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memri
August 7, 2016 No.
6559

Russia This Week - August 1 - 8, 2016

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


Vk.com/13studiya, August 3, 2016.

The dove of peace poops on U.S. President Barack Obama's shoulder, while Russian President Vladimir Putin laughs at him.

Zakharova Dixit

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:


Maria Zakharova taking her summer vacation on Senezh Lake, about 60 km northwest of Moscow (Source: Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, July 31)

The vacationing Zakharova posted on her Facebook page a sliced watermelon and a glass of white wine. (Source: Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, August 1)

In a Facebook post, while on vacation, Maria Zakharova accused the U.S. in bombing civilian neighborhoods in Manbij, in Aleppo province, rather than ISIS positions. According to Zakharova - hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands injured in US airstrikes. She also specifically referred to western coalition bombing of the built-up area of Al-Gundur where, she says, 28 people, including 7 children were killed, and 100 people were injured. Moreover, she accused Western-backed militant opposition groups of using chemical weapons. Zakharova said: "If our Western partners, first and foremost in Washington, again do whatever possible to overlook those facts then all their talk about 'stopping the bloodshed in Syria' will just be ridiculous. I really hope that the western media will find the courage to write about the atrocities of the 'moderates' and the sources of their financing."

(Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, August 3)

 Quote Of The Week:

Answering a question from Rossiya Segodnya and Tass.ru on the accusation that Russia is behind the DNC hack, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said:

"I am stunned by the mayhem and anti-Russian venom that' has taken over Washington in the past few days. We are sorry to see such unscrupulous methods used by certain forces in Washington in order to advance their domestic political goals... The fact that they see the hand of Moscow everywhere they look reveals an insecurity, which the United States has developed towards Russia. They get up in the morning and they go to bed at night with Russia on their minds. They are haunted by this ghost. This is reminiscent of the 1950s, when former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal worked himself into a fit and jumped out of the window yelling 'The Russians are coming!'

"However, we are humane enough to be able to wish people well, wish them good health and composure. They all need to spend more time jogging outdoors... There's another angle to this situation. Many people in Washington have developed a bad habit of blaming Russia for everything. Whenever something goes wrong in their own backyard, they refocus the media and public on 'external factors.' This is not the first time we are confronted with these kinds of ploys that make it possible to sling some mud while pretending that you don't have to mop up after yourself. So, such is the state of manners in today's Washington. We have to put up with this, but we will, of course, keep this in mind. All of it is sad. The level of political debate in this presidential campaign in the United States is quite low."

 
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov (Source: Russianembassy.org)

Putin's Major Reshuffle And Ukraine's Refusal To Accept The New Russian Ambassador

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed new people to serve in different regions as governors, presidential representatives and other offices. The Russian press has called the move a "reshuffling" and sought to explain massive appointments and dismissals. Three of the four newly-appointed governors are former FSB/FSO officers and Putin's personal security guards. One of the key figures replaced was the Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, known to be personally friendly with Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko. According to various columnists this move is dual-layered - the first concerns external politics, while the second layer is purely internal and reflects Putin's desire to ensure the local elites' loyalty in a grave economic situation via administrative "coercion".

(Vedomosti.ru, August 1)

As for Ukraine, Ria's columnist Rostislav Ishenko writes that it was not coincidental that the Russian ambassador Mikhail Zurabov was replaced at the same time as his American counterpart Geoffrey R. Pyatt. Ishenko writes "Russian and American supervisors of Poroshenko's regime unexpectedly leave Ukraine at the moment when the regime experiences critical difficulties - it faces an internal political crisis, which may only be resolved - as even optimistic Ukrainian experts admit - by a coup". The incoming Russian ambassador Mikhail Babich is a former military officer, former presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, former parliamentarian and former prime-minister of the postwar Chechen republic, known for his crisis management skills. In Chechnya, his duties included finishing off the insurgents, reestablishing physical infrastructure and industry as well as controlling local elites and forming a new vertical of power. According to Ishenko the mere appointment of Babich indicates that Moscow anticipates a worst case scenario in Kiev. The mere fact that the American ambassador is leaving as well indicates, according to the author, that the U.S shares this estimate: "Two countries, two geopolitical adversaries, deeply involved - though from different sides - in the Ukrainian conflict, are acting simultaneously to transfer the 'shift watch' from 'soft power specialists' to crisis management professionals, who are experienced in 'special operations'." Thus, the author anticipates that the Russia-U.S. political war in Ukraine to intensify until the end of the current year. The new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is U.S. diplomat Marie Yovanovitch.

