust their president. And the fact that the Russian citizen Maria Butina was arrested on July 16, right on the summit day, shows that the US officials send to Trump a concrete message: none of the agreements made behind the back of the Washington mainstream will be fulfilled, because they will meet with frontal opposition from the Washington bureaucrats. For this reason one cannot call the last summit fully successful."
He then added: "Anyway, the bilateral high-level summits are definitely useful. Even if they do not produce any particular progress, they create a new information environment containing both negative and positive outcome. Moreover, the new environment thanks to summit results makes it possible to turn the page and somehow to change the current situation. The fact is, that there is no shared desire to increase escalation between the US and Russia."
(Valdaiclub.com, July 24, 2018)
News In Brief:
- "On June 29, Oleg Navalny went free from prison. Like his older brother, Alexey Navalny (the activist who created the Anti-Corruption Foundation), Oleg was controversially convicted of embezzling several million rubles from an Eastern European subsidiary of the cosmetics company Yves Rocher. Unlike his brother, Oleg was sent to prison for three and a half years. (Alexey was sentenced to probation.) Some speculated that Oleg was a hostage to curb the political activities of his more famous brother. While behind bars, Oleg studied English and Spanish, learned to illustrate, corresponded with dozens of people, and authored several stories for Meduza. After he was released on June 29, he spoke to Meduza’s Andrey Kozenko about his time in prison and his plans for the future." (Meduza.io, July 10, 2018; read the full interview)