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.
Video Of The Week
In its official Instagram account, the Russian MFA published a video clip featuring the dancing Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova and UK Prime Minister Theresa May and asked the followers to choose whose "dancing style in international relations is more appealing."
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:
'The US Threaten Syria With Armed Aggression… Playing With Fire This Way Could Have Unpredictable Consequences, Since You Cannot Get Away With It Every Time'
"Unfortunately, the clouds are gathering once again over Syria. The United States with its several thousand-strong military presences in Syria, together with its closest Western allies, threaten Syria with armed aggression. They are not at all embarrassed to follow models they had already used before. In fact, the same scheme was used in March and April 2018. It all started with preventive statements by officials alleging that 'the Assad regime' intended to use chemical weapons and stressing the need to prevent any incident of this kind. As we all know, this is followed by what we call a chemical provocation, which either involves a real or fake chemical weapons attacks. Finally, in the closing stage, the Syrian military and other sites are shelled. This process has been launched, once again. We can expect this to be crudely orchestrated through a lurid media campaign, without inventing any new approaches or schemes, and by simply following tried and tested programs and models.
"Data coming from the Russian military and presented at the Defense Ministry briefing on August 27 prove that this hypothesis is not without grounds.
"This is a matter of very serious concern for us and we wanted to share it with the international community and the media in the light of the aforementioned scenario. This would be a severe blow not only for the settlement in Syria, but also for global security. Playing with fire this way could have unpredictable consequences, since you cannot get away with it every time. On August 28, this matter was discussed at the UN Security Council at Russia’s initiative. Unfortunately, the participants in this debate expressed opposing views. It is regrettable that everyone decided to stick to their position, even though in fateful moments of this kind it is imperative that we at least try to hear each other, if not reach a consensus.
"Let me reiterate that Russia views the use of toxic substances as totally unacceptable, just like staged chemical attacks intended to justify making deliberately misleading accusations against the Syrian government and military of carrying out chemical attacks. Damascus lacks the capability to do so, since Syria’s chemical stockpiles were completely eliminated under international supervision in 2014 and 2015 as part of a unique operation involving the US, among others. There is no need to add that this would be a glaring example of suicidal madness, which is something the Syrian government can hardly be accused of.
"There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this situation: the West is not willing to accept the path toward settlement in Syria as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and is seeking to steer the course of events into greater alignment with the plans of Washington and its allies. This would explain the response by Western capitals to the Russian initiative on the return of Syrian refugees back home. This humanitarian project could have united the international community when carried out with active input from the UN and its specialized agencies, primarily the UNHCR. But this was not the case: the initiative designed to help millions of people return to their homes in safety and dignity instead of muddling along abroad as subhumans, and quite often facing extreme hardship without proper housing or work, was called 'premature.' It is unfortunate that for some of our partners humanistic values were sacrificed to their determination to change the 'undesirable' regime in Damascus."
Zakharova Accuses The Pentagon For Denying The Russian Defense Ministry’s Report On An Increase In US Cruise Missiles In The Middle East
"On Tuesday, August 28, the Pentagon attempted to deny reports by the Russian Ministry of Defense on an increase in US cruise missiles in the Middle East.
"Indeed, the US destroyer Ross armed with 28 Tomahawks, has repeatedly entered the area in the Mediterranean Sea, from which missiles can be effectively fired on Syrian territory. Another US ship of the same class, the USS Sullivans, quickly left the area in the Persian Gulf, from which it could easily hit targets in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR), following media reports that the US is building up its capabilities for a strike against Syria.
"However, when the US military was refuting this information, they forgot to mention that they can build up US missile capacity for strikes against Syria within 24 hours.
"At this point, the attack force of the US, France and Britain consists of strategic and tactical aircraft deployed on airbases in Jordan and Kuwait and on Crete and totaling around 70 delivery vehicles, around 380 air-borne cruise missiles, plus two US destroyers, the Carney and the Ross, each carrying 28 Tomahawks.
"Within 24 hours, the US missile-carrying force in the Mediterranean Sea could be reinforced by two more destroyers, the USS Donald Cook and the USS Porter, currently deployed at a naval base near the Spanish city of Rota, as well as by submarines. Within the same period, the destroyer USS Jason Dunham could enter the Red Sea for a strike against Syria and the USS Sullivans in the Persian Gulf could return to the attack area.