(Ria.ru, July 29)

Ukraine subsequently refused to accept the nomination of the new Russian ambassador Mikhail Babich. Discussing Babich's appointment, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister for European Integration Olena Zerkal said: "This question is not on the agenda." Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin further explained that Ukraine cannot discuss candidates for a Russian ambassador, because of the absence of any "positive dynamics in what is happening in the context of Russia's aggression, what is happening in the context of Donbas."

Sergei Toropov was appointed as Russia's charge d'affaires ad interim in Ukraine. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that it is Ukraine's right to refuse Babich's appointment. "It is the sovereign right of one side - to propose the candidature of the ambassador, and it is the sovereign right of the other side - not to agree to the ambassador's candidacy," Peskov said.

(Interfax.com.ua, August 3; Interfax.com.ua, August 4; Tass.ru, August 1)


Mikhail Babich (Source: Ukropnews24.com)

As for the internal layer, the Echo Moscow radio station's editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov mentions that one of the main problems of the former Putin elites was that they were growing old with the president - most of those elites are ex-special services officers and they are still holding their positions. The emerging situation is that the second echelon of younger elites finds this unacceptable because a colonel cannot become a general. Putin realizes that the situation is combustible and therefore he is pushing the younger generation forward.

(Echo.msk.ru, July 30)

Alexandr Ryklin, editor-in-chief of the opposition Everyday Journal (Ej.ru) stresses another dimension. Putin's main consideration in making personnel decisions is whether the rotation serves Putin's survivability and personal power. The author mentions that recent appointments demonstrate that FSB-KGB veterans gained more corporate power while the president counts on "corporate" values in order to restrain protests in case they emerge, given the grave economic situation. The author concludes that Putin is making a mistake by relying on FSB veterans and on the FSB as an institution because the FSB won't even try to defend the regime. The FSB is incapable of accumulating enough strength due to its metamorphosis from a body that secures the state to one that merely serves its own commercial interests.

(Ej.ru, July 29)

Novaya Gazeta in this context quotes the following experts:

Evgeni Minchenko, politology expert: "There is a serious shift in the distribution of influence inside Putin's Politburo: FSB and FSO (Federal Guard Service -the counterpart of the US Secret Service) have gained more power."

Yekaterina Shulman, senior researcher of Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration: Former security officers in problematic regions - Yaroslavl and Kaliningrad are to be expected: in Yaroslavl generally the United Russia party's voting percentages are very low and an organized crime problem exits, while Kaliningrad is "surrounded by the enemies" -therefore very trusted figures are in order. The reshuffling and turbulence will continue in the upcoming years - the main idea is to renew the system and balance it while retaining its basic properties.

(Novayagazeta,ru, July 28)

Gazeta.ru quotes another expert who gives very similar explanations:

Nikolai Mironov, politology expert, explains that the Kremlin sees less risk in appointing former security officers as governors than civilian governors: "Former security figures are closer to Putin, they have better contacts with the federal center and better understand the logic of the power vertical. Civilian figures frequently start challenging the federal center, trying to create their own spheres of influence. Reinforcing the role of former security officers is tied to the reinforcement of the internal security situation. [Putin] is preparing a new configuration of powers".

(Gazeta.ru, July 28)

Vedomosti quotes an unidentified federal government official who says that the "purge" will continue, because there is a need to renew the system. According to the same official, Putin has confidence only in those closest to him- the "siloviki" (former security officers - FSB/FSO) are the closest. Another unidentified source mentions that there are currently many conflicts between and within elites and therefore Putin has to function as an arbitrator. Putin by his appointments has demonstrated his trust in the FSB.

