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
(Source: Vk.com/politics_today, October 27, 2017.)
Quote Of The Week
Commenting on Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu's visit to Israel, Col.-Gen. (ret) Leonid Ivashov, who chairs the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, said: "We should warn Israel: if you destroy Syrian air-defense systems, we will supply them with more modern ones."
(Ria.ru, October 17, 2017.)
Leonid Ivashov (Source: Geopolitica.ru.)
Commenting on the U.S. and coalition bombardment of Raqqa, Syria, Russian Defense Ministry Gen.-Maj. Igor Konashenkov said: "Raqqa has repeated the fate of Dresden of 1945, which was erased in the British-American bombardment."
Igor Konashenkov (Source: Rusvesna.su.)
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:
Question: "Recently the White House reported that U.S. President Donald Trump is going to declassify information about the mystery of the century, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Reports say that Lee Harvey Oswald, who studied in Minsk, in the Soviet Union at the time, repeatedly went to Mexico to meet with Cuban and Soviet spies. It looks like some accusations against Russia and the Soviet Union will follow."
Maria Zakharova: "What do you mean to say? Is this also our fault?"
Question: "Perhaps so. Do you have any opinion or information on this matter?"
Maria Zakharova: "Honestly, it's frightening to even imagine this story being presented in such a completely fiendish way, I have to say. That's all I can say. I believe that this is a sovereign matter of the United States. I perfectly understand the interest of the international community, historians, and political analysts, who have been trying to find the truth for many years. For decades, the information has been classified. If wild insinuations involving the Russian Federation are beginning to gather, this can only be regretted. I want information, not misinformation.
"All I can feel is shock at this interpretation. I never thought it even possible to pervert this issue like this."
(Mid.ru, October 26, 2017.)
In The News
Russia's Drills – Putin Took Part In Strategic Nuclear Forces Training
Launches Of Ballistic Missiles From Submarines
On October 26, the Russian military launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles from submarines and one from the Plesetsk Space Center, located in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast, about 800 km north of Moscow.
The report of the Russian military said: "A squad of the Strategic Missile Force fired a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile from Plesetsk towards the Kura test range in Kamchatka... A nuclear submarine of the Pacific Fleet carried out a salvo launch of two ballistic missiles from the Sea of Okhotsk toward the Chizha testing range in the Arkhangelsk region. A nuclear submarine of the North Fleet fired a ballistic missile from the Barents Sea towards Kura."
Russian news agency TASS reported: "Strategic bombers Tupolec-160, Tupolev-85MS and Tupolev-22MZ were also engaged in the exercise. They took off from the main base in Ukrainka, Engels, and Shaykovka and launched air-based cruise missiles at ground targets at the Kura, Pemboi testing range in the northeastern region of Komi, and Terekta in Kazakhstan."
(Tass.com, October 26, 2017)
Russian news agency RIA reported that Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said later that Putin (apparently personally) launched the four ballistic missiles.
(Ria.ru, October 27, 2017.)
Title: "Putin Personally Launched Four Ballistic Missiles During The Exercises" (Source: Ria.ru, October 27, 2017.)
First Ever Military Transport Aviation Drills:
On October 25, TASS reported that more than 2,500 paratroopers landed in the Ulyanovsk Region, in the Volga Federal District, as part of the drills for the Russian Military Transport Aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces. Furthermore, 58 aircrafts (among them the Su-34, Su-35, Il-76, An-2, and MIG-31) and 5,500 servicemen were involved in the exercises.
Deputy Commander for airborne training Colonel Mikhail Osipenko stated: "Tactical flight training for the military transport aviation is divided into three stages. The main stages are establishing practical actions to 'seize' the Ulyanovsk (Vostochny) airfield blocked by 'terrorist forces.'"
The Russian Defense Ministry stated: "The landing at the site near Ulyanovsk was carried out from 20 Il-76 planes. Such wide-ranging drills for military transport aviation involving the airborne forces have never been conducted before."
(Tass.com, October 25, 2017)
Ulyanovsk Region (Source: Wikipedia.)
U.S. Requests RT Be Registered As "Foreign Agent"
The U.S. government has requested that the Russian TV network RT's American arm register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. According to RT, the Department of Justice said that the deadline to register as a foreign agent expired on October 17.
