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
Vitaly Podvitsky, Vk.com/13studiya, July 8, 2016
NATO expands eastward, drawing closer to the Russian border.
Vitaly Podvitsky, Vk.com/13studiya, July 9, 2016
An early Russian take on the Dallas shootings
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:
Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova from Crimea, July 7, 2016. Source: Mid.ru, July 7, 2016.
"Are there specific examples of how Russia is undermining peace and order in Europe? What lies behind these words? Sweden claims that we are threatening them. The UK says we are a threat. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says we are undermining peace and order. What are the specific examples? Show them to us - and we will work on them."
(Mid.ru, July 7)
"We see everything that NATO is doing. We are responding to it, saying that this is not our choice. If there is a feeling that Russia poses some threat, let's create new formats to discuss this if the existing ones are insufficient. Meanwhile, we have the Russia-NATO Council that was blocked altogether for a long time and is just gradually resuming its work. We have a permanent mission at NATO in Brussels and it is also ready to analyze all information jointly, although the headquarters restricted the movements of the mission's employees and reduced contacts to a minimum."
(Mid.ru, July 7)
"We took note of a lengthy report by the Defence Committee of the House of Commons released on July 5 and titled 'Russia: Implications for UK defence and security'...Given the logic used by the authors of this document, it causes fairly mixed feelings. On the one hand, the authors are caught up in stereotypes they have fallen for, and included several tired theses about Russian aggression in Ukraine, threatening behavior toward NATO members, propaganda and misinformation, etc. On the other hand, they state the unprecedentedly poor state of Russian-British relations (which is true, and we officially state that), and call upon the UK government to resume a dialogue with Moscow as soon as possible in order not to risk the occasional appearance of conflicts which can be avoided by improving information exchange... However, the authors call for not only keeping the existing EU sanctions intact, but even expanding them. Notably, they made a shamefaced disclaimer that due to the Brexit vote, the UK's ability to push through this decision will be put to the test."
(Mid.ru, July 7)
Quote Of The Week:
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rozogin, who is in charge of the defense industry and served as Russia's ambassador to NATO until 2011, explained his views on NATO while visiting Tiraspol, Moldova's second largest city, and the capital of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria).. Rozogin said: "One by one, they are normal guys, but when they gather together - they are devil incarnates. It is a relic of the Cold War. What they are doing now toward Russia, its allies, its partners - this is really going too far. They are openly building up not as much military capabilities as military rhetoric...There is in fact nothing behind this apart from the selfish interest to justify its own existence. NATO is not a useful organization. NATO should have been dissolved long ago, and the Russian president talked about it...When new difficulties appear in international relations now, they openly enjoy it, they are glad that they can show that someone needs them... In principle, this organization was set up exclusively for conflicts, for wars, for aggravating the situation"
(Tass.ru, July 6)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rozogin (Source: Tass.ru)
In The News:
Commenting on the next NATO-Russia Council at the permanent representatives level scheduled for July 13, Senator Franz Klintsevich, the first deputy chair of the Russian upper house's Committee on Security and Defense, said: "I personally do not expect any concrete results from the NATO-Russia Council meeting. In this case, we are heading to it with inferior luggage. It is obvious that Russia cannot be not disturbed by, to put it mildly, unfriendly gestures by the alliance in the former Warsaw Pact states."
(Rt.com, July 2)
The NATO Summit In Warsaw July 8-9
On July 8, 2016, NATO's two-day Warsaw Summit began. The summit represented an opportunity to define NATO's policy vis-à-vis Russia.
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6514, NATO July 8-9 Summit In Warsaw: Russian Envoy To NATO Grushko Calls NATO 'Military Methods' An Attempt To Create New Dividing Lines In Europe, Make European Countries Dependent On The U.S., July 8, 2016; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6510, One Day To The NATO Summit In Warsaw, Russian Reactions To UK Parliament's Report On British And NATO Relations With Russia, July 7, 2016; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6507, Two Days To NATO's Warsaw Summit, Pro-Kremlin Think Tank Valdai Club's Expert Warns: 'Western Support... To Anti-Russian Political Forces In Belarus, Armenia And Azerbaijan Would Lead To New Crises Like That In Ukraine', July 6, 2016; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6505, Three Days Before NATO's Warsaw Summit, Russian Envoy To NATO Grushko: NATO Transformed 'Central And Eastern Europe Into An Arena Of Military Confrontation', July 5, 2016; and MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6503, Four Days To NATO's Warsaw Summit, Putin Tells Meeting Of Russian Diplomats: 'Today, NATO Seems To Be Making A Show Of Its Anti-Russian Stance', July 4, 2016)
Russia To Respond If Finland Joins NATO
On July 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Finland. In that occasion, Putin said that Russia would respond if Finland joins NATO. Putin said: ""Do you think we will continue to act in the same manner [if Finland joins NATO]? We have withdrawn our troops 1,500 [km from the border]. Do you think they will stay there?"
