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.
Putin: 'We Do Not Have The Right To Condone Or Ignore The Distortion Of Historical And Geographical Truth'
Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired the tenth anniversary meeting of the Russian Geographical Society Board of Trustees. During the meeting, Putin complained of the "distortion" of the geographical truth on the world maps, and suggested to develop a new Russian Atlas of the World.
Putin: "… In general, toponymics – names of geographical and other places – require special attention. Today we are facing attempts to gradually remove from the world map Russian names given by our explorers and travellers in past centuries and decades. Let me emphasize that this erases the memory of Russia’s contribution to the exploration of the planet and developments in science. This s particularly striking in the Antarctic where the names given by the discoverers of the continent Lazarev and Bellinshausen have almost ceased to exist.
"Today very few people know that Borodino is the primordial, historical name of the island of Smith, that Snow is Maly Yaroslavets, Livingstone is Smolensk and so on. Meanwhile, we will celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of the Antarctic in 2020. This is the achievement of Russian seafarers. Examples of name substitution are not limited to the remote Antarctic, some are closer, but I will not dwell on them now.
"All this is the result, among other things, of the lack of modern domestically made maps. Only foreign ones are in the public domain, and they generally provide secondary names of geographical sites. As such, it is proposed to develop a new Russian Atlas of the World involving the Russian Geographical Society, so that all such cases will be addressed properly.
"We do not intend to impose anything on anyone, it is not necessary, but we do not have the right to condone or ignore the distortion of historical and geographical truth and justice in this case.
"I would ask Rosreestr (Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography) to develop the atlas together with the Russian Geographical Society and the Defense Ministry, which – provided all necessary procedures are followed – should provide access to its cartographic materials for the atlas developers and for travellers, tourists and motorists, including via modern computer technologies. The classification label on many maps is clearly outdated and looks simply archaic."
(Kremlin.ru, April 27, 2018)
Quote Of The Week
Deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov said: "We are dealing with attempts by western leaders to introduce a new world order based not on international law, but on the arbitrary use of force. This is utterly inadmissible."
(Tass.com, April 27, 2018)
Spat Of The Week
The Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald published an interview with Estonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sven Mikser, about Russia's policies. Mikser stated:
"When you talk to a leader like [Putin], and obviously we need to talk with Russia, then you need to talk from a position of strength and unity and determination. Because any sign of hesitation is interpreted in the Kremlin as weakness to be exploited."
Commenting on Mikser's statement, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, published the following post in his Twitter account along with a photo of small dog barking at a big one:
Caption: "Estonian Mikser is fully determined to talk with Russia from a position of strength".
(Twitter.com/Rogozin, April 29, 2018)
In another post, Rogozing plays upon the name Mikser, which in Russian (Миксер) is written in the same way as the kitchen appliance.
Caption: "Intrepid mixer, already for sale."
(Twitter.com/Rogozin, April 30, 2018)
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 quotes from Zakharova's press briefing ,where she lashed into the American ambassador Nikki Haley, who has angered the Russians by her interventions at the U.N. that are highly critical of Russia:
'Money Makes The World Go Round US'
"Our North American sister keeps on rocking. Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, announced that the Americans pay 22% of the global organization's budget. "In spite of this generosity, other countries have voted with us in 31% of the cases. This is the lowest rate since 2016", said the diplomat. She called this situation "an unacceptable response to our investments".
"Nikki, what's wrong? Absurd logic is also [a form of] logic, thus everything is correct : the figures of ( pro-US) voting are going down to match American payments. Now, let's get to the statistics. The amount of unpaid US donations in 2018 (including), including contributions to the UN regular budget, international peace keeping funds and international tribunals totals 2 billion, 278 million, 520 thousand, 306 dollars and 88 cents. The American debt to the UN's regular budget in 2018 is an estimated 938 million, 376 thousand, 277 dollars and 47 cents.
"Since 2011 the US has not been contributing to the budget of the U.N. specialized agency for education science and culture (UNESCO), in 2017 the US exited UNESCO. Accumulated US debts to the organization exceed 540 million dollars.
"All you have to do Nikki, in case you keep living in the world of the absurd, is to recalculate the figures and follow the joint voting indicators down to zero.
"You, Nikki, are probably unaware of the fact that the US national debt is 21 trillion dollars, namely 106% of the US Gross Domestic Product figures. To go by your logic, nobody should be talking to you, let alone voting together with you.
"Now, this is the most important thing. Nikki Hailey, representative of the US political leadership, has admitted that the US is buying the international solidarity, while loyalty commands a specific price.
"It is horrible for the world, to be in the hands of such people.
(Facebook.com/maria.zakharova, April 27, 2018)
In The News:
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Iran deal should remain inviolable as the best that could be achieved:
"We know the position of European colleagues to the effect that the deal must be preserved. Whether this is a sufficient or an insufficient step is another question but this is the sole substantive consensus, which was achieved by all the parties concerned as a result of very tense work. That is why, any continuation and improvement of the situation with regard to further settlement can be carried out only on the basis of something substantive and this is exactly the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]…
"What is the main thing is the inviolability of this deal; otherwise, there will be no platform for continuing contacts and for continuing the dialogue."
