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
A cartoon in the London-based Al-Arabi Al-Yawm daily titled "World Cup" depicted Russian President Vladimir Putin kicking the world and gripping a screaming, weeping trophy labelled "Syria." (Source: Alaraby.co.uk, June 13, 2018)
Putin: Europe Needs To Be Sovereign From The U.S.
The following are execerpts of Putin's annual Direct Line, which was broadcast live by Channel One, Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24 and Public Television of Russia TV channels, and Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations:
Andrei Kondrashov: "We have a SMS message on the subject 'Will there be a World War Three?'"
Vladimir Putin: "You know, if you remember what Einstein said. I think he said he did not know what weapons the Third World War will be fought with but the Fourth World War will be fought with stones and sticks. This means that World War Three could put an end to civilization as we know it. Understanding this should prevent us from extreme and very dangerous actions in the international arena that could threaten modern civilization.
"Incidentally, since World War II we have lived in conditions of relative, again relative global peace. Regional wars continuously flare up here and there. It is enough to recall the war in Vietnam, the conflict on the Korean Peninsula, or the current conflicts in the Middle East – in Iraq and Libya. But there have been no global wars. Why? Because the leading military powers established strategic parity. And no matter how unpleasant this may sound, it is true: the fear of mutual destruction has always deterred international actors from sudden movements and made them respect each other.
"The U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty was an attempt to break this strategic parity. But we are responding. I already said in my Address that the modern weapons systems that have been developed and will soon be adopted by the armed forces will undoubtedly maintain parity.
"It is necessary to understand this, think about this and find modern forms of interaction that are in keeping with current realities. It is time to sit at the negotiating table and elaborate modern, adequate models of international, European security."
Andrei Kondrashov: "When replying to the previous question, you mentioned the United States' withdrawal from the ABM Treaty on ballistic missile defense. Do you remember that you first drew public attention to this issue back in 2007 in Munich? You said then that the United States was spreading its national jurisdiction to other countries, which is very dangerous. The theme of your speech then was a multipolar versus a unipolar world.
"Years have passed. Nobody listened to what you said then. And now the EU and Canada are facing a trade war with the United States. The Federal Chancellor of Germany and the President of France recently visited Russia. Of course, they are not saying this in public, but do they suggest behind closed doors that it is time to lift the sanctions against Russia? Or are they still waiting for permission from Washington?"
Vladimir Putin: "This is not only about our one-on-one conversations, although they form a considerable part of the negotiating process with the leaders of France, Germany, with our Austrian friends – I have just been in Austria – and representatives of many other European countries, not to mention Asia. They are not just saying it in my ear; they are already saying it publicly.
"A French Government Minister recently said publicly that the U.S. cannot be allowed to become the world's economic policeman. He said it publicly. The former German Finance Minister publicly said a few months ago that the Federal Republic had never been a sovereign state in the full sense of the word since 1945.
"Everybody sees, of course, what is happening. But apparently, our partners thought that they would never be affected by this counter-productive policy involving restrictions and sanctions. Now we see what is happening, because the introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminum from not only Europe, but also Canada and Mexico – this is sanctions, in fact. Only the words used are different, but in reality, this is the case. What are they being punished for? Did they 'annex Crimea' as many of our partners say? No. This has to do with the pragmatic national interests of the United States, as its current leadership sees them.
"Which brings us back to what I have already said, which is the need to work out common, uniformly understood and firm rules of conduct in the sphere of security and in the sphere of economic interaction. An awareness of this process is of course there. When I laid out my theses, if you will, in Munich in 2007, which have often been quoted in the years since, I incurred the anger of many of my colleagues who said it was too tough and inappropriate. But what was I speaking about? I said that the United States was spreading its jurisdiction beyond its national borders, and that this was unacceptable. This is exactly what is happening today, only it is happening to our European and other partners. Why is it happening? Because nobody wanted, as you said, to listen and nobody did anything to stem this trend. So there you are."
(Kremlin.ru, June 7, 2018)
Quote Of The Week
Tamara Pletneva, the chairperson of the State Duma's Family Affairs Committee and member of the communist party, warned Russian women against having sexual trysts with foreign tourists, who had come to see the World Cup. She recalled that the 1980 Olympics had created many single mothers:
"I would like that people in our country to marry for love, regardless of nationality, to Russian citizens, who would build a strong family, live happily, give birth to children and educate them.