(Vedomosti.ru, July 29)

Another article in Vedomosti by Maria Zheleznova and Andrey Sinicin titled "A New Level of Mistrust" elaborates on "the element of force" in civil governance: Putin's closest circle is getting older both physically and morally. The new loyalty implies not only unconditional personal loyalty to the president but also systemic loyalty i.e. absence of contacts with the West, old elites, liberals, all those who are considered to be internal and external enemies. Putin needs a new team whose reputation is unsoiled by corruption scandals. The new governors also serve as a reserve for central federal positions in the future. Moreover, the new governors do not have connections in the periphery and therefore they may solve the chronic problems of the local elites by a total purge.

(Vedomosti.ru, August 2)

Vladimir Lepekhin, columnist for RIA, writes in his article titled "Russian Elites Need to A Jolt or A Walloping" says that nothing extraordinary has occurred has occurred and if anything is surprising is that the moves long awaited by society have occurred only now. The Kremlin had to consider that non-systemic changes or the unwillingness of the elites to change may lead to popular riots and upheavals. Thus the government which wants to preserve the status quo needs to make systemic changes in order to prevent such scenarios. "People in Russia are dissatisfied with the low living standard ...and demand changing the cadres...and justly punishing the corrupt." Liberals consider Putin guilty of total corruption and social -economic difficulties. However, the 86 percent of the population that supports Putin consider the oligarchic and bureaucratic elites, who sabotage the presidential decisions, to blame for the situation. In this situation society faces an electoral choice of whom to prefer: Putin or the liberal-oligarchic axis. The answer is obvious - the country needs the president to perform a massive shake-up of the "czar's" servants. "The necessity for such a shakeup is even more obvious given the growing political and military pressure on Russia - economic, informational and other wars unleashed against the country. The country not only needs a systemic purge of the ruling class (in a new [Ivan the Terrible style] oprichnina, some would say) that refuses to mobilize on behalf of regime activity does not want to mobilize on behalf of regime activity and is increasingly corrupt. 

(Ria.ru, August 3)

Rio Olympics 2016

The final number of Russian athletes participating to the Olympics is 279.

(Tass.ru, August 6)

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) confirmed the ban on Russians athletes competing at next month's Rio Paralympics, following a recommendation from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko  said that Russia will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), following the IPC's decision.

(Rt.com, August 7, 2016)

 
Vitaly, Vk.com/13studiya, July 19, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama: WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) is me!

Anthrax Outburst In Yamalo-Nenets Region

More than 20 people were diagnosed as Anthrax carriers. And more than 100 additional people were hospitalized in Russia's Yamalo-Nenets Area autonomous district. According to Russian authorities the outbreak was caused by unusually high temperatures which helped spread the disease. The disease was initially caused by the corpses of deer buried in mass graves. As of now, over 2.5 thousand deer were contaminated. Russian (biological and chemical defense) military units are trying to deal with the consequences by burning the corpses at high temperatures and spraying disinfectant materials over the vast territory. The last time such a virulent outbreak of anthrax was recorded in this region was 75 years ago.

(Tass.ru, August 1; Life.ru, August 2)


Yamalo-Nenets Area

Russia In Syria

On August 4, after a meeting with his national security team at the Pentagon, U.S. President Barack Obama said that he does not trust Putin on Syria. Obama stated: "I'm not confident that we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin, which is why we have to have to test whether or not we can get an actual cessation of hostilities that includes an end to the kinds of aerial bombing and civilian death and destruction that we have seen carried out by the Assad regime."

Commenting on Obama's statement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said: "I believe that Russia's policy on Syria, just like our foreign policy in general, is very logical, clear and pursues the objectives, which we hope are shared by most members of the international community." He then added: "What we can fully agree with is a serious lack of confidence in the Russian-US relations...Over the past few years, we have seen a deliberate policy aimed at undermining the pillar of our relations by means of Washington's illegal sanctions policy, attempts to exert pressure on us through military means, as evidenced by the results of the recent NATO summit in Warsaw, and in many other areas, including the humanitarian sphere where many long-standing and very acute humanitarian issues like, for example, the situation with the arbitrary arrests of Russian citizens in some third countries by warrants issued by the U.S. and many others are not solved...We believe that confidence in relations between Russia and the United States can be restored only if colleagues in Washington take an honest and responsible approach towards the entire agenda of bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington."