Commenting on Putin's statement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mentioned possible Russian reactions if Finland joins NATO: "Clearly, if the infrastructure of an organisation that refers to you as an enemy is getting closer to your borders, you have to respond. We have enough expertise in this area. I'm confident that the Defence Ministry and the General Staff know exactly what to do. Again, we believe that our relations with Finland are as good as ever. We hope that our Finnish neighbours will not succumb to the temptation to join anti-Russian actions."
(Mid.ru, July 4; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6502, Russia This Week - June 27 - July 4, July 4, 2016)
During Sweden's Almedalen Week, an annual political festival (July 3-10), Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said that Russia is using "various methods to try and weaken Europe".
The head of Sweden's military intelligence and security service, Major General Gunnar Karlsson, also spoke at the event, saying that Russia would "benefit from and would like to see a split within the EU, and also NATO". Sweden's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Micael Byden, also spoke of Sweden's relationship with Russia, voicing his concern about a number of near-collisions in the past years between Russian military jets and Swedish aircraft. Byden said: "There are examples when we flew close to each other. One mistake can mean an accident that can be used improperly or maybe I have information that could solve the issue but it does not reach [its destination]."
Commenting the Swedish official's statement, Zakharova said: "We were perplexed by the statement made by Supreme Commander of Sweden's Armed Forces Gen. Micael Byden about Russia being the biggest military threat to Sweden at the annual Almedalen political week...One gets the impression that many Western countries are part of a well-orchestrated effort to accuse Russia almost daily of posing a threat to someone...As for Sweden, we hear such statements regularly and in different contexts...Ultimately, all the stories about Russian subs proved to be simply the inventions of Swedish military officers, like the universally known tale about the Loch Ness Monster but this time [set] in Sweden. Not a single story was confirmed. Needless to say, it is deplorable that Russophobic statements coming out of the Swedish military - all haunted by a phantom Russian threat - are becoming routine...Let me repeat that if our Swedish partners have concerns over the so-called 'Russian threat,' we are always ready to discuss them in a direct dialogue on all issues that arise. Regrettably, the Swedish side is deliberately avoiding a businesslike, substantive discussion, resorting instead to public diplomacy that is not being used for its designated purpose. This is not public diplomacy but using the media for propaganda."
(Thelocal.se, July 7, Mid.ru, July 7)
Confidence Building Measures In The Baltic Region
During Putin's visit to Finland, the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto recommended enhancing confidence building measures in the Baltic region. Putin said: "The Finnish president [Sauli Niinisto] came up with the proposals today on the first steps aimed at enhancing confidence and preventing conflicts [in the Baltic airspace]. I have already said that I agree with this... We welcome the Finnish President's proposal [to ban flights over the Baltics with transponders off]. Upon my arrival back in Moscow I will order the Foreign and Defense Ministries to raise this matter at the upcoming Russia-NATO Council meeting, which is to take place after the Russia-NATO summit in Warsaw." On July 2, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu ordered the defense apparatus to present recommendations on building such confidence measures. In an official statement the Ministry of Defense stated: "According to the President's orders, the Minister of Defense orders the preparation of recommendations on building confidence [trust] measures, which will enhance the safety of aviation activity in the Baltic Sea region. Specifically, the work is being performed on organizational and technical measures, including the use of transponders by the military aviation". During Putin's visit to Finland, the Finnish president recommended to Putin to ban military aviation flights without transponders. (Ria.ru, July 2; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6502, Russia This Week - June 27 - July 4, July 4, 2016)
Commenting on the confidence measures in the Baltic, (ret.) Colonel Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the Russian National Defense magazine, said: "This decision reiterates Moscow's intention to decrease the military tensions with NATO and to provide confidence and transparency in military activities so as to minimize possible incidents in the Baltic airspace." Korotchenko added that he would like to hope that NATO countries would act as responsibly as Moscow.