"In other words, at least four delivery vehicles carrying sea-based missiles with a strike capacity of more than 112 Tomahawks could join an aggression against the sovereign Syrian state.
"For proof, during talks between Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia General Valery Gerasimov and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, the US counterpart said that the US Department of Defence was considering strike scenarios on targets in Syria. Other coalition member states are ready to join them.
"Strikes against Syria are being linked to the alleged possible use of chemical weapons by government troops in Idlib.
"Russia’s Chief of the General Staff informed General Dunford that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army is out of the question. The Syrian government has no such plans.
"Considerable government troops have been massed around Idlib. Given their combat experience, they can, if necessary, respond to the terrorist force in that province.
"It should be noted that, according to the information that we have, on August 23 and 24 eight barrels of chlorine and shells for multiple rocket launchers, which will be filled with chlorine, were delivered to the Idlib de-escalation zone, specifically to the town of Jisr ash-Shugur. The so-called White Helmets with video equipment to film the simulated use of chemical weapons have also arrived there. Preparations for yet another provocation are taking shape.
"In addition, according the Russian Reconciliation Centre, the White Helmets delivered a large amount of toxic agents to an arms and fuel depot controlled by the Ahrar ash-Sham group in the town of Saraqib in Idlib province. They were transported on two heavy trucks from the town of Afs.
"In order to expand the scale of 'rent-a-mob' scenes to accuse the Bashar al-Assad government of using toxic agents against civilians, part of the cargo in unmarked plastic barrels was transported to other militant bases in the south of Idlib. Let me point out the fact that all of this is factual material that can be verified and Western countries have every opportunity to do so.
"So, active preparations are under way to stage the use of chemical weapons by government troops in the Idlib zone in the hope that the United States will carry out missile strikes against government troops.
"Judging from US military preparations in the Middle East, new missile strikes on targets in Syria are not unlikely.
"Let me point out once again that in so doing the United States will reverse all efforts on a Syrian peace settlement. This must be understood.
"In addition, the situation at the Rukban refugee camp in the US-controlled Al Tanf zone remains unresolved.
The latter was also discussed during the talks between the Russian chief of the general staff and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US.
"General Joseph Dunford suggested completely relocating the Rukban refugee camp under the auspices of the UN and asked General Gerasimov to coordinate the matter with the Syrian government.
"In the US general’s opinion, it would be expedient to jointly submit this idea to the UN.
"He also came up with a request regarding the Russian military’s cooperation with the Syrian government on the prospects of delivering humanitarian aid to the Rukban camp as soon as possible.
"The Russian Ministry of Defense, for its part, supported the above proposals. Practical implementation is currently underway."
(Mid.ru, August 30, 2018)
In The News:
- Russia-Turkey-Iran Fail To Reach An Agreement On Idlib In The Trilateral Meeting In Tehran
- Russia in Syria - Kremlin: About 87,000 militants eliminated with assistance of Russian forces in Syria - The Russian Embassy To The US Warns Washington Against 'Illegal Act Of Aggression' In Syria
- Russian Navy and Aerospace Force Exercises In The Mediterranean - Kremlin Spokesperson Peskov: The Drills Were Partly Linked To The Situation In Idlib - Lavrov: The Drills Are Simple Routine
- Pink Floyd Lead Man Roger Waters To Izvestia: The DEmonizing Of Russia And Putin Is Painful
Russia-Turkey-Iran Fail To Reach An Agreement On Idlib In The Trilateral Meeting In Tehran
The long-awaited summit of the three leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, with the objective of reaching a joint agreement on Idlib ended instead in disagreement. Putin advocated a continuation of armed operations against Jabhat Al-Nusra. Rouhani supported Putin's position, while Erdogan called for a ceasefire to solve the problems peacefully.
The following day, Russia and Syria resumed bombings of Idlib and Hama.
- Joint Statement by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the Republic of Turkey. (Kremlin.ru, September 7, 2018; read the full statement)
- News conference following meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Kremlin.ru, September 7, 2018; read the full transcript)
- Iranian Central Bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati has discussed with Turkish and Russian representatives the possible replacement of the US dollar by national currencies in trade. (Sputniknews.com, September 9, 2018; read the full article)
Russia in Syria
Kremlin: About 87,000 militants eliminated with assistance of Russian forces in Syria
The Kremlin stated in a report prepared for the trilateral summit in Tehran on September 7:
"Russia is making a serious contribution to the normalization of the situation in Syria. With the participation of the Russian servicemen, 87,000 militants have been eliminated, 141 settlements and 102,000 square kilometers of the Syrian territory liberated."