It is worth noting that last telephone conversation between Putin and Obama took place on July 6. On that occasion, the two presidents discussed the situation in Syria, Ukraine, and Nagorny Karabakh.

(Politico.com, August 4; Tass.ru, August 5; Tass.ru, August 4)

On August 3, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused Harakat Nour-Al-Din Al-Zenki group of using chemical weapons against a civilian population. The group is considered a "moderate opposition" by the U.S. An unidentified military source in the Chief-of-Staff directorate told the newspaper Kommersant newspaper: "Everyone who wanted to join in fighting terrorists has already joined. All the rest merely changed their clothes and continue fighting on the side of terrorists, claiming to be an opposition. This cannot go on any longer". The U.S. has already warned Russia not to engage in storming Aleppo since it will breach all the existing agreements. On the same day, Deputy Russian FM Sergey Ryabkov ruled out the possibility of militarily storming the city. Nevertheless, Kommersant's source in Chief-of-Staff directorate said that "all the remaining decisions will be taken after the humanitarian mission [in the city] has concluded."

(Kommersant, August 3)

Russian President Putin Meets Iranian President Rouhani In Baku

On August 8, Putin met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, within the framework of the trilateral summit in the Azerbaijani capital city of Baku. Putin recently said that Russia wants to continue to help Tehran in implementing the Iran nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Tehran and Moscow agreed on plans for construction of 8 nuclear power plants in Iran. It is also worth noting, that from January to May 2016, the bilateral trade between the two countries grew by 70 percent, to $855 million.

(Mehrnews.com, August 5)

Iran purchased AK-103's from Russia, the new generation of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. The Iranian media reported that certain Iranian Armed Forces units will be equipped with the new rifles. The most common standard weapon in use by the Iranian Armed Forces, include the AK-47 and the Heckler & Koch G3.

(Tasnimnews.com, August 6)

Russia-NATO Relations

 
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov (Mil.ru)

In a press conference, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said that Russia has invited NATO's military experts to hold consultations in Moscow in September, to discuss the military-political situation in Europe.

(Tass.ru, August 1)

During the same press conference, Antonov said that Ministry of Defense is ready to consult with Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Sweden and Finland, regarding military activities in border zones. 

(Ria.ru, August 1)

Russia's Involvement In Afghanistan

The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Asia and Middle East Department, Zamir Kabulov, said that Afghanistan is a "mutual concern" of Russia and NATO and cooperation is needed.

(Rbc.ru, August 1)

On August 5, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that a Pakistan-owned Mi-17 helicopter heading for maintenance in Russia crash-landed in Logar Province, Afghanistan, on August 4. The crew, including Russian citizen S.K. Sevastyanov, was taken prisoner by Taliban militants.

(Mid.ru, August 5)

Corruption In Russia

Novaya Gazeta publishes an investigation into the personal life of Olga Sechin, the wife of Rosneft corporation chair Igor Sechin. According to the publication Sechin's wife frequently uses a nearly football-field-sized yacht, with an estimated price tag of 100 million USD making it one of the world's most expensive yachts. The newspaper implies that the yacht belongs to Igor Sechin, chair of the Rosneft state corporation. According to BBC estimates, Sechin's official salary in 2015 was about $12 million a year and this means he cannot afford to buy this yacht officially. The newspaper does not unequivocally say that the yacht belongs to Sechin, but given his young wife's frequent use of it, the newspaper arrives at this assumption. Rosneft's official reaction to the publication is that the story is part of a prepaid negative campaign against the company and its chairman.      

Later, Rosneft threatened to sue the newspaper, a TV channel and other media for spreading false information. Novaya Gazeta responded by welcoming the opportunity to meet with Rosneft's representatives in court.

(Novayagazeta.ru, August 1; Echo.msk.ru, August 3)

National Security Council chair Nikolay Patrushev disclosed that corruption-related crimes in the fuel-energy industry grew in 23 % in comparison with last year. The aggregate loss of income to the state is estimated at hundreds of millions rubles. This comes at a time that the industry has to cope with sanctions and savage global competition.