Commenting on U.S. demands that RT be registered as a foreign agent, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that it is not accidental. He believes that these demands reflect the success of the channel in counterbalancing CNN.
Lavrov said: "As for CNN and how to tackle it, first, it has made a rod for itself by exposing itself and demonstrating its bias and willingness to sacrifice professionalism for short-term political considerations. Second, Russian counter-efforts have produced good results. The efforts taken by the RT network have produced the desired effect, which explains the demand that RT register as a foreign agent in the U.S. under the [Foreign Agents Registration Act]. RT has good lawyers, and I hope they will use every opportunity at their disposal to deal with this situation. However, if U.S. justice imposes this absolutely unacceptable ruling on a media outlet, we will have to reciprocate with regard to U.S. networks whose operation in Russia is financed by American taxpayers."
(Mid.ru, October 16, 2017.)
See Targeting RT With 'Foreign Agent' Law Betrays First Amendment – Media Experts, Rt.com, October 7, 2017.
In response to the U.S. demands, TASS reports that Russia will take the following measures:
"[Russia's] Justice Ministry has sent a formal notice to a number of U.S. media outlets, particularly those controlled by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), including the Voice of America and Radio Liberty, informing them about the upcoming changes to the Russian legislation, which concern the list of non-commercial organizations that could be declared foreign agents.
"... Russia may also cut back the number of accredited journalists and conduct probes as to whether the U.S. media outlets abide by the Russian labor and tax laws. Besides, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office has the powers to declare any U.S. media outlet an undesirable organization, provided it is found guilty of meddling in Russia's domestic affairs.
"According to the source, since the current foreign agent law is limited, an initiative will be made to expand the list of organizations falling within the law's scope, particularly media outlets on the list and making it possible to declare individuals, who receive funding from abroad, foreign agents. After amendments to the legislation are made, the U.S. media outlets may be requested to register as foreign agents."
(Tass.com, October 18, 2017)
Russia's Federation Council Committee for the Defense of State Sovereignty has compiled a list of media outlets, activities of which may be restricted in Russia. The list includes CNN, Voice of America, Radio Freedom, and more. Russian Senator Oleg Morozov stated that the measures taken against the media in the list will be similar to the measures taken against RT in the U.S.
(Rbc.ru, October 17, 2017)
Commenting on the issue, Russia's Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikoforov said: "It's disgraceful to resort to the rhetoric of prohibiting the mass media. I think we should consider other measures... It's not necessary to lower ourselves to such a level of behavior." The minister added that if the U.S. restricts the Russian media, Russia will definitely find a proper response but this response will not be symmetrical. The minister pointed out that the role of the U.S. media in Russia should not be overestimated, since its audience is negligibly small.
(Meduza.io, October 18, 2017)
On an official visit to Serbia, Hoyt Brian Yee, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, said that countries that want to join the EU should follow Brussels' policy instead of playing a double game. Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said:
"The statement of [U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs] Bryan Hoyt Yee is the heaviest act of public and non-diplomatic pressure on our country and on our right to make autonomous decisions. I do not know how [Serbian] President Aleksandar Vucic will react and respond, but I am sure he will be able to cope with the pressure as he did before."
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented as follows Hoyt Brian Yee's remarks:
"Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Brian Yee made a number of provocative statements aimed at undermining Russian-Serbian cooperation during his trip to Belgrade on October 23-24. The U.S. diplomat crudely demanded that Belgrade reconsider its cooperation with Russia and focus exclusively on rapprochement with the European Union. He also objected with unfittingly emotional phrases to granting immunities and privileges for the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Centre (RSHC) in Nis.
"We would like to recall that the United States is not an EU member, and this is probably why it is unaware that many EU countries are involved in large-scale, mutually beneficial and productive cooperation with Russia. Nobody should prevent Serbia from having the same approach on the basis of its national interests.
"As for the RSHC, the Americans are feigning ignorance of the assistance that it has been giving to Serbia and other European countries, including EU and NATO members, in overcoming the consequences of natural and man-made disasters. Its experts are also removing mines from Serbian territory. They have already removed thousands of explosive objects that were left in Serbia after the NATO bombing in 1999. During this bombing, ammunition with depleted uranium was used on a massive scale.
"We are urging our American colleagues not to impose on others hostile ideological stereotypes that undermine the foundations of international stability and cooperation in the Balkans and Europe in general."