The document added: "A total of 43,000 extremists have voluntarily laid down their weapons as a result of work to reconcile the sides."
(Tass.com, September 7, 2018)
The Russian Embassy To The US Warns Washington Against 'Illegal Act Of Aggression' In Syria
During a meeting with US diplomats, Russia’s ambassador to the United States warned the US government against attacking Syria. The Russian Embassy said in a statement: "We warned the United States against a yet another unjustified and illegal act of aggression in Syria. Escalation of tensions in Syria is not in anyone’s national interests. We urged Washington to immediately provide facts that may support this attempt to once again propagate the issue of chemical weapons use by Damascus."
(Tass.com; August 30, 2018)
Russian Navy and Aerospace Force Exercises In The Mediterranean
Kremlin Spokesperson Peskov: The Drills Were Partly Linked To The Situation In Idlib
RT described the drills in the Mediterranean:
"Held between September 1 and September 8, the drills also involved establishing a foothold on the territory controlled by a simulated enemy. In total, 26 vessels from all Russian fleets, including two submarines, as well as 34 aircraft took part in the war games.
"Earlier, the Kremlin spokesman explained that the drills were partly linked to the situation in Syria’s Idlib province. Idlib is 'a hotbed of terrorism and nothing good may come from it, unless action is taken,' Dmitry Peskov said in late August ahead of the drills, adding that some 'additional safety measures' are 'justified'."
(Rt.com, September 8, 2018)
See the video of the drills in the Mediterranean Sea.
Lavrov: The Drills Are Simple Routine
During a press conference, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov answered a question about Russia's drills in the Mediterranean.
Question: "The Western media’s vocal response to yesterday's announcement on the Russian Navy and Aerospace Force exercises in the Mediterranean scheduled for early September is quite notable..."
Sergey Lavrov: "Regarding the Russian Navy exercises in the Mediterranean, they are routine. All states have the right to conduct exercises in accordance with international law either on their respective territories or the territories of other states as agreed with them or on the high seas, which is fully consistent with international law.
"I’m not sure about a violent reaction in the West. I think it's better to ask those who are trying to stage a tempest in a teapot. I do not rule out that all this is in line with the urban legend that is being spread around the world which accuses Russia of everything, without exception, that is happening on the planet. I believe, so far the only thing we haven’t been accused of is arranging earthquakes and tsunamis.
"The NATO countries regularly conduct exercises on the Black Sea directly off our coast, and the scale of these is on the rise. The underlying implications of such naval exercises are clearly aggressive. They are practicing the landing of troops on the Black Sea coast. Draw your own conclusions as to what they are training for and how they want to build their relations with Russia. To be sure, the Mediterranean Sea is far enough from the capitals that are most vocal about our presence there while the Black Sea is right on the Russian border."
(Mid.ru, August 31, 2018)
Pink Floyd Lead Man Roger Waters To Izvestia: The Demonizing Of Russia And Putin Is Painful
Pink Floyd lead man Roger Waters (Source: Youtube.com)
In an interview, titled "Do you want to start a war with the Russians? Are You that crazy?", Izvestia interviewed Pink Floyd lead man Roger Waters before an August 31 concert in Moscow.
Q: "A huge number of people attentively follow your every word when you directly call the white helmet organization fakes... How did you reach that conclusion?"
Waters: "This is a very important concern. There was a concert in Barcelona, in April and there were two important moments there: In the first, that was when on the evening of April 7 the White Helmets put out a video taken in the Syrian city of Duma. In the video there was a hospital, many children in masks on whom all the time water was dripping and the authors of the video affirmed that this was the result of a chemical attack."
Trump "with his infantile stupidity" Macron and May used this as a pretext for bombing
"Some guy approached me, a Frenchman, he supported the White Helmets. He asked if he could take the stage and appear with words in support of the children of Syria. I said 'no it is forbidden' too many serious questions have accumulated about this organizations.