(Tass.ru, August 2)  

The non-profit organization "Golos", which is monitoring the elections in Russia claims that the ruling United Russia party as well as two other major parties are breaching the law which prohibits receiving donations from foreign entities. According to "Golos," United Russia has received donations from companies with off-shore, American and Swiss jurisdictions. Echo Moscow adds more information on "Golos'" exposé. In 2015, 90 different private companies donated to various political parties - 80 out of 90 companies donated to United Russia. Those companies subsequently began receiving state (federal) contracts on a regular basis. The overall costs of the contracts are ten times higher than the transferred donations

(Gazeta.ru, August 4; Echo.msk.ru, August 4)

Russia's Economy

On August 4, Putin met with Sberbank CEO and Chairman of the Board German Gref to discuss the Russia's biggest bank's results, the situation on the housing mortgage market, and financial support measures for small businesses. Among the subjects, Gref said that in 2015, the bank resolved its main problems and built up "the bulk of [its] provisions" to cover the crisis with Ukraine.

(Kremlin.ru, August 4)

During the first six months of the current year, Russia's economy suffered a real recession and fell "below the [previous] bottom", as follows from the "Commentaries on the State and Business" report of the Higher School of Economics.

Analyst opinion assesses that the process of economic contraction occurred "over a broad front", thus affecting all sectors (with the exception of wholesale trade); as a result, the economy not only hit previously reached "bottom", but breached it and plunged even lower.

Only the first, most acute phase of the economy's adaptation to the 'new normality' has ended; the economy has begun contracting again, dropping through the "bottom". The GDP, which is indicative of aggregate economic output, fell through the "bottom" as early as Q1 2016; in the second quarter, according to report's estimates, it was 1.4% below the "bottom" and 5.5% below the average level for 2014".

(Gazeta.ru, August 1) 

Rap Battling For Russia's State Duma Elections

On August 4, the Russian center-left party A Just Russia posted on its YouTube page the first episode of a series of cartoons, in which political leaders challenge each other in a rap battle, ahead of the September Duma elections. In the first episode, A Just Russia's leader, Sergey Mironov, challenges the leader of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov. Mironov attacks Zyuganov as follows: "You are aggressive, ghosts, retrograde, your chances to be legitimately elected are poor, we are the ones recognized as progressive, promising; our goal is to multiply you by zero, for the motherland's sake, yo!"

Zyuganov fires back: "Are you afraid of Stalin? I love him as a father, in1991 [the year the Soviet Union disintegrated] you made the wrong choice, and now it is time to clear away from home all the modern trash: rights, freedom of speech, the internet and false values!"

(YouTube.com, August 4)


Just Russia's leader Sergey Mironov, challenges the leader of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov in a rap battle (Source: YouTube.com, August 4)

Russian Army And Defense

Russia's Military "Olympics" kicked off. The International Army Games are held between July 30 and August 13. The Russian-owned media outlet, Rbth.com, reports that the games are simultaneously taking place at 20 training grounds, 19 of which are located within three Russian's military districts: the Western, Southern and Central districts, meaning from Siberia to Kaliningrad in the west and from St. Petersburg to Sevastopol in Crimea. The media outlet reports that naval competitions are taking place in the Baltic, Black and Caspian Sea waters. Russia and Kazakhstan are hosting a total of 121 teams from 19 countries, including China, Venezuela, and Iran, who compete in 23 of the games' contests. Reportedly, Russia had previously invited 47 countries, including the U.S. and NATO members, but  Greece was the only NATO member to accept the invitation. It is worth noting that, last May, Putin visited Greece and said that the Hellenic Republic is "an important partner in Europe" for Russia. Moscow is considering investing in Greece's energy and transport sectors .

 (Rbth.com, August 5; Rbth.com, March 29; Greekreporter.com, May 26; May 30)

 
Opening ceremony of the International Army Games 2016 (Source: Mil.ru)

Russia created a new patriotic youth movement, known as the "Youth Army" (Iunarmia). The movement was officially registered on July 29, 2016. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said: "We want to create hundreds of centers for patriotic education throughout the country." Shoigu mentioned that the movement's goal is to educate the new generation to be proud of the "heroism of the fathers and grandfathers."