(Ria.ru, July 2)
The president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov, mentioned that by using transponders, Russian military aircraft will increase security along Russia's borders but NATO would not reciprocate on the issue since it is interested in continued tensions. He added that the U.S. would seek to keep its aircraft along the Russian borders unidentified. Sivkov said: "[If we use transponders] no one is going to accuse us of violating foreign airspace; safety and security will increase and this in turn will decrease tensions in the airspace. Furthermore, if previously we had to scramble our aircraft in order to identify the air target, now we will know for sure that it is an American reconnaissance aircraft. It's very undesirable for the U.S."
(Ria.ru, July 2)
Commenting on the same issue, Mikhail Nenashev, captain first-rank and Chairman of the All-Russian Movement for Supporting the Fleet, said: "NATO's and America's conduct is about straightforward provocations, and thus all the technical deterrence, security and safety measures are not the first priority. The priority is NATO's policy to increase tensions."
(Ria.ru, July 2)
The Baltic Fleet - Vice Admiral Alexander Nosatov Appointed Acting Commander Of The Baltic Fleet
In June, Russian Defense Minister and Army General Sergei Shoigu fired Baltic Fleet Commander Viktor Kravchuk, his chief of stuff Rear Admiral Sergey Popov and more than fifty high-ranking fleet officers, including other admirals and captains first class. According to the Russia media outlet, Fotanka.ru, this is the first time that a massive firing of officials has been publicized. According to the official statement Kravchuk and Popov were penalized for "serious shortcomings in organizing combat training, daily activities of their units, poor care of their subordinates as well as misrepresenting the real situation in their reports."
On July 1, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that he had appointed Vice Admiral Alexander Nosatov to the post of Acting Commander of the Baltic Fleet. Until recently Nosatov commanded the Black Sea Fleet headquarters and also headed the Naval Academy. Viktor Litovkin, a military observer from the TASS news agency and a retired colonel, said: "All those involved in the Baltic Fleet will be replaced. They will all be demoted and sent to the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet and other places."
(Rbth.com, July 4; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6502, Russia This Week - June 27 - July 4, July 4, 2016)
Makeup of Baltic Fleet Command Forces (Source; Themoscowtimes.com, July 6, 2016)
Russia-Moldova Relations - Russian Deputy PM: Moldova May lose Transnistria Due To Rapprochement With Romania
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with the Kommersant daily after his visit to Moldova: "The fact remains, it is obvious even to the fiercest supporters of unification with Romania, that if Moldova takes a step towards Romania, the Transnistria region will fall off at this steep turn... [If Moldovans want to join Romania] then they had better let the Transnistrian region go amicably, and if they do not want to go to Romania, if they want to remain a sovereign state, a smart state that will protect all its citizens, then it will take years, but those years will not be in vain as they will be spent on restoring territorial integrity."
(Tass.ru, July 8)
Putin Signs News Anti-Terror Law
On July 7, Putin signed the Federal Law On Amendments to the Federal Law On Counterterrorism and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation and the Federal Law On Amendments to the Russian Federation Criminal Code and the Russian Federation Criminal Procedural Code Re: Introduction of Additional Measures to Counter Terrorism and Guarantee Public Security. The Kremlin's website reported: "The Federal Law expands the list of terrorism-related crimes for which legal liability begins at age 14. The Law also toughens criminal penalties for crimes of a terrorist or extremist nature and clarifies the definition of financing terrorism. The Law adds to the Criminal Code the article Failure to Report a Crime, and the article Act of International Terrorism, establishing the act of carrying out beyond Russia's borders an explosion, act of arson or other action that endangers the lives, health, freedom and inviolability of Russian Federation citizens, seeks to disrupt the peaceful coexistence of nations and peoples, or is directed against the Russian Federation's interests as a separate crime. The Law also makes several amendments to the Criminal Procedural Code."
Human rights groups and Russian businesses have criticized the new law. Rt.com reports that the "bill also requires communications companies to surrender encryption keys to state security agencies on demand, allowing them to read encrypted data. Non-compliance could cost companies between 800,000 and 1 million rubles ($12,300 - $15,400) in fines." Business ombudsman Boris Titov asked Putin not to sign the bill. Titov said: "According to expert estimates the ensemble of solutions does not correspond to its declared objective and besides, data collecting, recording and processing contain the potential risks of huge leaks that will harm civil servants, entrepreneurs and other Russian citizens,"
The law will come into force on July 20. It was formulated by Irina Yarovaya, a legislator from the ruling United Russia Party and Federation Council member Viktor Ozerov. Yarovaya is behind several controversial laws including laws that criminalize acts that offend religious beliefs, allow police to fire at crowds, ban drug users from entering employment ranks and require NGOs, who receive foreign funding, to register as "foreign agents."
