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.
Cartoons Of The Week
Twitter.com/sharzhipero, July 22, 2016.
Caption: More than 60% of the French population disapproves of [French President [François]Hollande's anti-terror policy.
French President Francois Hollande enters a French bakery. He sees a cake, called "Hollande," and asks: Interesting - what's that new cake "Hollande"?
The baker: It's the same as a "Napoleon", but it is without eggs inside. ("Eggs" refers to "balls,""testicles").
Twitter.com/sharzhipero, June 1, 2016.
Caption: [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel's office
French President François Hollande: Where is the granny?
ISIS Terrorist: I am substituting for her.
The cartoon invokes a famous Soviet era comedy "Operation Y and other Adventures of Shurik" (1965) about a botched robbery. In the movie, the robbers expected to find a grandmother guarding the warehouse, instead they found a young man, who gave them plenty of trouble.
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:
Commenting on the recommendations by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to ban Russian athletes from the Rio 2016 Olympics, Zakharova said: "What's happening now, including in Washington, is a crime. There is a legal term, 'crimes against humanity.' What the architects of this campaign are doing now is a new type of crime that I would describe as a crime against sport. The consequences of this campaign should be thoroughly analyzed. I tell those who stand behind this campaign: You did not consider the possible consequences of your military strikes and interventions, and you can see the results. Your intervention in Iraq created a vacuum for the rise of ISIS. You are now delivering a major blow to the Olympic movement and sport. Are you aware of the possible consequences of this action? "And one more thing: You can make history by acting honorably and working positively and constructively, which is difficult. Or you can make history by bringing about destruction, which is much simpler. Unfortunately, many people take pride in making history by destroying it."
(Mid.ru, July 21)
Quote Of The Week:
Commenting on Russia-Turkey relations, the Chairman of the Federal Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said: "I will quote Leo Tolstoy. He once compared betrayal to a man whose arms have been broken: he can forgive, but will be incapable of again extending a hug. This image describes our relations with Ankara very accurately. Normalization is possible; it has already been started. There will be joint projects, which is only completely right in practical terms, since the interests of the two countries coincide in many spheres. But Russia will no longer turn its unprotected back to Turkey thinking that Ankara can watch it.
"It is still very far till complete trust has returned; perhaps it will only occur after a leadership change in this country. Even that is uncertain. Let us not also forget that Turkey is a NATO member and has its own geopolitical interests. It would be naïve to talk about Turkey as Russia's unconditional partner to the detriment of its commitments to NATO."
(Lenta.ru, July 12)
Senator Kostantin Kosachev (Source: Sputniknews.com)
In The News:
Report Of The World Anti-Doping Agency Into Sochi Allegations
Twitter.com/sharzhipero, June 6, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama talks to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Craig Reedie, ahead of Rio 2016 Olympics.
Obama: You need to check Putin - whether he used meldonium. [Since January 1, 2016, meldonium has been on the WADA list of banned substances for use by athletes. Meldonium is manufactured primarily in Latvia and is distributed in Eastern European countries and Russia.]
Craig Reedie: Why?
Obama: Because he succeeds in everything.
On July 18, the WADA website published the "Mclaren Independent Investigations Report Into Sochi Allegations." The 103-page report, released by Canadian law Professor Richard H. McLaren, establishes "whether there had been manipulation of the doping control process during the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games, including but not limited to, acts of tampering with the samples within the WADA-accredited satellite laboratory in Sochi (Sochi laboratory) that was established for the Games." The report states the following: "The Moscow Laboratory operated, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a State-dictated failsafe system...The Sochi Laboratory operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Games. The [Russian] Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete's analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the [Federal Security Service] FSB, [the Center of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia] CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories."
On July 19, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee released a statement on the WADA Independent person report. The statement says: "With regard to the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the IOC will...explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice."
(See McLaren Independent Investigation report into Sochi Allegations; Olympic.org, July 19)
Two hours after the WADA report's release, Putin said: "Recent events and the tense atmosphere that has formed around international sport and the Olympic movement involuntarily recall the situation in the early 1980s. Back then, many Western countries, citing the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Four years later, the Soviet Union retaliated by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics, using the pretext of an allegedly insufficient level of security for the Soviet team. The result was that many Soviet and American athletes and athletes from other countries were caught up in this campaign of reciprocal boycotts and lost the chance to add their names to world sporting history...Today, we see a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport...Today, so-called 'doping scandals' are the method used, attempts to apply sanctions for detected cases of doping to all athletes, including those who are 'clean', supposedly to protect their interests...