(Mid.ru, October 24, 2017)
Putin Appoints High Ranking Officers: 'Terrorism Remains One Of The Main Threats For Russia And The World'
On October 26, a ceremony was held in the Kremlin to present officers appointed to senior command posts and awarded higher military special titles and ranks. On that occasion, the Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about the situation in Syria and about terrorism as a main threat to Russia. Putin said:
"More than 90 percent of Syrian territory has been liberated from terrorists. De-escalation zones are being created in close cooperation with the Syrian authorities and our Western partners, and a political settlement and civil reconciliation are progressing.
"Let me emphasize that the terrorists are not just some poorly organized groups, but rather units that are well equipped, trained, and are generously financed and highly motivated. The combat action against them demonstrated the enhanced capability of Russia's Aerospace Forces, Land Forces and Navy. We need to further strengthen this capacity, implement new, promising weapons systems, and enhance the efficiency of combat training."
He then added: "Terrorism remains one of the main threats for Russia and the world. In 2017, officers from the Federal Security Service prevented 43 terrorism-related incidents. Dozens of terrorists were killed, about 800 members of armed groups detained, and 66 terrorist and extremist cells were destroyed.
"There were also substantial results in counterintelligence. In the first six months of 2017, our agencies precluded the activities of 30 foreign intelligence operatives and more than 200 people suspected of colluding with foreign intelligence services.
"In order to ensure effective protection of our national interests, the Foreign Intelligence Service needs to engage in systemic and extensive efforts to extract and analyze existing and new information and to forecast developments in various regions of the world, especially those close to the Russian border, with consideration for all the factors and risks related to the threats Russia might face.
"The Federal Guard Service makes a major contribution to national security. I am confident that its officers will continue their reliable and exemplary efforts as they work on a wide range of special objectives, data collection and analysis, and special communications.
"The Special Facilities Service has a unique role in mobilizing and training government bodies. I hope that its staff will be able to ensure stable public governance and military coordination..."
(Kremlin.ru, October 26, 2017.)
Sergey Shoygu with Qatari Minister of Defense Khalid bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah (Source: Mil.ru.)
On October 25, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu visited Qatar for the first time. Russian news agency TASS reported: "Russia and Qatar signed an intergovernmental agreement on military and technical cooperation in Doha on Wednesday. The document was endorsed by Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergey Shoygu and Qatari Minister of State for Defense Khalid bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah.
"The representatives of Rosoboronexport and the Qatari Defense Ministry signed a memorandum and a frame contract on the military and technical cooperation in the two ministers' presence."
(Tass.com, October 25, 2017)
Officially, the weapon systems in which Qatar was interested were not disclosed. According to Russian military experts quoted by Russian news agency RIA, Qatar may be interested in buying the S-400 air-defense system.
According to military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, taking into consideration Qatar's tiny military forces, any purchase of military systems should bear political rather than military significance.
Igor Korotchenko, military expert and head of the Center of International Arms Trade Analysis, said: "Doha might be interested in purchasing the S-400 – obtaining this systems is a sign of membership in a certain 'club of military chosen countries' and is very prestigious as well as important in the framework of providing national security."
It is worth noting that during Saudi King Salman's visit to Russia, Saudi Arabia signed a preliminary agreement to buy the S-400 air-defense system.
(Ria.ru, October 25, 2017.)
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7124, Russian media Outlet Topwar.ru: 'Saudi Arabia's King Flew To Moscow To Surrender To The Mercy Of The Winner', October 9, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7123, Reactions To Saudi King's Visit To Moscow - RIA: Putin Is The 'New Lord Of The Middle East', October 8, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7120, Russian-Saudi Relations - Russian Expert: Russia Will Have To Talk To The Saudis From A Position Of Strength, October 6, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7122, On Russian-Saudi Relations, Russia's FM Lavrov Says: King Salman's Historic Visit To Russia Will Bring Our Cooperation To A Totally New Level, October 4, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7028, Russian Middle East Expert: KSA's Bin Salman A Friend, But A Difficult One, July 27, 2017.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Source: Tass.com)
On October 16, Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu arrived in Israel on October 16 to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 138, The Russia-Iran Axis: An Existential Threat To Israel's Security – A Wakeup Call, October 23, 2017.
