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 On The Week
In The News
- Reactions To Nikki Haley's Resignation
- Russian Troops In Libya?
- Russia Accuses The United States Of Having Launched A Military-Biological Program In Georgia
- News In Brief
Reactions To Nikki Haley's Resignation
Commenting on US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley's resignation, Senator Pushkov posted on his Twitter account:
"No tears. The departure of Haley, notorious for a record volume of hypocrisy as US representative in the UN, will not disturb anybody. She has been neither a major diplomat nor a sagacious politician"
Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya diplomatically commented: "We must respect this decision. I am sorry she is stepping down because we have had working relations, despite all the gaps."
(Tass.com, October 9, 2018)
Professor Oleg Matveychev, political expert at the Higher School of Economics, stated:
"To our general regret, Nikki Haley was undoubtedly not the permanent representative with whom we could have comfortably worked with. Her rhetoric was stale, Russo-phobic – she even stooped to expressions for example, on the impossibility of establishing any form of good relations with Russia, and by saying that she in fact admitted her own impotence. She has done certain things without consultation with Trump, saying openly that she did not share his opinion. In general, she part of the resentment to Trump that he has been fighting for two years now. It should have stopped at some time. The question is whether there will be a compromise figure in order to please the [American] 'hawks' and we'll again see more of the same."
Yuri Rogulev, CEO, Franklin Roosevelt Center for US studies, Moscow State University, stated:
"Nikki Haley is a typical provincial politician: For her this appointment was a huge upturn in her career in comparison with the post of [South Carolina's] governor's. Yet, she was a person who generally speaking had nothing to do with foreign policy and inexperienced with respect to international diplomacy. She carried no weight inside American politics…
"As a result, there was a total lack of engagement (with Russia), no contacts or cooperation. … Nikki Haley in this sense demonstrated indifference, coolness and arrogance in the best traditions of American diplomacy. Add to that her parochialism and provinciality during her speeches…"
Russian Troops In Libya?
RBC sources, close to the Russian Ministry of Defense, have confirmed reports in the British press about a Russian military presence in Libya. According to the sources, Moscow has in recent months elite spetznaz paratrooper units into eastern parts of Libya. A Libyan source close to the Libyan authorities has also confirmed to RBC that Russia has mounted military activity in Libya to support General Halifa Haftar.
Lev Dengov, who heads the Russian Contact Group for an Inter-Libyan settlement denied the allegations that appeared in the British tabloid The Sun:
"It's not the first time we encounter the situation, when they try to portray our collaboration with one of the Libyan actors as support for one of the sides. Information that Russia supports one side to the conflict does not reflect the reality".
According to RBC's MOD source, Russian presence in Libya has to do with "oil and gas interests".
Dmitry Frolovsky, independent Middle East expert, said to RBC that Russia pursues economic rather than political interests in Libya :"I don't think Moscow would deploy military personnel to Libya in order to take control of migration streams to exert political pressure on the West. "
(Rbc.ru, October 9, 2018)
Yuri Shvytkin, deputy chair, Defense committee, Duma: "I can solemnly say that Russian servicemen are not present in Libya. We [in the Duma] use official sources and information. If we talk about Britain's opinion, then we can respond that no limits exist to their fantasies. Therefore they may soon claim that [the elite] Pskov regiment forces) is already present in London".
(Ria.ru, October 9, 2018)
The Russian embassy in London's press officer has also denied the allegations: "This publication bears no relation to reality. We consider it a further attempt to shift responsibility for the devastated country and the ruined lives of millions of Libyans to Russia, which had nothing to do with NATO military assault on Libya… Having supported various peacekeeping attempts in Libya by diplomatic means, Moscow had no plans for military intervention in that country. We are totally committed to UNSC Resolution 1970 that imposed an embargo on arms deliveries to Libya".
(Tass.ru, October 9, 2018)
Russia Accuses The United States Of Having Launched A Military-Biological Program In Georgia
Lugar Center for Public Health Research near Tbilisi, Georgia (Source: Sputniknews.com)
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Washington is hiding the true purpose behind the Lugar Centre for Public Health Research microbiology lab near Tbilisi, Georgia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated:
"The Richard Lugar Public Health Research Center is a laboratory with a high level of biological protection. It was built by the US Department of Defense in the village of Alexeyevka near Tbilisi and is being used in its interests to study the pathogens of particularly dangerous, infectious diseases. To hide the true nature and purpose of this facility it was formally included in Georgia's health care system. The US provides no information on these dual-use activities as part of the confidence-building measures of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. All that is happening in close proximity to Russia's borders, which we cannot fail to take into account, when analyzing the situation for the purpose of national security."