(Tass.com, April 28, 2018)
The Kremlin reported that the Iranian nuclear program was the focus of a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Kremlin stated: "Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s position that the JCPOA, which has a paramount importance in terms of international stability and security, must be strictly observed by all its signatories." It was reported that he conversation was initiated by the Israeli side.
(Tass.com, April 30, 2018)
Russia-Iran-Turkey Meeting In Moscow
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Russia and Turkey held their second meeting in Moscow on 28 April 2018. They discussed the development of the situation in and around Syria and its impact on the regional peace and security.
Following the meeting, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said: "We agreed that attempts to split Syria on ethnic and religious grounds were totally unacceptable… We have stated that we will counter attempts to undermine our joint efforts and pointed out that the Astana process is stable. We will continue solving important tasks related to de-escalation, easing tensions and reducing the conflict potential. Ceasefire violations continue to happen but we have a mechanism to monitor them and we will seek to overcome this situation, particularly by strengthening trust among the parties 'on the ground'."
Lavrov then added: "In the context of efforts to revive the Geneva negotiating platform, we consider as extremely destructive some statements made by specific representatives of the external opposition, which set preliminary conditions for the settlement of the Syrian conflict and the switchover to political negotiations…"
(Tass.com, April 28, 2018; Read the full article)
- Joint Statement by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey on Syria, Moscow, 28 April 2018
- Lavrov: West plans Mideast redivision while stating support for Syria’s sovereignty. (Tass.com, April 28, 2018; Read the full article)
Armenia's 'Velvet Revolution'
As Russia has frequently condemned the "color revolutions" that took place in Ukraine, Georgia and Serbia as unlawful insurrections against a legitimate government, Western interference (and possibly a disturbing precedent that could spillover into Russia as well). It was surprising that Russia has been silent about the Armenian "Velvet Revolution" led by Nikol Pashinyan. Part of the story is the historic relation between Armenia and Russia. Christian Armenia has traditionally viewed Russia as a protector against Muslim Turkey and currently against Muslim Azerbaijan as well.
Pashinyan was interviewed by Kommersant that reminded him that the leaders of all the revolutions in the Post-Soviet space – Ukraine, Georgia, Kirghizia started up as heroes and ended up as anti-heroes and also brought up Pashinyan's negative opinion of the Eurasian Economic Union, Russia's alternative to the EU of which Armenia is a member. Pashinyan responded:
"I today am a representative of that nation that stood in the squares [to demonstrate] i.e. the entire Armenian people. That movement had no foreign policy demands. An in general no foreign policy or geopolitical contexts exists, there is no geopolitical conspiracy, do you understand this? Nothing, nothing at all threatens relations between Russia and Armenia. But that does not mean that there are no questions to be discussed...There are pressing problems about which it is necessary to talk about and resolve. There are no intractable problems...We are saying that Armenia and Russia are strategic partners, allies and they will remain so. Armenian remains in the Eurasian Economic Union, Armenia remains in the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] The Russian base will remain in Armenia. Russian border guards will continue to defend the Turkish-Armenian border."
(Kommersant.ru, May 2, 2018)
Nikol Pashinyan (Image: 1tv.ge)
The Russian Defense Ministry reported that over 1,000 troops and more than 100 aircraft and helicopters of Russia’s Western Military District are taking part in the drills to practice over 50 missions.
The district’s press office reported: "The crews of tactical, army and transport aviation of the Western Military District will practice over 50 missions, including repelling a notional enemy’s air attack, the elements of conducting combat operations and reconnoitering the terrain, and also delivering massive air strikes against ground targets and columns of military hardware."
(Tass.com, April 23, 2018)
News In Brief:
- Moscow is making another push at the United Nations to internationalize the fight against "fake news," arguing that independent efforts have proved insufficient and allowed Western countries to disguise their "totalitarian" crackdown on "dissent" and "unwanted media outlets" as part of a democratic and humanitarian campaign. (Meduza.io, May 2, 2018; Read the full article)
- Maxim Buyakevich, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for International Information problems, said that independent efforts by different countries to root out fake news are unlikely to bring about any desired effect. Moreover, the risks are high that the struggle with fake news will result in the suppression of dissent or the removal of undesirable media from the sphere of public information. (Tass.com, May 2, 2018; Read the full article)
- Self-proclaimed supporters of Internet freedom and the instant messenger Telegram assembled and dispersed at Sakharov Prospekt in Moscow on April 30. Organized by Russia’s Libertarian Party and the Internet Protection Society, the demonstration lasted about two hours. One volunteer organization estimates that roughly 12,000 people attended the rally. Moscow’s police department says about 7,500 turned out. Meduza reports from on the ground in Russia’s capital. (Meduza.io, May 1, 2018; Read the full article)
- Russia retaliated against Lithuania for legislating its version of the Magnitsky Act that would bar Russians accused of human rights violations from visiting the country. Moscow in return, will prohibit hostile-minded Lithuanian citizens from entering Russia and warns Vilnius that the list of sanctioned Lithuanians remains open, as the Russian Foreign Ministry clarified on its website. (Tass.com, April 28, 2018; Read the full article)