"What is behind this haste? Is it an attempt to create the needed media atmosphere and apply pressure? We have the impression that the USADA experts had access to what is an unpublished report at the very least, and have set its tone and even its content themselves. If this is the case, one country's national organization is again trying to dictate its will to the entire world sports community."
(Kremlin.ru, July 18)
As a result of the WADA report, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev temporarily suspended Deputy Minister of Sports Yuri Nagornykh pending the conclusion of an examination over the doping scandal. According to the report, Nagornykh "decided who would benefit from a cover up and who would not be protected." The report also mentions that he involved the FSB, in order to replace athletes' urine samples. The Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko's anti-doping adviser Natalia Zhelanova has also been temporarily suspended.
(Tass.ru, July 19)
The Russian news agency Ria.ru reports that Minister of Sports Vitaly Mutko has been denied accreditation to attend the Rio 2016 Olympics.
(Ria.ru, July 19)
On July 21, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) released a statement on its decisions in the arbitrations between the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), a number of Russian athletes and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The statement outlines: "The CAS has dismissed both the request for arbitration filed by the ROC and 68 Claimant Athletes, and the appeal filed by 67 of the same athletes against the IAAF decision to consider them as ineligible for the Olympic Games in Rio...The CAS Panel confirmed that the ROC is not entitled to nominate Russian track and field athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games considering that they are not eligible to participate under the IAAF competition rules, in accordance with the Olympic Charter. However, the ROC is entitled to enter as representatives of the Russian Federation in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games the Russian track and field athletes who fulfill the criteria and are eligible to compete..."
The denouement to this story came in a decision by the IOC to delegate the decision to the various sports federations, who can rule to allow individual Russian athletes to compete provided they have clean records and have passed testing by "reliable" international anti-doping bodies. This means the Russian flag will fly at the games and the blanket ban has been rescinded.
(Rt.com, July 24)
Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who has been declared a persona non grata at the games, said that the IOC has made a considered decision "in the interests of international sport." Russia's Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation head Irina Viner-Usmanova called the ruling "wise," and thanked the IOC's, Thomas Bach, for being "a true athlete, Olympian and champion. He knows how it feels to train and then not compete."
(Rt.com, July 25)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that NATO has rejected Russia's proposal "to ensure indivisible security," since security cannot be ensured at the expense of others. Lavrov said: "They [NATO members] want [instead] to involve ever more countries in NATO and tear them away from Russia."
(Tass.ru, July 22)
Ria's columnist Sergey Varshavchik writes that the Black Sea became strategically important for NATO, after Crimea was annexed by Russia. Varshavchik writes: "All sides understand quite well that no one is going engage in a nuclear Ping-Pong, while a military confrontation between fleets will end in the quick death of NATO's crews...The entire territory of the Black Sea is within the range of the Russian missile carriers and submarines". Varshavchik also writes that the Black Sea fleet conducted a series of drills, while NATO was holding its summit in Warsaw (July 8-9, 2016), in order to test combining missile strikes with heavy bombers during naval battle.
(Ria.ru, July 20)
Russia's Military Drills
The Russian news agency Ria.ru reported on the Russian Northern fleet's drills in the Barents and White Seas, which involved over 100 vessels, including nuclear and conventional submarines . The vessels received shore support from at least two brigades and 1.000 pieces of heavy equipment. Russian jets and anti-aircraft units also participated in the drills .
(Ria.ru, July 23)
The Barents Sea and the White Sea.
The First Armored Army of the Western Military District announced anti-aircraft/anti-missile drills. The anti-aircraft units will conduct a rapid relocation and deployment. The drills will take place at a distance of 1500 kilometers from the regular deployment district. More than 2.000 servicemen and 500 units of heavy and special equipment will participate in the drills aimed at repelling a hypothetical combined missile-aircraft strike.