"Are there going to be young girls, who will meet [foreigners] and then give a birth to a child? Those kids will then suffer as they suffered since Soviet rule [referring to the Olympic Games in Moscow, 1980]. And it's would be not that [bad] if it is within one race, but if the race differs it's [bad]. I'm not a nationalist, but nevertheless."
(The-village.ru, June 13, 2018)
See MEMRI TV clip related to Tamara Pletneva:
February 22, 2018.
MP Tamara Pletneva (Source: Dp.ru)
Aleksandr Sherin, first deputy chair of the Duma's defense committee, said in an interview to "Govorit Moskva" radio station that foreign football fans may infect Russian with dangerous diseases:
"A mass gathering of people is always a good background for the spread of infectious diseases. When we deal with people entering from the entire world, from diverse climate zones, they may not adapt properly here [in Russia] and their illnesses could exacerbate. May be, the organism of a European will react in some way to contact with people from other continents".
He then warned the Russians to be exercise caution, since some foreigners may be willing to deliberately infect Russians:
"We can't pass millions of tourists through chlorine showers – they are coming to Russia, and not to German concentration camp. But, yet our citizens should be cautious during their interaction with foreign fans. They should use protection in every way. It might be dishes or means of personal hygiene. I don't even talk about contraception devices. Grownups understand this totally. I would definitely warn our citizens from receiving gifts like cigarettes, bubble-gum... from smoking one cigarette together with someone, from drinking [alcohol] using the same glass as according to our tradition… [I don't say] they should disdain the people. But the question is whether someone is doing it deliberately and subversively,. We don't actually know what's in there in the heads of our Western partners given their psychotic outbursts."
(Govoritmoskva.ru, June 13, 2018)
Alexander Sherin (Source: Gorodtv.ru)
In The News:
Female Genital Mutilation In Russia's Caucasian Republics
According to a report prepared by Legal Initiative, a Russian human rights organization, 1240 girls in Dagestan alone are subject to female genital mutilation on a yearly basis. The previous report on the issue was published two years ago, but – in spite of the public outcry– the authorities have not done anything, so this practice persists.
According to the report the authorities have conducted two "checks" on the issue, which have not substantiated the results of the previous report. The report's authors argue that most probably the results of the "investigations" were distorted as the victims and their relatives did not want to expose themselves by testifying against their next of kin or neighbors while the social practice and conditions impede the victims from pressing charges. No other measures have been taken.
According to the report in some Dagestan areas 100% of girls are being genitally mutilated. Most of the male subjects surveyed by the organization replied that they would agree to conduct a genital mutilation for their own daughters.
According to a survey, male subjects do not see any problem with the practice, given a widespread belief that it corresponds to Islamic religious dogmas, traditions and the importance of controlling female behavior.
(Newtimes.ru, June 1, 2018)
Russia's Demographic Crisis
According to a government report, demography is the main factor influencing the development of education in Russia. The report states that during the last 17 years the number of school pupils has dropped by 21.7 %, this in turn creates additional shortages in professional and higher education.
According to a governmental forecast the number of university students in 2018-2019 years may total approximately 4.3 million, which is 40 % lower than the 2009 total (7.4 million).
(Kommersant.ru, June 3, 2018)
2018 Presidential Elections – Novaya Gazeta Says That The Election Was A Fraud
According to a joint investigative study run by Novaya Gazeta and various volunteers, who physically watched all the recordings from on-line cameras positioned at different polling stations throughout the country. The volunteers watched 10 random cameras in each of five Russian regions. The activists physically counted people who came to vote, then compared the number of people who were registered and voted with the final official numbers published per specific polling stations.
The results are appalling: in those 50 polling stations alone the discrepancy between the number of people who were physically counted and the final official voting numbers is 31 thousands votes. This means that local election committees allowed/were part of a massive elections fraud – volunteers have found video evidence, supporting that assertion.
(Novayagazeta.ru, June 3, 2018)
A recent OSCE report on Russian presidential elections stated the Central Elections Commission had run the elections in "an effective and transparent manner". Yet, the report underlines that the presidential campaign has been run in an "extraordinary controlled political and legal atmosphere, which was characterized by pressure on critical opinions".
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs committee in Russia, commented: "Let the OSCE identify but one European country, where the elections were more open, fair and democratic than in Russia. We don't need such recommendations."
(Kommersant.ru, June 7, 2018)
The OSCE report has also been slammed by the Russian MFA:
"On June 6, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) published its final report on the monitoring of the presidential election in Russia on March 18 of this year.
