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memri
May 23, 2016 No.
6445

Russia This Week - May 16-23, 2016

Russia This Week is a new weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news and analysis relating to Russia from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Cartoon Of The Week


The alliance between Russian president "Putin" and Chinese president "Xi Jinping" is strangling U.S. President Barack Obama (Source: Vk.com/13studiya, May 17, 2016)

Zakharova Dixit

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is one of the most-quoted Russian officials. She is known for her colorful discourse when describing Russian foreign policy in her weekly press briefings. The following are Zakharova's quotes of the week:

 
Zakharova dances at the gala evening for the media at the ASEAN-Russia Summit in Sochi, (Source: Mid.ru, May 19, 2016)

"Since the very beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, Turkey has preferred to disregard the true causes that have led to an orgy of ultra-right nationalistic moods in the country [in Ukraine] - an actual split in the Ukrainian society and state, and, as a consequence, Crimea's legitimate withdrawal from Ukraine... Regrettably, Turkey thought it more advantageous to characterize the referendum and [the] Russia-Crimea reunification as an 'illegal annexation.' Recently, they have gone even further than that and are calling it 'occupation.' I'd like to ask: Whom do we hear saying this? Let me remind you that one third of Cyprus has been under occupation for more than 40 years, and you know well who has occupied this territory." (Mid.ru, May 19, 2016)

"The continued efforts to draw [Montenegro] into the [NATO] alliance are based on secret agreements that have been signed with the Montenegrin leadership with disregard for the peoples' opinion and in violation of democratic principles and procedures, the commitment to which NATO claims to honor so strictly...This latest NATO move - undertaken to change the military and political landscape in Europe, especially in light of the bloc's declared policy of containing Russia - will definitely affect Russia's interests and force us to react." (Mid.ru, May 19, 2016)

Quotes Of The Week:

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee head Alexey Pushkov: "In our confrontation with NATO our advantage is that we have a clear mind, while the other side is clearly paranoid." (Lenta.ru, May 17)

Lawmaker and former director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Nikolay Kovalyov noted the importance of President Putin's National Guard amid what he termed NATO's eastward expansion: "The fact that Russia will get a reliable and well-organized reserve of the armed forces in the form of the National Guard, primarily for the purposes of territorial defense [but] not only for that, deserves special attention and the highest praise...This becomes especially topical amid the continued expansion of NATO towards our borders as its heads openly state the intention to contain Russia. We register such calls ever more frequently."(Tass.ru, May 17)

President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems and former General Staff officer Konstantin Sivkov, known for his controversial statements, discussing a Russian response to NATO's ballistic missile defense site in Eastern Europe: "We should develop a weapon able to completely destroy the U.S. by causing geophysical changes in the American territory. That might be done by developing a super powerful nuclear warhead, which is capable of leading to an explosion of the Yellowstone volcano or causing a huge tsunami if detonated in high seas in proximity to American borders." (Ria.ru, May 13)

In The News

Russia-NATO Relations: Russia Plans To Deploy A Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar Station In Crimea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on NATO Secretary General Jens Soltenberg's remarks regarding a "broad agreement" that NATO should convene a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council before the NATO summit in Warsaw next July. Lavrov said: "On what grounds did [Soltenberg] say that? The Russia-NATO council acts as a result of a consensus. If they want to discuss this - they should discuss this with us and not to reach out for a microphone." Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to NATO Aleksander Grushko also criticized Soltenberg's remarks. Grushko said: "As of now, we have not received any official request...No consultations have been made, hence a [NATO-Russia] Council meeting is out of question."(Rbc.ru, May 20)

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova also commented on Soltenberg's remarks about convening the NATO-Russia Council before July. She said: "If you want to work with us - the door is open. We are always ready to hold a dialogue based on equality and constructiveness. [But] propaganda through microphones is not going to work, because we don't have time for meaningless verbiage."(Ria.ru, May 20)

On May 19, the foreign ministers of NATO member states signed an accession protocol for Montenegro, granting it observer status at NATO meetings. The signing ceremony, which was attended by Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, took place at a North Atlantic Council (NAC) session in Brussels. The next step is that Montenegro will be granted membership in NATO once the accession protocol is ratified by all 28 NATO member states.