"Many of its materials have been acknowledged as obviously false. As concerns Duma, there were Islamist fighters, jihadists, who had already left the city. The Syrian army had made enough strikes on them so that it was clear that they could not hold it. They went away two days later. And a day later to journalists appeared: Robert Fisk of the Independent and Pearson Sharp from a very conservative telecom from Texas. There were no other journalists at that moment in Duma.
"They both travelled to the hospital and talked with the doctors and with the local inhabitants. They were not tied to Assad and the Syrian government. But they both reported the same thing. In their words, all the doctors announced that there was no chemical attack. Nobody died in Duma on the day that it was supposed to occur, not one person. For at the beginning there was talk of 50 or 60 who died but the doctors said that in the hospital there were people with respiratory problems but the problems arose because of dust and that simply because the city was in a war…
"This is simply a propaganda war episode that tries to demonize Putin, Assad, Iran etc."
"Attack on Skripal that is bollocks that a person with a single brain hemisphere comprehends. But many are lacking even one hemisphere and therefore believe in that absurd I would like to declare to the entire world: you wish to start a war with the Russians? Are you that crazy? Do you know who you are dealing with? The Russians liberated us from Fascism at the cost of the lives of 20 million of their citizens. And you want to fight with them? What bad thing did they ever do to you? What the heck are you saying?
"The same can be said regarding Ukraine. Victoria Nuland is guilty of everything. She organized all this and now the country is divided into two. And now the country is divided into two parts. I do not know how Ukraine will get out of this situation but to blame Russia for this is simply risible. However this goes down well with the Americans and the people believe in it because they control the press and can twist the situation in a way that suits them.
"My own evaluation is that we will not fight with Russia. Russians are so brave, resilient and steadfast. You have a large and strong country."
Asked about Crimea, Waters replied:
"I am not very strong in geopolitics. I know that Sevastopol is very important for Russia and Russians. There are many agreements and papers according to which Russia has every right to that city. The change of power in Ukraine, planned by Washington, simply encouraged Moscow into further actions"
Asked if after a seven year hiatus since his last visit he was surprised about things in current Russia, Waters denied any surprise:
"No because I have already been to Russia, I have read your literature and I have an understanding of your culure. The demonizing of Russia, the Russian people and Putin is painful. It is done so they can control their own citizens and make more money."
(Iz.ru, August 27, 2018)
News In Brief:
Regional Elections In Russia
- More than a dozen people have declared a hunger strike in the town of Volno-Nadezhdinskoye, where local candidates from the Communist Party, LDPR, and Just Russia, as well as a few independents, saying that United Russia has been bribing voters ahead of the September 9 regional elections. (Meduza.io, August 31, 2018; read the full article)
- Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has sent a letter to Google, reminding that spreading calls for election-day protests on the day prior to elections and on the election day was an offence, CEC member Alexander Klyukin confirmed at a meeting of the Federation Council Temporary Commission for Protection of State Sovereignty and Prevention of Interference in Russia's Internal Affairs. (Tass.com, September 4, 2018; read the full article)
- Google has been holding talks with Russian authorities concerning videos advertising unauthorized protests during the election campaign, head of Russia’s media watchdog Alexander Zharov said in an interview with the Kommersant FM radio station. (Tass.com, September 5, 2018; read the full article)
- The General Prosecution Office and Russian State Media watchdog Roskomnadzor have also issued warnings to Google regarding unacceptable meddling in Russian elections. Akelsey Zhafiarov, deputy head of the Federal Laws Observations Department on Federal Security said that the warning is a serious measure followed by criminal prosecution (in case of failure to comply). "We expect that such a big and well respected company will take the warning seriously", said Zhariafov. (Ria.ru, September 4, 2018; read the full article in Russian)
- The newspaper Vedomosti shed a bit more light on the Russian claims against Google. Vedomosti quotes Aleksandr Klukin, a member of the Central Elections Committee, who said that the warning stem from opposition leader Alexey Navalny's appeal not to vote for those officials, who supported Russian controversial pension reform. Klukin: "To the best of our knowledge, Navalny purchases from Google advertisement instruments in order to promote on Youtube certain information regarding a mass action of a political nature. We have informed Google that such mass actions during elections campaign will lead to elections laws breach, since according to Russian laws it's forbidden to wage political agitation on election day and a day prior to that". (Vedomosti.ru, September 4, 208; read the full article in Russian)