(Ria.ru, July 19)
Other Defense News
Russia's Strategic Long Range Aviation forces will be led by a new commander who has no experience either in piloting long range strategic aircraft or commanding units comprised of such aircraft. Moreover, the 22nd Bomber division will be also led by a commander who is equally inexperienced in piloting or commanding such aircraft or regiments. An unidentified source told Gazeta.ru that if such appointments persist then strategic long range aviation will be considered " a lost cause" as a strategic reserve and as the main aviation component of the nuclear forces.
(Gazeta.ru, July 18)
Russia will extend its "defense umbrella" to Abkhazia and Armenia. The breakaway region of Abkhazia is recognized as an independent state only by Belarus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru and of course Russia. U.N. documents regard it as Georgian territory as does the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, the EU Commission and the U.S. RIA reported that president Putin asked the Duma to ratify an agreement on "Russian -Abkhazian joint forces deployment". The document elaborates the goals of creating and deploying such joint forces. According to the document the joint forces are intended to be used in order to "repel an armed attack (aggression)" and "react to other military security threats which might emerge".
(Ria.ru, July 7)
As for Armenia, a senior Russian delegation will discuss the creation of similar joint forces with Armenia. According to RIA, the negotiations are entering their final stages.
(Ria.ru, July 19)
Russian media sources claim that Russia and China may create a unified missile defense system for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. That was the conclusion drawn by experts who addressed a forum dedicated to the deployment of the U.S. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea. Moscow has indicated its opposition to the . THAAD deployment. THAAD can monitor ballistic and aerial targets at distances of up to 1,500 km. According to the Russian media, the system can provide the U.S. with the capability of 'seeing' into Russian and Chinese territory.
(Sputniknews.com, July 20)
UK Prime Minister Theresa May stated that threats from Russia and North Korea are "very real,"prior to a House of Commons vote to start work on extending the Trident missile system until the 2060s, which passed by a majority of 355 in the 650-seat chamber. In her weekly briefing, Zakharova said: "The new UK government did not take long to make its opinions on Russia public. Barely a week after she formed her cabinet, Ms. May made a number of very strange statements about a 'Russian nuclear threat.' And this is not the only such statement she has made. Frankly, we expected the new cabinet to at least revise its terminology regarding Russia. But this has not been the case so far...I am talking at length about the statements made by the new cabinet because it is not entirely new: there are some members who served in the old cabinet. One of them is Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who has made very strange and even shocking statements. He said, for example, that Russia's naval activities off Syria were a new challenge to NATO...Who are statements like this meant for? I refuse to believe that they're made for the British people. They are too well educated and smart to buy into this. Who is it for, then?"
(Thesun.co.uk, July 18; Mid.ru, July 21)
On June 20, the main organization regrouping Italian farmers, Coldiretti, organized a rally in Verona, attended by about 10.000 farmers, to protest EU sanctions against Russia, which are severely damaging Italian agricultural exports. Russia retaliated for the sanctions imposed on it, with an import ban on several European goods and particularly on agricultural products.
According to the organizers of the rally, "the embargo against Russia has reset to totally zero the export of the most representative products of the agricultural and agro-industrial sector, triggering a commercial war that caused very heavy damages to the economy and the loss of jobs."
Coldiretti's officials pointed out that "sanctions against Russia are a suicidal choice that the European Union and Italy cannot afford." The present crisis will be aggravated by the fact that due to Brexit and the devaluation of the UK Pound Sterling, trade relations with the UK are also going to suffer.
The farmers' complaints are backed by official statistics. The Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica reports that "the commercial war against Russia has generated a loss of exports estimated at 600 million Euros over the period of the last two years, due, for half this amount, to the reduction to zero of the export of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, dairy products, meat and cold cuts". The embargo also arrested a very positive trend for Italian agricultural export to Russia which, in the previous five years, had grown by 112%.
One farmer from Lombardy told reporters about his own particular case that provides a good illustration of the general situation: "I was growing 300 tons of Granny Smith apples and I was exporting 90% of this amount to Russia. Due to the embargo, I was compelled to stop this production since scant demand for this type of apple exists in the Italian market. Now I produce 300 tons of kiwis. The product is perfect, but unfortunately we have to put up with the competition from the Greeks. We used to export a lot and 80% used to be sold to European countries such as Germany. But now, the Germans as well are buying from Greece, since Greece has also lost the Russian market and is selling its produce below market value."
It should be noted that the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, also attended the Coldiretti rally.
