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.
Photo Of The Week
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Pyongyang, May 31, 2018. (Source: Mid.ru)
Quote Of The Week:
Federation Council speaker Valentina Matvienko said at the Primako Reading summit:
"[We] categorically do not need a new Cold War or any other war, arms race new enmity lines and so forth. Yet we will protect our interests, our stability, our social-political, territorial and cultural integrity and our values with all the decisiveness needed."
(Ria.ru, May 29, 2018)
Valentina Matvienko (Source: Aif.ru)
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 from her press briefing:
Maria Zakharova in a public appearance during the "French-Russian dialogue" in Paris:
"We are being asked why we show our weapons. There are two reasons for that. First, in the 20th century we' lost 20 million people... I live in the city which was approached by the enemy. It happened only 70 years ago, not 200...
"[The second reason] is that when we voluntarily exposed ourselves in 1980s – it was out of a genuine desire of friendship, for building a world on the principles of peace, good neighborhood, cooperation and stopping cold wars. But we were deceived.
"The archives are open now – we see what promises have been made to Soviet and Russian leadership. They have just lied to us – NATO has expanded, we see military contingents on our borders, NATO bases are growing in numbers all over the world...
"When we show our weapons, we are saying that whatever happened during the 20th century will not happen again."
(Ria.ru, May 30, 2018)
In The News:
Russian FM Lavrov's Visit To N. Korea
On May 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Talking to Kim Jong-un, Lavrov said:
"We have seen that the city is getting more beautiful, many new districts and theaters have emerged in the past nine years... Come to Russia, we will be very pleased to welcome you."
Lavrov added: "Russian President Vladimir Putin very much values the kind words you said in a message following his re-election... He sends his kindest regards and best wishes of success in implementing the efforts that have been initiated on the Korean Peninsula with your participation."
(Tass.com, May 31, 2018)
See the video of the meeting between Lavrov and Kim Jong-un.
Lavrov's Remarks And Answers To Media Questions Following Pyongyang Talks With North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho
Lavrov: "... Our discussions on foreign policy issues focused on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and around it. We welcome the contacts between North Korea and South Korea and between North Korea and the United States, which have been developing rapidly over the past few months, as well as the Pyongyang-Seoul summits and the planned summit meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. We attach great importance to adopting a judicious approach to these contacts without any rash actions or attempts to rush this process, which needs careful consideration and coordination of all elements of a package decision. This will allow us not only to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula but also to bring lasting peace and stability to the whole of Northeast Asia.
"We urge all the countries involved to bear in mind their responsibility for preventing this fragile process from being derailed. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a participant of the six-party talks and a good neighbor of North Korea, Russia is ready to contribute to these efforts. Our North Korean friends welcome this attitude.
"We discussed certain steps that can be made towards this, including the old idea of launching trilateral projects between the two Korean states and Russia to link their railway networks and to build a gas pipeline as well as energy projects. The desire to re-unite the railway systems expressed by the leaders of North Korea and South Korea at their meeting in Panmunjom has given a new lease on life to these trilateral cooperation initiatives.
"I would like to say once again that Russia and North Korea hold a common view on the need to take an extremely careful attitude to the current development of contacts and the nascent normalization of relations between the two Korean states and between North Korea and the United States, and to resist the temptation to demand everything at once. We know that this is an extremely complicated problem and that the goal of denuclearization is inseparably connected with the eventual restoration of peace, stability and a system of interaction, cooperation and equal and indivisible security in Northeast Asia."
Question: "You have completed the talks. Clearly, this is a sensitive matter. My question will be about the guarantees the United States could provide to North Korea regarding disarmament. Did you feel that North Korea trusts these promises to any degree? After all, we all know what their promises are worth, judging by the Iranian deal. Will these promises make it until the next president or Trump’s next temper tantrum?"