See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 139, The Russia-Iran Axis: An Existential Threat To Israel – Part II: The Nuclear Dimension, October 24, 2017.
Russia-Algeria-Morocco Relations; Russian Prime Minister Medvedev's Visit To North Africa
On October 9-10, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev went on an official visit to Algeria. He met Algeria's Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The talks dealt mainly about the diversification of trading between the two countries, which is presently dominated by the sales of weapons. "Algiers is a very reliable partner and open to cooperate in many sectors," said Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with the Algerian APS press agency. He then added that Russia would like to increase the volume of its cooperation with Algeria in the energy sector. Medvedev commented: "Some big Russian enterprises (such as Power Machines or Gazprom) are successfully working in Algeria in important sectors such electricity and geological exploration... We are ready to export finished industrial products, in particular civil aircrafts, cars, agricultural and railway equipment, and machine tools."
However, Medvedev's visit had not only an economic dimension, but also a diplomatic one. He underlined the two countries' "closeness" with regard to certain international issues, reminding that they both deem that "the people of every region can and must decide themselves about their destiny, and resolve themselves their internal problems in a pacific way, without violence, through dialogue and on the basis of the rule of law."
According to the Russian media outlet RT, Medvedev's remarks seem to refer to the ongoing Western Sahara conflict in which Algiers supports the Polisario Front, a pro-independence movement, which is demanding a referendum for self-determination, whereas Morocco is proposing autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
After the visit to Algeria, Medvedev went for a two-day visit to Morocco. The two countries initiated a rapprochement on the occasion of the visit to Russia of Mohammed VI, in March 2016. Relations between Russia and Morocco are more than two centuries old, but, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the consequent loss of Moscow's influence in the international scenario, Rabat had a rapprochement with the U.S. to the detriment of Russia.
(Rt.com, October 9, 2017.)
Medvedev with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia (Source: Government.ru.)
Medvedev with Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani (Source: Moroccoworldnews.com.)
See summaries of Medvedev's meetings in Algeria.
Interview Of The Week
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's Interview With The Valdai International Discussion Club Website: 'The Anti-Russia Hysterics... In The U.S. Are A Reflection Of An Internal Political Struggle'
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's (Source: Mid.ru.)
Question: "What did our American partners hope to achieve by inciting anti-Russia sentiment in society and by taking hostile or even outright illegal steps with regard to Russian diplomats?'
Sergey Lavrov: "I think they want to undermine the Trump administration. Despite the inconsistency of the current U.S. administration's actions and Mr. Trump's extravagance, the U.S. president has not abandoned the promise and intention to improve relations and to cooperate with Russia, which he declared during his election campaign and upon his election as president.
"The majority of Democrats cannot get past their bitterness over their candidate's loss in the election, and a large number of Republicans cannot accept the outsider nature of the current administration, including the president. And so the anti-Russia hysterics you mentioned that are continuing in the United States are a reflection of an internal political struggle. President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about this, and our analyses have confirmed this. Investigations into Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia and into Russia's alleged interference in the election campaign with the aim of supporting the Republican candidate were launched nearly a year ago. Numerous hearings have been held, special investigations have been conducted, a special counsel has been appointed to oversee this. Although nearly a year has passed and many people have been involved in this process, not a single fact has been found to confirm those allegations. To me, this speaks volumes. American society is based on leaks, especially regarding foreign policy matters. Keeping the results of investigations into the alleged Russian interference absolutely secret would be impossible. This means that they have no hard facts."
(Mid.ru, October 17, 2017)
News In Brief
Russia Invites Kurdish Authorities to Syrian Congress in Sochi (Aawsat.com, October 31, 2017; Read full article)
Russian Defense Ministry says U.S. responsible for carpet-bombing in Raqqa. (Tass.com, October 14, 2017; Read full article)
Russia's FM Lavrov calls on the U.S. to clarify coalition's behavior in Syria. (Tass.com, October 12, 2017; Read full article)
Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, says the West should undertake main burden of responsibility for Syria's restoration. (Tass.com, October 15, 2017; Read full article)
Syria suggests Russia Railways build rail link to Palmyra's deposits. (Tass.com, October 18, 2017, Read full article)
Twitter removes advertising from all RT and Sputnik accounts (Tass.com, October 26, 2017, Read full article)