(Kremlin.ru, July, 7; Rt.com, July 7; Themoscowtimes.com, July 7)
Russia Welcomes Possible Marine Le Pen Visit To Crimea
The chair of the Russian State Duma's Defense Committee, Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, invited Marine Le Pen, the president of the populist French National Front party to Sevastopol to celebrate Navy Day. Komoedov's press release stated: "If the 'rightists' and 'leftists' have an identical goal, i.e. the prosperity of their own homeland, then 'leftists' may be much closer to the 'rightists' than to the 'sluggish centrists,' who promote liberal European values as an ultimate good".
(Gazeta.ru, July 5)
Commenting on Komoedov's invitation to Marine Le Pen, Zakharova said: "Our embassy passed the invitation to Marine Le Pen's office. We know she received it, but it is too early to talk about her reaction. We welcome any contact that can help show the real situation in the Republic of Crimea to the Western public, including the European public."
(Mid.ru, July, 7)
Tit-For-Tat Diplomatic Expulsions
In scenes reminiscent of the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia expelled each other's diplomats. The Americans claimed that the action was provoked by Russia's policy of hounding and shadowing American diplomats in Moscow including an altercation at the entrance to the American embassy in Moscow. Russia maintained that the Americans were not innocent diplomats but espionage agents.
Zakharova scoffed: "A simple incident from the life of an ordinary CIA official was turned by our American colleagues into an attack by a Russian policeman on an inoffensive American diplomat. We have outlined all facts, everyone may make their own conclusions."
(Tass.ru, July 9)
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov blamed the Obama administration for the incident and the general unraveling of U.S. Russia relations: "[Authorities] in Washington resort to specific actions, further exacerbating the atmosphere of bilateral relations, which the Obama administration has methodically been crushing for more than two years now, including attempts to undermine our economy and military threats...
"We do hope that Washington will come to realize the depravity of an aggressive anti-Russian line of action. If it decides, however, to move further along the path of escalation, [such policy] will not remain unanswered."
(Rt.com, July 9)
Russia In Syria
Russia is to deploy new Katran Ka-52K naval helicopters in Syria. Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will take on board state-of-the-art deck-based Ka-52K Katran helicopters. The new choppers are intended to be employed in military operations in Syria between October 2016 through January 2017.
(Pravda.ru, July 3)
On July 8, 2016, the Islamic State's (ISIS) Homs province published an official communiqué announcing that organization members managed to down a Russian attack helicopter east of Tadmur (Palmyra) and kill its crewmembers.
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6515, ISIS Takes Responsibility For Downing Russian Attack Helicopter East Of Palmyra, July 10, 2016)
Russian Reactions To Brexit
Commenting on Brexit, RIA's columnist Vladimir Lepekhin writes: "From my perspective, the growing disintegration wave in Europe stems from the same global phenomenon. This is the beginning of reformatting the current world order, which implies radical mass protests as the means of current politics. The results of these protests are either national referendums (in the Western countries) or a political coup and civil war (in peripheral countries)..."
(Ria.ru, July 4)
(See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6497, Russian Reactions To Brexit, June 29, 2016; See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6460, "Director Of Russian Think Tank Valdai Club Programs: Moscow Has Much To Lose From Brexit," June 7, 2016)
Strange But True
FSB Cadets Violate Traffic Laws While Parading With Luxury SUVs
FSB cadets graduating the academy drove 28 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, a mid-size four-wheel drive luxury SUV, and toured Moscow, while violating traffic laws and capturing their actions on video. Commenting on the FSB cadets' actions, former FSB major-general Aleksandr Mikhailov said: "The cadets have breached every intelligence and counterintelligence rule at the very beginning of their career".
(Source: Echo.msk.ru, July 2)
Russia's Federal Communication Regulator Blocks Websites Calling For Duma Election Boycott
Russia's Federal Communication Regulator Roskomnadzor blocked four websites that advocated a boycott of the upcoming State Duma elections. Roskomnadzor stated that the request to block the sites originated with the prosecutor-general's office. Roskomnadzor amplified on its website: "Reasons [for blocking the websites] include the publication of propaganda material intended to promote among the Russian people the idea of boycotting the State Duma elections." Roskomnadzor also believes these sites attempted "to coordinate actions by citizens in organizing protest actions that violate established laws."
(Themoscwtimes.com, July 8)