Lavrov: "I am confident that North Korea is fully aware of the recent past, and will determine its position taking into consideration all these factors. I believe that it would be inappropriate for me to enquire about specific thoughts or attitudes North Korea intends to adopt in its talks with the United States. Preparatory expert consultations are underway. We do not believe we have any right to interfere in this process. However, when these agreements are submitted for review to the international community, it is possible that the UN Security Council will be called upon to support some undertakings. Russia will support specific arrangements that will meet the interests of all the parties involved, including the DPRK. I cannot say whether and to what extent the guarantees that will be provided will satisfy Pyongyang. It is up to North Korean leadership to decide what guarantees can be viewed as satisfactory.
Question: "On May 25, the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko, said in an interview with TASS news agency that she was scheduled to visit DPRK. This year we mark 70 years since the establishment of DPRK. It can be argued that her visit would have an even bigger impact if it was timed to coincide with the September celebrations. What can you say about it?"
Lavrov: Our North Korean friends confirmed today that they were looking forward to Valentina Matviyenko’s visit in the near future. It is up to the parliaments of the two countries to agree on the timeframe for the visit.
Question: "Is there any question of easing sanctions against DPRK and reviving economic projects, such as the construction of a Trans-Korean Railway, in light of the recent developments?"
Lavrov: "I have already mentioned the railway project. The Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and the President of the Republic of Korea supported this initiative. The project to join railways was always related to cooperation with Russia, since the Trans-Korean Railway could be linked to the Trans-Siberian Railway, providing a direct link to Europe. This transit route would be interesting for many.
"As for sanctions, it is obvious that when discussing ways to resolve the nuclear issue and all other problems the Korean Peninsula currently faces, we assume that a complete resolution cannot be achieved until all the sanctions are lifted. It is up to the negotiators to make this happen, but in any case it would be impossible to achieve this in a single round. The same applies to denuclearization. For this reason, this should be a step-by-step process with reciprocal moves at each of the stages."
(Mid.ru, May 31, 2018)
Babchenko's Death And Resurrection
Arkady Babchenko at the press conference held by Ukraine's National Security Agency, revealing that his murder was staged. (Source: Twitter.com/mediazzzona)
On May 29, Ukrainian authorities said that an unidentified gunman had shot Russian journalist and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko. According to the reports, Babchenko had been shot three times in the back as he entered his apartment building in Kiev.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman also blamed Russia for Babchenko's death. "I am confident that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance. He was a true friend of Ukraine who told the world the truth about Russian aggression," Groysman stated.
(Bbc.com, May 30, 2018)
However, on the evening of May 30, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported that journalist Babchenko was alive and that his murder had been staged as part of a special operation; he had taken part in a special operation carried out by Ukrainian intelligence. According to the Ukrainian authorities, the murder was staged to uncover a plot against Babchenko's life. The man who allegedly planned the assassination is now in police custody.
The Kyiv Post reported: "According to the SBU, the Russian special services ordered the murder of Babchenko and paid an unnamed Ukrainian citizen $40,000 to organize the murder. He searched for a killer to carry out the murder among the Ukrainian veterans of the war in Donbas. According to the SBU, he eventually hired a man, paying him $30,000 for the murder, but the SBU learned about the operation, recruited the hired 'killer' as a double agent, and staged the murder in order to arrest the organizer.
"The Ukrainian organizer was detained following the staged murder. According to the SBU, he was going to organize killings of 30 Russian citizens in Ukraine on Russian special services’ order, with Babchenko being the first one.
"Babchenko was in on the special operation for about a month.
"The murder was faked in Babchenko's apartment in Kyiv. His wife heard gunshots and walked in on him lying on the floor, covered in blood. She called the police and an ambulance. Babchenko was reported to have died in an ambulance."
(Kyivpost.com, May 30, 2018)
It is worth noting that in 2017 Babchenko had written a strong anti-Kremlin message on his Facebook page: "I will definitely return to Moscow as I have one more thing to do there. I will be sticking out of the hatch of an Abrams tank that will be rolling down Tverskaya Street under the NATO flag. The grateful Russians will forget the Crimea – they will be throwing flowers to their liberators and asking for humanitarian army meats."