(Tass.com, October 5, 2018)
Major General Kirillov: Large-scale Military Biological Activity Has Been Launched In The Territories Of States Neighboring Russia
Major General Igor Kirillov, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry's Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, commented: "The Lugar Center is merely a tiny element of the United States' vast military biological program. Large-scale activity has been launched in the territories of states neighboring Russia, where the Pentagon-controlled laboratories are functioning. Laboratory buildings continue to be upgraded in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan…
"The financing of such activity in 2017-2019 will total about $1 billion. In 2019 alone more than $197 million will be provided for research and military-technological projects in accordance with the US administration's request.
"At the moment there are more than 30 US-controlled laboratories - operational and being permanently upgraded - with high levels of biological protection. Official UN statistics confirm this. Their capabilities allow for conducting the full range of research into the pathogens of extremely dangerous infectious diseases."
(Tass.com, October 4, 2018)
It is worth noting that, back in September, ex-Georgian State Security Minister Igor Giorgadze stated that he had received 100,000 pages of secret docs about deaths that could have resulted from vaccine tests at the Lugar Center. Kirilov gave official credence to Giorgadze's claims that 73 persons have died as a results of experiments. He also identified the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate as the "real" patron of the facility, saying the Georgian specialists are limited in their movements with the lab, and "have no access to the American documents."
(Civil.ge, October 9, 2018)
Igor Kirilov (Image: Structure.mil.ru)
Russia's MFA Spokesperson Zakharova: The Lugar Center Is Hiding The US Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia
Also in September, commenting on the Lugar Center, the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova declared: "… This seemingly civil institution that is formally part of the Georgian Healthcare Ministry is hiding the US Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia. US military personnel researches especially dangerous diseases typical not only in Georgia but in neighboring countries as well, including in Russia. This is why this topic raises our concern. The Pentagon's interest in Georgia cannot be explained by humanitarian reasons alone. We all know how Washington cares about the countries not located close to the US borders and what happens because of this humanitarian part of the equation: unfortunately, it ends in nothing constructive but in very dangerous games with a highly unpredictable outcome…
"This is a matter of concern for many government agencies and Russian citizens, which is understandable. I have a question: is anyone in Georgia concerned about this? These labs are located on the territory of their sovereign state. What are they doing there? What possible outcome will there perhaps be?
"… Let me repeat that we are greatly concerned with this due to the close proximity to Russia.
"In addition, we will continue to work with our friends and allies, with the neighboring states, explaining to them the risks of the US stepping up their military medical and biological activities in the post-Soviet space.
"I would like to stress once again that sovereign states must not become labs and these states' citizens and residents should not become test subjects in experiments that may threaten their lives.
"I would also like to say once again that to all our previous requests we received answers saying that this is all conspiracy theories, allegations and speculations; that we are making this up to make a senseless fuss. Several officials and media representatives told us that this is all misinformation, fake news and Russian propaganda. We were told that an international inspection of the Lugar Centre registered no violations and all the documents sent to the UN are all in order.
"What will happen next after the new data has been presented? The documents say otherwise. Either the Georgian authorities or the US have been willfully misinforming the international community. All the information and material of the news conference I have mentioned can be accessed freely on the internet. Everything can be studied. Unfortunately, we would like not to have heard everything we have heard, because our lives would be much calmer then. Perhaps we would have also continued to live with the illusion that there were some mistakes in our analysis and this data is not accurate. I do not know if it is for the better or worse, but this data has been not only confirmed, but also substantiated, and this substantiation is difficult to imagine. Look through the website and the documents. They are about very dangerous manipulations…"
(Mid.ru, September 13, 2018)
Zakharova: The US Are Planning To Infect Agricultural Plants With Various Viruses
On October 10, Zakharova voiced once again Russia's concerns over the Lugar Center:
"... Our assumptions, which were to the large extent political despite being based on the data that we had, were later confirmed directly by representatives of this state, Georgian nationals who lived there and knew what they were talking about. Then, Russian experts gave us the relevant information, providing a detailed line of argument and facts.
"After this, we heard a whole range of statements from Washington, claiming that it was lies and slander; that it was impossible and that Russia was engaged in propaganda.
"Nevertheless, new facts are now emerging about the dark side of US military biological activities and the Pentagon's use of the so-called Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Georgia.
"Major General Igor Kirillov, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry's Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, spoke about this at the ministry briefing on October 4. In particular, the international community was shocked by the examples of American research on the use of mosquitoes (I hope the ones flying around here have nothing to do with this!) as means of infecting people with highly dangerous infectious agents. All of this reminds me of the futuristic films from a few decades ago – back then, it seemed impossible, but now, unfortunately, it is becoming a reality, and an extremely dangerous one.
