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:
On June 20, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited US President Donald Trump for the first time. The Hryvnia is Ukraine's national currency.
During a meeting with Civic Chamber members, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated:
"I said recently in an interview with an American journalist, where is Occupy Wall Street? The FBI tore everything to shreds; no one is left there. But they did it so quietly as though they dissolved [them] in acid. Hey presto – and everything disappeared. Those guys are real professionals. We have turbulence here, but they do not: you cannot play any games there. You see, turbulence can occur only where it is allowed there. We do not even notice that. They have a well-built system but we do not. Here, everything is more liberal and somewhat easier".
(Kremlin.ru, June 20, 2017)
Quote Of The Week
Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin said that U.S. sanctions against Russia are probably based on "genetic" rejection of the Slavs. Volodin said: "This goes far beyond the reasonable, [we] might suspect that those backing [the sanctions] are struggling against the Slavs". He then added: "There is no basis for it [the sanctions]. We should ask them what is with them why do they genetically dislike [Slavic] peoples".
(Interfax.ru, June 14, 2017)
Vyacheslav Volodin (Source: Government.ru)
In The News
New Round Of U.S. Sanctions – Russian Deputy FM Ryabkov: 'The New American Leadership Is Taking Its Cue From Inveterate Russophobes In U.S. Congress'
On June 20, the U.S. tightened sanctions against Russia, and the measure coincided with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's visit to Washington.
On June 17, in an interview with Russia 1 TV channel, Russian President Putin made the following remark regarding the upcoming sanctions: "Whatever the decisions taken over the ocean [by the U.S.], it won't bring us to a standstill. We'll definitely have to correct some things, pay attention to other things and do something extra, but it won't bring us to a standstill or the verge of collapse dead end. This, though, will definitely complicate Russian-American relations. I think this is harmful."
(Rbc.ru, June 17, 2017)
A few days prior to the announcement of new sanctions, Senator Konstantin Kosachev said: "The U.S. Senate's current position is inappropriate to the global or the bilateral relations with Russia. We witness the vicious circle, when the previous step, which did not produce the desired results, dictates the next one, an even tougher, but hardly more effective step". Kosachev did not hold out any hope for the House of Representatives, but "it's worth watching Trump's actions – [and see] whether he'll be able to keep acting independently without succumbing to the power of the self-preservation instinct."
(Ria.ru, June 14, 2017)
Commenting on the new U.S. sanctions against Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said:
"On June 20, Washington announced plans to significantly expand U.S. sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities. It was clearly a political gift to President Poroshenko who was in the United States at that time. The sanctions were imposed under the old pretext of events in Ukraine, which is clearly inadequate, especially since the Americans are apparently holding the Moscow Bike Centre and a well-known catering company, to name a few, accountable for the developments in Ukraine. In their absurdity, such decisions can be compared only with the U.S. decision last year to add the Chaika swimming pool in Moscow to the sanctions lists (its location next to the Krymsky Bridge across the Moscow River was apparently the pretext).
"Washington surely understands that such rash acts only embolden the war party in Kiev, which has long since been seeking to thwart a peaceful settlement in Donbass. It is also disquieting that this step, motivated by domestic political considerations in the US, follows the same path of destroying relations between our countries set by the Obama administration. Regrettably, the new American leadership is taking its cue from inveterate Russophobes in U.S. Congress, which simply ran out of ideas for annoying us and, most importantly, obliterating any prospect of restoring balance in Russia-U.S. relations.
"With that in mind, the official statements coming from Washington about its willingness to maintain a dialogue with us, to seek common ground, and to address bilateral and important international issues sound quite unconvincingly. The practical actions of the United States seriously undermine these statements, which we will absolutely keep in mind.
"This new American attack will not go unanswered, including in the form of a practical response on our part.
"As is known, bilateral consultations were scheduled to continue within the next few days to discuss the irritants that have piled up in Russia-U.S. relations, and to find ways out of the extremely difficult situation created by the United States in its partnership and cooperation with Russia. After yesterday's decision to impose more sanctions on Russia, such a dialogue seems out of place, especially since there is not much to discuss, since Washington has yet to come up with any specific proposals. It has not returned the Russian diplomatic property expropriated in December 2016, either.
"Of course, the United States can continue to harbor illusions about exerting pressure on Russia. But the numerous previous rounds of U.S. sanctions did not yield the results their initiators hoped for. Any new attempts to 'subdue' Russia will fail as well.
"We hope that the realization of this simple fact will finally convince Washington to end the sanctions spiral and focus on returning bilateral dialogue and interaction back to normal."
(Mid.ru, June 21, 2017)
Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "The sanctions imposed over the past few years show that, of course, the main principle of the response to sanctions is the principle of reciprocity, so that’s quite understandable and clear."