"We have to state that the report is yet further evidence of the office's political bias. Its methods are based on double standards both in creating monitoring missions and drafting final conclusions.
"We have again seen that the office cares little about the real picture of election processes. Its comments go far beyond its mandate, openly interfering in the legislative processes of the Russian Federation. Russia's anti-terrorist legislation and amendments to the Law on the Media are subjected to unjustified criticism. Broad use is made of references to anonymous informers that express mistrust in various components of the election.
"The efforts of the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) and local authorities to encourage voters to go to the polling stations are presented exclusively in the bad light. It is noted in passing that 'voters may face difficulties in accessing polling stations established in at the embassy and consulates of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.' The glaring violation of the voting rights of Russian citizens that were going to vote in Ukraine is actually ignored.
"It is noteworthy that in its report the ODIHR Observation Mission focused exclusively on some shortcomings of the electoral process, turning a blind eye to the enormous work of the Russian CEC on improving the legislative foundation, simplifying the nomination of candidates and providing precise lists of voters with the observance of all established deadlines and procedures. The report does not duly reflect the willingness of the Russian CEC and election commissions of the Russian regions to cooperate with the office at all stages of the preparations and holding of the election. Indicatively, the phrase from the Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions to the effect that the 'IEOM observers were able to follow the process and observe freely' is missing from the final report.
"The office blocked all positive moments by repeating critical remarks from its previous interim reports that blame Russia for a failure to observe a number of OSCE commitments on ensuring basic rights and freedoms. This criticism was accompanied by recommendations on improving the electoral process in this country.
"During numerous meetings with members of the Election Observation Mission, the representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Russian CEC voiced only one demand to the office – to be unbiased and honest in its evaluations and conclusions. However, this lawful demand was ignored. The ODIHR has an obviously biased approach to dealing with Russia and is manipulating the observation data to suit time-serving political considerations, which is bound to undermine trust in this OSCE institution. Along with a number of other OSCE members, Russia pointed more than once to obvious drawbacks in the ODIHR's performance and urged reforms in the methods and practice of its work. We are disappointed that the heads of this OSCE executive agency have not reached the appropriate conclusions.
"We again persistently urge the ODIHR to revise its approach to monitoring elections. This will help enhance the office's prestige and facilitate dialogue with the participating states on all aspects of the electoral process."
(Mid.ru, June 6, 2018)
Freedom Of The Press
During a Duma general session LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky mentioned that Russian journalists frequently insult the authorities in their publications more blatantly than U.S. senator John McCain. Zhirinovsky's position was backed by the Duma's speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who said that the question should be legally regulated.
It's not clear what kind of regulation is being sought – the current legislation imposes fines and imprisonment for committing the crime of "insulting the representative of the authorities." According to the Russian media outlet MK.ru during the last year 10.343 people throughout Russia have been indicted. Only two individuals out of 10.343 were exonerated, all the rest were convicted. The maximum imprisonment term for that specific criminal offence is 12 months in jail.
(Mk.ru, June 6, 2018)
News In Brief:
- The U.S. Department of Justice indicted five employees of Russia's Sovfracht shipping company for allegedly supplying jet fuel to Syria in violation of U.S. sanctions. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement: Washington has again demonstrated its political blindness by accusing the staff of Sovfracht public joint stock company of shipping aviation fuel to Syria." (Tass.com, June 13, 2018; read the full article)
- Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that militants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with the participation of the U.S. special ops units are preparing a provocation involving chlorine in the Syrian Deir ez-Zor province to provide a pretext for the U.S.-led coalition to launch a new attack on the country's state facilities. (Tass.com, June 11, 2018; read the full article)
- Russian police are reportedly under orders to stop sharing 'bad news' during the World Cup. Russia's Interior Ministry has apparently instructed regional police departments not to report any “bad news” while the country hosts the FIFA World Cup (from early June until late July). Sources in the ministry's regional press offices confirmed the rumors to the website Mediazona, saying police have been issued “special orders” to focus on prevented crimes. (Meduza.io, June 13, 2018; read the full article)
- Moscow Regional Governor Andrei Vorobyev has handed a Russian passport to U.S. athlete Jeff Monson on Russia Day (June 12). Monson is the proud winner of United Russia’s primaries in Krasnogorsk, and now he is eligible to run for a city council seat. (Meduza.io, June 14, 2018; read the full article)