"Just recently, new details surfaced about the US military's sinister interest in using insects – this time, for infecting agricultural plants with various viruses. I understand that it is not the same as infecting people – still, this is our food that we are talking about. An article written by a group of foreign experts, which was published in the respected Science magazine, dwells on the US Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Insect Allies (this article is available online, you can read it). This program's budget totals at $45 million. Its stated goal is to use the latest genetic engineering and gene therapy techniques to improve the resistance of crops to adverse environmental factors. Such explanations might be sufficient for the average person who does not know much about the biological weapons issue. But the authors of the Science magazine article make a very legitimate point: what does the Pentagon have to do with agriculture? There are plenty of official governmental structures addressing agricultural issues in the United States. Why the Pentagon?
"Experts explained that compared to the traditional method of spraying crops with pesticides, this method for delivering viral DNA is economically unviable and ineffective. At the same time, releasing large numbers of insects with virus infections has distinct offensive aspects and can be used to destroy the opponent's agricultural potential. And it would be hard to prove malice, since one can always attribute such an incident to 'natural causes'. It is no coincidence that the authors of the Science magazine article question how such DARPA programs can be consistent with the US complying with its obligations under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).
"These are not single, isolated examples, nor predictions from movies, they are links in an already-existing policy chain that is currently being implemented.
"Back in 1997, Cuba officially accused the US of spreading a crop-eating insect Thrips palmi (with the help of a carrier aircraft) to destroy the country's crop yields. Unfortunately, the truth was never established, since the BTWC still has no verification mechanism, and to date the US continues to prevent it from creating one.
"Russian concerns about the American military medical and biological activities 'under the roof' of the laboratory in Georgia are based on facts that cannot be denied. Talk all you like about 'Russian propaganda,' but these are facts. As it was mentioned before, we will continue to demand that Washington answer the questions raised and comply with its obligations on the prohibition of biological weapons."
(Mid.ru, October 10, 2018)
MP Shamanov: 'We Will Take Diplomatic And Military Measures'
Vladimir Shamanov, Chairman of Russia's State Duma Defense Committee and former Commander of the Russian Airborne Troops stated: "… It is obvious that a number of measures will be taken at the national level. We cannot just turn a blind eye, knowing that something, which directly affects security on the southern borders, is happening there. We will take diplomatic and military measures."
(Tass.com, October 4, 2018)
Kommersant Columnist Drize: I Pity Russia's MOD
Russian newspaper columnist Dmitry Drize stated: "The major-general Igor Kirrilov said that the US, probably, has already been waging a biological war against Russia. He also said that immediately adjacent to our borders in Georgia, they create prohibited substances under the cover of a public health facility. Horribly, the experiments are carried out on living humans. There are victims. Then our south suffers from Afghani swine fever, which arrived from Georgia. What's that? Why is that? Think for yourself. But the damage from this in the words of officials [totals] 5 billion rubles.
"It can be ruled out that general Kirillov is right, but the world is hardly going to take his information seriously.
"Combat bacteria, killer-seagulls guided by American instructors, which poison our pigs – frankly speaking and with all due respect for our MOD – can only make one only smile. Older people remember Soviet newspapers. Back then, they've published things like that only on a daily basis. The US and its intelligence services are definitely insidious- but to that extent?
"The thing is that it's hard to influence Western public opinion in the West and to modify Russia's negative image [by presenting such accusations]. Anyway, it's not business of the military. And, frankly, speaking the only thing [I feel towards] the military [in this situation] is pity."
(Kommersant.ru, October 5, 2018)
- US Embassy say Russian reports on the Lugar Centre in Tbilisi are 'nonsense' (Agenda.ge, October 8, 2018; read the full article)
News In Brief:
- The exercise of the Strategic Nuclear Forces was held on October 11, 2018 on order from Russia's President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin. (Tass.com, October 11, 2018; read the full article)
- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved the draft agreement with the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) about opening a representative office of the Russian Defense Ministry in the African country. (Tass.com, October 10, 2018; read the full article)
- Russia halts development and procurement of MALE class weaponized UAV "Altair". "Altair" is the only Russian MALE class weaponized UAV prototype. Since 2011 according to unnamed sources the Russian government has spent about 3 billion rubles (approx. 50 million US $ according to the current exchange rate). The apparent reason for dropping the project is a funding shortage. Probably, the project procurement will be transferred to Ural Civic Aviation Factory, which assembles Israeli developed Searcher (Forpost) UAV according to a contract signed back in 2010. (Interfax.ru, October 9, 2018; read the full article in Russian)