(Rbc.ru, May 28; Ria.ru, May 28; Ria.ru, July 29)


The "Youth Army" (Source: Russia-insider.com)

Despite economic shortages, the Russian Navy does not plan to curtail its spending. The Navy is developing a new nuclear-powered stealth destroyer "Leader." In the future, it could be armed with laser and rail-gun weapons. Moreover the fleet continues to develop an aircraft carrier and "Mistral" type helicopter carriers.

Commenting on the news, Gazeta.ru quotes an unidentified military source, who claims that Russia currently has no technical facilities to build an aircraft carrier.

(Izvestia.ru, August 1; Gazeta.ru, July 31)

Russian paratroop units will conduct joint excercises with Serbian, Egyptian forces in autumn, according to the paratroop forces chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Nikolay Ignatov. The Russian-Serbian peacekeeping exercises will be held in Serbia.

(Ria.ru, August 1)

Gazeta.ru mentions that currently Russian paratroopers are training Syrian Army officials. This was confirmed by Paratroop forces commander-in-chief Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov.

(Gazeta.ru, August 2)

Russia, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Canada are conducting a joint anti-terror navalexercise in Russia's Far East. The active phase of the exercise commenced on August 4.

(Ria.ru, August 2) 

Italian Companies to Relocate To Russia To Bypass Sanctions

Since under the current sanctions, it has become impossible to export North-Eastern Italy's leading products, Italian businessmen are seeking to bypass them by creating a production hub in Russia, with the Russian government's blessings. For this purpose, a network of enterprises called "Bridge to Russia," headed by Finest (Financial Society for the internationalization of the North-eastern enterprises), was set up in order to facilitate the process of relocating the enterprises in Russia. To promote this purpose, a letter of understating was also signed between the Italian associations of industrialists (Confindustria) of the provinces of Padua, Treviso and Vicenza and the Financing Company for the internationalization of the Triveneto (the three regions of Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia).

Commenting on the "Bridge to Russia" initiative, Finest President, Mauro Del Savio, said: "As a consequence of [the EU sanctions] Russia set up a development strategy based on the expanded production of goods and services, inside Russia, called 'import substitution,' that is substituting as much as possible for imports by facilitating the direct investment of foreign enterprises. It is therefore understandable that many of our partner companies are considering with increased interest a different approach to the Russian market by elaborating investment projects for production in situ, which will also enhance the export of high value-added products."

(Venetoeconomia.it, July 26)

Strange But True

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev participated in the Terra Scientia youth forum  on August 2. During the session, a young teacher asked Medvedev why a teacher's average salary is far lower than a security officer's salary. Medvedev's response was: "When I was a young teacher, I was paid 90 rubles, while a young police lieutenant was paid 250 rubles. It has been that way. Police work is dangerous and very needed - you should just not compare [them]. I'm sure that a modern energetic teacher is able not only to get a regular salary...but also to make additional money in some other way...Teaching is a vocation. And if you just want to make money - there are other places you may do that in a quicker and better way. [Take] business for instance."

It is worth noting that last week, an online petition asking for the Medvedev's dismissal made the news by gathering more than 200.000 signatures. The petition on the Change.org website was launched after Medvedev's statement about teachers' salaries. The petition, addressed to Putin, says that the cabinet of ministers should be headed by "a competent and educated person, who cares about his country." Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin is unaware of the petition. Peskov said: "No, we do not know about this. I do not think that it requires any kind of reaction,"

(Youtube.com, August 3; Themoscowtimes.com, August 6; See the online petition)

 
Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev at the Terra Scientia youth forum   (Source: Youtube.com)

 
Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev at the Terra Scientia youth forum responding to a young teacher about teachers' salaries (Source: Youtube.com)

The President of the Association of Businessmen for Encouraging Patriotism, Rahman Yansukov, proposed to the Duma's Speaker Sergey Naryshkin and to the Duma's MPs legislation that would prohibit the children of government civil servants from studying abroad. Yansukov explains that "studying in Russia" will enable those children to re-evaluate the quality of local education and make them more patriotic citizens. Moreover, Yansukov states that study abroad exposes the Russian students to the Western intelligence services, which may attempt to recruit them using "propositions such  as fighting for freedom and democracy."

(Tass.ru, August 4)