Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, surveying developing stories in Russian domestic affairs as presented in the Russian media.
Photo Of The Week And Its Derivatives
On June 22, Russia commemorates the Day of Remembrance and Sorrow, marking the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (WWII). During the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a heavy downpour suddenly occurred drenching Putin and Medvedev. During the ceremony, Reuters shot the above photo that became a popular meme on social networks.
Political activist Alexey Navalny holds the umbrella, while Russian President Vladimir Putin shows a copy of Navalny's investigation, accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption.
Medvedev: Hand it over right away!
Putin: and if I do not?
The yellow duck has been a staple of anti-corruption demonstrations. One of the most damaging accusations made by Navalny in his documentary targeting Medvedev is that Russia's prime minister had lavished exorbitant sums on his ducks.
In The News:
2018 Presidential Elections
Commenting on the 2018 presidential elections State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said:
"I'm convinced that for those who want a future for Russia, the well-being of its citizens and tranquil skies above, there is but one [presidential] candidate – Putin Vladimir Vladimirovich."
He then added: "Analyzing the state's development since 2000 [the year Putin took office], only one person is able to cope with this challenge – Putin. We are not the only one to comprehend this. Our adversaries, who have not renounced plans to dismember Russia and deprive it from its sovereignty, understand that as well."
Volodin concluded: "The closer election day draws, the more countries unfriendly to us will try by using diverse and mostly dirty technologies to influence the people's choice and counteract the people's aspiration to support Putin."
(Life.ru, June 13, 2017)
Vyacheslav Volodin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Russian Elections Chief: Navalny Cannot Run For President, But Challenger's Momentum Builds – An Update
On June 14, Russia's Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said that opposition leader Alexey Navalny won't be able to register for the 2018 presidential elections, due to his conviction for financial crimes.. Meanwhile, Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in jail for calling demonstrators to march to an unauthorized protest site during the June 12nationwide protests.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6967, Russian Elections' Chief: Navalny Cannot Run For President, But Challenger's Momentum Builds – An Update, June 20, 2017.
Putin's Direct Line
On June 15, 2017, Russia's President Vladimir Putin participated in the annual Direct Line phone-in program. This year, the majority of question dealt with domestic issues: low wages, poor healthcare, ecology, illegal demolitions of homes, inferior housing conditions, lack of roads and the quality of pavement and alleged pilferage of allocated federal budgets.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6965, Putin's Direct Line, June 19, 2017.
Following the annual Direct Line phone-in question program, reactions in the liberal Russian press were far from complimentary towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the independent media outlet Echo.msk.ru, the renowned Russian author Viktor Erofeev compared Putin to Jesus Christ, while Russian journalist Anton Orekh compared the annual Direct Line to the descent of Holy Fire, a ritual performed every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter, and described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle. Orekh wrote: "If you are a believer, you don't care where the Fire comes from and how it comes about. You just feel good that it is there. It is the same with Putin. And it does not matter what kind of BS he is feeding you - you are either a believer or not."
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6975, Liberal Russian Journalists Sarcastically Compare Putin To Jesus Christ, June 25, 2017.
Commenting on the Direct Line, Yabloko opposition member, Alexey Melnikov, wrote in his blog:
"Putin, as the leader, is finished. He is finished as a person who leads people to any goals ahead. It has nothing to do with his age. The matter of fact is that Putin exhausted his agenda - an outer casing still remains, but it's completely decayed and empty inside …
"Internally, the country's development has halted, because during his 20 years in power, Putin has erected a dam based on what is called 'crony capitalism. The entire [flow] is blocked by this dam, and nothing can circumvent it."
(Aleks-melnikov.livejournal.com, June 15, 2017)
Naturally, pro-Putin journalists had a different take. Viktor Marakhovsky, a columnist for the pro-Kremlin RIA news agency wrote the following about Direct Line:
"If you want to shame the state for its slow movement, hesitancy and non-revolutionary nature - first try persuading four-fifth of the country's population, who forgive the state for these features and moreover support it precisely the way it is.
"This is probably the main Putin era conquest. This conquest is at the same time an electoral nomination form for 2018: the President of Russia may be finally able to conduct with his country's people an efficient 'business meeting,' without slogans, special effects and secretive messages."
(Ria.ru, June 16, 2017)
Gleb Kuznetsov, a political consultant who advises the Kremlin, noted that the bulk of the questions dealt with pocketbook issues, despite the fact that formally economics and domestic policy are the domain of the prime minister:
"Definitely, in the citizens' minds the president is answerable for everything, disregarding the fact that according to the Constitution he is in charge of foreign affairs, military and combat readiness and guarantees that the executive powers follow the law. But in the eyes of an average man the president is also responsible for heating flats, and a host of other things.