(Gordonua.com, August 25, 2018; see the post)
Babchenko's speech at the press conference held by Ukraine's National Security Agency, in which he explained that he had staged his own murder: 'I'm still alive, and I'm not going anywhere' Here's what Arkady Babchenko said upon returning 'from the dead' (Meduza.io, May 30, 2018)
Russia Foreign Ministry Reaction To Babchenko's Staged Murder: 'Now Ukrainian Officials Are Planning To Spin This Russophobic Lie'
Babchenko stands next to the Presidential Administration in Kyiv. (Source: Kyivpost.com)
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented as followed on Babchenko's staged murder:
"The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported that journalist Arkady Babchenko is in fact alive and that his 'murder' was nothing but an incident staged as part of a special operation. We are glad to hear that the Russian national is alive. However, we must point out the following.
"As a direct consequence of these actions, obviously designed to attain a certain propaganda effect, the entire global community, which quickly responded to the reports of a media representative from Ukraine, was in fact misled. Now we are learning the true motives for this staged incident that was apparently another anti-Russia provocation.
"Right after the rumor was spread that Arkady Babchenko had been murdered, the Ukrainian Prime Minister and several other officials made statements in which they directly accused Russia of being involved in the murder. Now Ukrainian officials are planning to spin this Russophobic lie. According to the head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Hrytsak, Ukrainian security forces detained a murder suspect who, as Hrytsak stressed, was allegedly recruited by Russian security services. SBU's further action is clear. Naturally, they will continue to forment this provocation.
"Apparently, Ukrainian officials cannot find another way to demonstrate their performance other than to stage a murder instead of investigating actual crimes, including the murders of Oles Buzina, Pavel Sheremet and other journalists as well as the Odessa residents who were burned alive.
"We have to state that, in Ukraine, matters of life and death and the trust of the international community in its policy are nothing but a bargaining chip in Kiev's efforts to incite anti-Russia hysteria.
"We are certain that our foreign partners and relevant international institutions will reach their respective conclusions."
(Mid.ru, May 30, 2018)
The S-300 Deal With Syria
Following the weeks of speculations regarding possible delivery of S-300 missile defense systems to Syrian government, Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Rostech corporation, producing the system confirmed that there are negotiations talks regarding the delivery of the system. He did not reply the questions regarding possible terms and timeline of the delivery.
(Militarynews.ru, May 25, 2018)
News In Brief:
Russia's Poseidon underwater drone currently under development will be able to carry a nuclear warhead with a capacity of up to two megatons to destroy enemy naval bases. (Tass.com, May 17, 2018; read the full article)
On May 22, Russia's Project 955 Borei-class strategic nuclear submarine Yuri Dolgoruky successfully test fired four Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles from the White Sea to hit designated targets at the Kura range in the Far Eastern Kamchatka region. (Tass.com, May 22, 2018; read the full article)
The Russian Ministry of Defense published a video coverage of the almost simultaneous launch of Bulava intercontinental missiles from Yuri Dolgoruky nuclear powered submarine. (See the video)
- Key facts about Russia's Bulava ICBM. (Tass.com, May 23, 2018; read the full article)
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that journalists should trust Russian President Vladimir Putin instead of listening to reports by their American colleagues regarding allegedly unsuccessful tests of Russia's cutting-edge weaponry. Peskov was referring to a CNBC article titled "Putin claimed a new nuclear-powered missile had unlimited range — but it flew only 22 miles in its most successful test yet." (Tass.com, May 22, 2018; read the full article)
German Klimenko, advisor to the Russian president on Internet development, said that Russia may retaliate against the restrictions extended by the U.S. on Kaspersky Laboratory by asking Microsoft to leave Russia. (Echo.msk.ru, May 29, 2018; read the full article)