(Tass.com, June 21, 2017)
During a joint press conference with French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said: "Sanctions have yet again been adopted without any good reason. As I see it, serious observers view references to the situation in Ukraine skeptically. Regrettably, our EU colleagues have devised a devious formula, according to which all sanctions will be lifted when Russia implements the Minsk Agreements. We invite our European colleagues to read the text of the Minsk Agreements again. They set out the sequence of actions clearly and name those who must take them. The only thing I can say now is that I regret the anti-Russia obsession of our American colleagues that is overstepping the limits."
(Mid.ru, June 20, 2017)
On June 22, Lavrov had a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The Russian Foreign Ministry reported: "While discussing the prospects of bilateral dialogue, Mr. Lavrov described as delusional the attempts to exert pressure on Russia with sanctions as Washington did again on June 20. Such actions subject to serious risk the entire range of Russian-U.S. relations that are already going through a difficult time.
"Under the circumstances and in order to assess the situation, the Russian side felt compelled to suspend the meeting scheduled for June 23, at which deputy foreign ministers were supposed to discuss the problems that have accumulated in Russian-US relations. Mr. Lavrov emphasized that Moscow was waiting for a response to its proposals to Washington on normalizing bilateral relations.
"During the discussion of international issues, Mr. Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow’s assessment of the actions of the U.S.-led coalition that violated the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic [See below], making it more difficult to suppress terrorism and impeding the settlement of the Syrian crisis. Moscow is calling on Washington to strictly observe the earlier agreements on various aspects of the Syrian settlement process.
"The officials also reviewed the situation in south-eastern Ukraine, in particular, the need for additional efforts to fully implement the Minsk Agreements."
(Mid.ru, June 22, 2017)
Moscow Cancels Russia-U.S. Meeting
Moscow cancelled consultations between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon that should have been taking place in Saint-Petersburg on June 23. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the cancellation was not a reaction to the new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia. Zakharova said: "I cannot say that the cancellation of the consultations was a counter-move… These are completely different things. As you know, sanctions are traditionally followed by tit-for-tat measures… Work on the issue is underway. Alas, we will have to respond to this."
(Tass.com, June 22, 2017)
Russia In Syria - Russia's Reactions To The U.S. Downing Of A Syrian Su-22 Plane
Syrian Su-22 fighter bomber (Source: Zerohedge.com)
On June 18, an American F-18A "Hornet" fighter jet that is part of the US-led coalition downed a Syrian Su-22 fighter bomber southwest of Al-Raqqa. Following the incident, the Russian Defense Ministry declared that it had terminated its interaction with the U.S. under a memorandum for preventing incidents, and threatened to target "any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River."
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6976, Russia's Reactions To The U.S. Downing Of A Syrian Su-22 Plane, June 25, 2017.
Oliver Stone’s Showtime Special 'The Putin Interviews'
Independent media outlet Meduza.io reported: "In Oliver Stone’s Showtime special 'The Putin Interviews,' there is a scene where the Russian president shows Stone a video on an iPhone supposedly depicting 'our aviation at work' in Syria, Putin says.
"You can catch a snippet of the video in the teaser trailer for the show’s third installment. The moment occurs at 49 minutes, 10 seconds, into the third episode.
"It turns out that Putin actually showed Stone footage of an American Apache helicopter attacking Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The original video first appeared on the website Military.com in 2013.
"Further complicating things, the video Putin showed Stone also contains an added audio track where the pilots are speaking Russian. Strangely, it seems this may actually be chatter recorded between Ukrainian pilots conducting military operations over Donetsk.
"On YouTube, there is a copy of the American video with pilot chatter in Russian. It’s possible that this was the video Putin showed to Oliver Stone.
"Researchers from the Conflict Intelligence Team compared the video played for Stone to frames from the footage of the U.S. Apache helicopter in Afghanistan, and found that they’re a perfect match."
(Meduza.io, June 20, 2017)
Kremlin spokesperson Peskov denied the accusations. Peskov said: "This assertion is not true… These are real materials of the Defense Ministry, a part of their report to the president, which the president demonstrated to Oliver Stone… [Conjectures to the contrary] are untrue and inappropriate."
(Tass.com, June 21, 2017)
Russia's Orbit - Moldova's President Dodon: Agreement With EU Wrecked Our Economy, Time To Revive Strategic Partnership With Russia
On June 2, Moldova's President Igor Dodon took part in the plenary meeting of the 21st St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). In his speech, Dodon emphasized that when Moldova signed the EU Association Agreement, Brussels created asymmetrical conditions in the EU's favor. Hence, he added, that following eight years of Moldova's pursuing pro-European and anti-Russian policies, it was time for a course correction, and Chisinau should return to a strategic dialogue with Russia. This was only natural, argued Dodon, given Moldova and Russia's common past, religion, and traditions.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6971, Russia's Orbit – Moldova's President Dodon: Agreement With EU Wrecked Our Economy, Time To Revive Strategic Partnership With Russia, June 21, 2017.