"It's obvious that the federal center feels comfortable with being in charge only of foreign policy and military preparedness, but society is not going to allow it be that way. Society demands that the central federal authorities play their part in solving the main question – raising living standards."
(Iz.ru, June 16, 2017)
Russia Blocked Google For Three Hours
Independent media outlet Meduza.io reported:
"Several Russian Internet providers briefly blocked access to Google.ru on [June 22, 2017], after the domain appeared on the 'out-load' list operated by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal censor.
"By 4:15 p.m. on [June 22], Google.ru had disappeared from Roskomnadzor’s out-load list. In the roughly three hours that the search engine’s Russian domain spent on the block list, several major Internet providers, including Akada and TTK, began cutting off access to the website.
"Roskomnadzor officials later explained that Google accidentally landed on the blacklist because Russia’s Federal Tax Service provided the censor with a link to an advertisement to an online betting service. It remains unclear why the tax service sent Roskomnadzor a link to the betting website’s Google advertisement instead of a direct link to the site."
(Meduza.io, June 22, 2017)
What Roskomnadzor's blocklist looked like briefly on June 22. (Source: Meduza.io)
LDPR Party Proposes Adopting Russian Imperial Anthem
The LDPR party tabled draft legislation that would replace the current Russian national anthem (whose melody was composed during Soviet times and whose lyrics were modified) with the historic Russian imperial anthem "God, Save the Tsar." Moreover, the party proposed replacing the Gregorian calendar with the Julian one. The government's reaction to the draft is negative as the czarist era anthem contradicts the current state's structure and constitution, which specify that Russia has a republican form of government.
(Vedomosti.ru, June 7, 2017)
Duma Passes Bill To Protect Top Government Officials' Personal Data
The State Duma approved a bill on third reading, the provisions of which allow classifying personal data of persons under the protection of the Federal Guard Service (FSO). Crimerussia.com reported: "According to the law, in addition to providing protection to state officials and members of their families, the FSO's tasks include the protection of personal data – such as information about real estate, including foreign one, and bank accounts.
"In particular, the law confirms the right of the FSO to give permission to process the personal data of subjects under protection and their family members. They can be classified if the FSO determines this is necessary. The data of family members are also classified, but the degree of kinship is not specified.
"The exception is personal data, which are subject to publication or disclosure in accordance with federal laws.
Communist Party deputy Alexey Kurinny evaluated the bill, noting that the amendment removes information about the personal data of protected individuals and their families from public control.
"Moreover, TASS notes that according to the adopted law, the FSO employees can temporarily prohibit the movement of vehicles and pedestrians on protected routes, as well as use airports, airfields, heliports, landing sites, sea and river ports free of charge, as well as receive flights and navigation services without charge.
"The law also specifies the procedure for the use of physical force, special means and weapons by the FSO personnel. The right to 'draw a weapon and bring it to readiness, if there may be grounds for its application in the current situation' is prescribed. In the state of necessary defense or, if absolutely necessary, the FSO officers, in the absence of or impossibility of using special means or weapons, are entitled to use any improvised means (including transport means), the amendments to the law, which does not have such a provision as currently drafted, state.
"In addition, the provision of the law prohibits employees of the FSO from posting information about themselves and other employees, revealing their belonging to the FSO (including photo and video materials), in the media and on the Internet.
"State protection by the FSO forces is provided to the president, the prime minister, the heads of the Prosecutor General's Office and the Investigative Committee, the speakers of both houses of parliament, the chairpersons of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, and members of their families. The full list of FSO- protected subjects is classified, but can be supplemented on the order of the President of the Russian Federation."
(Crimerussia.com, June 21, 2017)
According to Ilya Shumanov, deputy CEO of Transparency International Russia, said that the legislation will hinder the ability of independent investigators to obtain information for anti-corruption investigations involving those in the highest echelons of power.
(Rbc.ru, June 15, 2017)
Strange But True
Head of the Health Ministry of Saratov region, Vladimir Shuldyakov, signed an order obliging physicians in the region to notify the police about every case of pregnancy involving female minors as well as about every case of underage "loss of virginity" or sexually transmitted disease or abortion. The official explained that these violations of patient confidentiality were a necessary measure to combat sexual offences and the spread of infectious diseases.
(Mk.ru, June 4, 2017)