(See MEMRI Special Dispatch, Russian Reactions To Negotiations On Montenegro's NATO Membership, May 20, 2016)

Russia Deputy Minister of Defense Nikolai Panko said that Russia would not increase military personnel as a countermeasure to NATO's activity. (Interfax.ru, May 19)

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee head Alexey Pushkov commented on retired Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO Richard Sherriff's new book, War With Russia, describing the possibility of a nuclear war between Russia and the West over the Baltic nations. Pushkov said:"[Sherriff] assumed the possibility of nuclear war with Russia during the current year... It looks like [in NATO] they hire for jobs like this only lunatics."(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 18)

Russia plans to deploy a ballistic missile early warning system in Crimea. The Russian Defense Ministry wants to restore and modernize the Dnepr early warning radar station near Sevastopol. According to the Russian news agency Ria.ru, the system will allow Russia to intercept any cruise or ballistic missile fired from the Black Sea region and the Mediterranean.(Ria.ru, May 17)

A NATO spearhead force has started the second phase of the Brilliant Jump Exercise in Poland. Brilliant Jump Exercise 2016 is composed of two phases: an Alertex (Alert Exercise, April 1-10, 2016, which took place in Spain) and a Deployex (Deployment Exercise, May 17-27, 2016, which is taking place in Poland). (Jfcbs.nato.int)

The Russian Foreign Ministry commented on statements by the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Petr Pavel, about a threat from the East: "We took note of the NATO military chief's false and unethical statements regarding the supposed Eastern threats to the exclusively 'peaceful and defensive' NATO. Specifically, the general claimed that Russia employs hybrid tactics against the West, including torture and deception, and may strike at the alliance's Baltic territories. He also speculated on the possible deployment of seven divisions in Poland and the Baltics in order to stave off defeat in the region...The leadership of the NATO Military Committee seems to have completely lost touch with reality or any understanding of cause and effect in the current processes underway in the sphere of European security...Public statements regarding the need to eliminate risks to NATO countries - which are, in fact, caused by the bloc's unprecedented buildup of military activity and infrastructure in direct proximity to Russian borders - represent the height of cynicism."(Mid.ru, May 16)

Russia-U.S. Relations:

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee head Alexey Pushkov commented on U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima on May 27. Pushkov wrote on his Twitter account: "Noble Laureate Obama is not going to apologize for U.S. atomic bombings on Japan. [Obama] talks about humanism for dumb asses. Obama [proved himself to be] the worthy successor of [U.S. President Harry] Truman."(Lenta.ru, May 22)

Russia-ASEAN Summit:

The Russia-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit was held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 19-20. The summit was dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership. According to Alexei Fenenko, an expert from the pro-Kremlin Russian think tank Valdai Discussion Club, the summit's goal was to concentrate "on the Russia-China-ASEAN triangle in the context of the emerging Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)."(Valdaiclub.com, May 18)

Russia And The Opposition: Russia Sends Interpol New Khodorkovsky Documents

Russia has submitted a new set of incriminating documents to Interpol concerning former oil tycoon and exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, requesting that his name be added to the international wanted list. Last February, Interpol refused to put Khodorkovsky on the international wanted list and said that Russia's request was politically motivated. (Themoscowtimes.com, May 17)

Russia And The Arab world: Egypt Gets $25 Billion Loan From Russia To Build Nuclear Plant

Egypt is to receive a $25 billion loan from Russia to build the country's first nuclear project by 2025. The loan, with a 22-year maturity at an interest rate of three percent, will cover 85%of the project's costs. According to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti, Russia will also receive a concession to explore Egyptian uranium fields. (Vedomosti.ru, May 19)

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov denied media claims that Russia is establishing a military base in the Syrian city of Palmyra. (Tass.ru, May 17)

Russia's Economy: Russians' Average Salary Falls to $443 A Month

Russians' average salary falls to $443 a month, below the wages in China, Serbia, Romani, and Poland. The Russian media outlet Newsru.com suggests that low wages may make it possible for Russia to become cost-competitive in the international market. (Newsru.com, May, 19)

Russian Central Bank First Deputy Governor Dmitry Tulin said that lowering the key interest rate in current conditions would not result in growth for the real economy in Russia. (Interfax.com, May 16)

Russia's General Financial Accountability Office reported that during 2015 the Russian naval industrial complex (United Shipbuilding Corporation, Tactical Rocket Weapons and Spezstroi) did not adhere to previously signed contracts for military supply. (Vedomosti.ru, May 19)

Circassians Seek Recognition Of Genocide At The Hands Of The Russian Empire

On May 21, the Circassians marked the 152nd anniversary of their expulsion and ethnic cleansing by the Russian Empire in 1864.The Circassians seek international recognition of what they term their genocide at the hands of the Russian Empire.

Strange But True

"Game of Thrones" Under Scrutiny By Russian Authorities

A member of a regional parliament lodged a complaint with the Russian Broadcasting Supervision Federal Council requesting a formal investigation into the popular American fantasy drama television series "Game of Thrones" under the formal provisions of the Russian anti-racism laws. According to the lawmaker, "Game of Thrones" pursues the idea of "white aristocracy superiority."(Mk.ru, May 19)

Russia's Communist Party (KPRF) Wants The Red Star Symbol To Be Copyrighted

Russia's Communist Party (KPRF) wants the red star symbol to be copyrighted, and to ban foreign companies - such as Heineken brewery or Macy's department stores - from using the image on their logos. In September 2015, the Communist Party said it had prepared a bill introducing fines for "unsanctioned use or distortion of the Russian state flag and coat of arms, as well as state symbols used during the Soviet era." (Rt.com, April 6)

 

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