(Repubblica.it, June 30; Askanews.it, June 30)
Demonstration in Verona against sanctions on Russia (Source: Repubblica.it, June 30, 2016)
Russian Conspiracy Theories On The Failed Coup in Turkey
Commenting on the failed coup in Turkey, the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov, said that the U.S. was behind the failed coup. According to Sivkov, the coup demonstrated that the U.S. is ready and able to use hybrid warfare methods not only against non-NATO member states, but even against its own allies.
(Ria.ru, July 16)
According to RIA columnist Vladimir Lepekhin, before the coup Turkey had an external government, i.e. the U.S. administration. Lepekhin states that following the coup, Turkey will undergo an Islamization process and will experience dictatorship, but this is preferable to subjugation under the U.S. external dictatorship.
(Ria.ru, July 18)
(Image: Ria.ru, July 20, 2016)
Reactions To The Terror Attack in Nice
Senator Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs, said: "The terror attack in Nice demonstrated once again the personal weakness of the French president and the absence of strategic understanding regarding the main challenges and threats...Hollande refrained from defining the French national priorities. Unfortunately, the French support for strengthening NATO's eastern flank in order to defend [its members] from a non-existent Russian threat, was more important to him than the real fight against international terror internally and externally..."
(Izvestia.ru, July 18)
Senator Igor Morozov (Source: Izvestia.ru)
Russian pro-Kremlin intellectual Fyodor Lukyanov writes that the West had to choose between "liberal achievements" or security, because to fight terror, the West should strengthen security and abandon its liberal policies.
(Izvestia.ru, July 18)
The September Parliamentary Elections
Ahead of the September 18 Russian parliamentary elections, the High Constitutional Court has temporarily rescinded the right of citizens and foreign observers to be present at polling stations during the vote-count. The decision followed an appeal by the Communist Party of Russia, which claimed that the practice where citizens and observers attend the vote-count is unconstitutional. According to the court decision, the principle of the binding nature of election results stands in contradiction to allowing an unknown quantity of people to question the results under any premise.
(Ng.ru, July 18)
In contrast to the above-cited civil rights ruling, on an official level, Russia is interested in a transparent election process and therefore international organizations are invited to send their observers. According to Valentina Matveenko, the Federation Council Speaker: "All international organizations, with the exception of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council, are invited - it will be a very broad representation of observers, in which we are interested"
(Ria.ru, July 16)
Various regions may receive federal government assistance to overcome budgetary shortfalls in buying medicines for HIV, oncology and general illnesses. According to a report in Gazeta.ru the gross budgetary shortfall is around 45 billion rubles while another estimate places it at 54 billion rubles.
(Gazeta.ru, July 19)
The overall cost of building the main stadium for the FIFA 2018 World Cup tournament that Russia will host, has risen from 35 billion rubles to 37.5 billion. (Tass.ru, July 19) The overall cost to the Russian federal budget for the entire tournament is 170 billion rubles (roughly 2.6 billion dollars).
(Echo.msk.ru, July 20)
Corruption in Russia
Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office chaired a regular meeting of the Presidential Council for Countering Corruption presidium. At the meeting, Accounts Chamber Chairperson Tatyana Golikova said that inspections of financial results from 2015 uncovered 1,073 such violations, representing a total of more than 400 billion rubles.
(Kremlin.ru, July 19)
Strange But True
Russian Criticism Of Pokemon Go Mania
Pokemon Go, a free-to-play location-based augmented reality game for mobile phones, is set to launch in Russia. However, the application has already been strongly criticized by Russian lawmakers. Commening on Pokemon Go's arrival Russia, Communist party Deputy Vadim Solovyov said: "All games of this nature and kind of such mental drug are negative. Therefore, it may be reasonable and consider banning such games, which involve people in virtual reality". The Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Defense Committee Franz Klintsevich also recommended that restrictions be imposed on Pokemon Go at the legislative level, and particularly to forbid "catching" pokemon in religious institutions, commemorative monuments and cemeteries.
(Ria.ru, July 18)
The Ministry of Communications did not exclude the possibility that the creation of Pokemon Go abets the purposes of certain foreign intelligence agencies. The Minister of Communications Nikolay Nikiforov said: "I suspect that that this application was designed under the patronage of some secret services, which gather video information all over the world".
(Gazeta.ru, July 15)