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memri
May 9, 2016 No.
6423

Russia This Week - May 2-9, 2016

The MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project has launched a new weekly review, Russia This Week, covering the latest news and analysis concerning Russia from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Cartoon Of The Week


New NATO chief military commander in Europe Curtis Scaparrotti: "[What do you mean,] I do not understand the Russians' concerns?! By promoting NATO forces in Eastern Europe, we are just seeking to get closer to them." (Source: 13 Studiya, May 4, 2016)

In The News

WWII Remembrance Day (Victory Day)

On May 9, 2016, Russia marks the 71st anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II - known in the country as Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

On May 8, NATO military vehicles with U.S. flags that were on display in a downtown square of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, prompted protests by socialist groups. The Russian media outlet Russia Today claimed that as a result of these protests the NATO forces "withdrew."[1]

Russia In Asia: Putin Meets Abe Ahead Of G7 Summit

On May 6, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sochi; the two discussed the Kuril Islands issue and the problem of concluding a peace treaty,[2] and also reviewed prospects for bilateral trade.[3] The meeting was important, since the G7 is scheduled to meet in Japan at the end of May. Russia was suspended from the G8 in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea; however, bilateral Russia-Japan meetings continue to take place, on the sidelines of international gatherings such as the September G20 summit and the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.[4]

On May 6, 2016, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov said that Russia needs judicially binding guarantees that the U.S. missile system in Asia will not target Russia. "On our part, we have noted that, despite the unity against North Korea's missile and nuclear escapades...the attempts to use the situation as a pretext for bolstering military presence in that region are absolutely unjustified and rather dangerous," Lavrov said.[5]

Russia-U.S.-NATO Relations: Russian Defense Minister Shoigu Says Russia Will Deploy Three Military Divisions To Counterbalance NATO

On May 6, 2016, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Russia views the preparations for the U.S.-Georgia military exercises (Noble Partner 2016), set for May 11-26, as a provocation. "[The] declared goal is to train the Georgian Army for participation in the NATO Response Force and enhance Georgia's territorial self-defense capability. The drills will include deployment of NATO member-states' combat equipment in Georgia. Last year, infantry combat vehicles were deployed and now Abrams tanks have also been delivered by ferry from Bulgaria. We regard this ongoing 'exploration' of Georgia's territory by NATO forces as a provocative step aimed at escalating the military and political situation in the South Caucasus. To a large extent, this is encouraged by Washington's and its allies' open connivance with Tbilisi's revanchist ambitions," it said in a press release.[6]

On May 5, 2016, the Russian news agency TASS reported that the U.S. is not planning to deploy missile defense systems in the Black Sea. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Frank Rose said: "The U.S. missile defense is not directed against Russia, we have been saying this for numerous years. If you look at our policy documents over the past 20 years, we've made this very clear: we are not seeking to negate the Russian strategic deterrent even in Poland. The system in Poland and in Romania is designed to deal with threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic region. It is not directed against Russia."

TASS reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that the U.S. is finding artificial arguments to substantiate the necessity for a missile defense system. "For the Russian Federation, the situation with the use of medium-range ballistic missiles against targets in Europe is unthinkable. This can only be carried out by terrorists, who by definition are incapable of possessing such weapons and controlling them," Ryabkov said.[7]

On May 4, 2016, NATO's new chief military commander in Europe, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who took up the post last week, said that NATO is facing a "resurgent Russia striving to project itself as a world power." took over command of the NATO Allied Command Operations from U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove.[8]

On May 4, 2016, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia is to deploy two new divisions in the west and one in the south of the country to counterbalance NATO's increased military presence near Russia's borders.[9] Shoigu had also previously announced the establishment of the three new divisions, on January 12, 2016.[10]

On May 3, 2016, joint Moldova-U.S. military drills, part of NATO's Dragon Pioneer-2016, began in Moldova. Moldova joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program in 1994.[11]

Russia in Syria: Russia Stages A Concert in Palmyra

On May 6, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani. In the meeting, which focused on the Syrian crisis, Doha and Moscow agreed on the need to preserve Syria's territorial integrity.[12]

On May 5, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed via videoconference a concert in Palmyra by the Mariinsky State Academic Symphony Orchestra under the direction of National Artist of Russia Valery Gergiev. The concert, titled "Prayer for Palmyra - Music Brings the Ancient Walls to Life," took place at the ancient town's world famous amphitheater.[13] British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond criticized the concert as "a tasteless attempt to distract attention from the continued suffering of millions of Syrians." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova reacted with sarcasm to Hammond's criticism: "It's very sad that Hammond didn't like the concert. We were all run off our feet to make sure he liked it, everything was done for him. Now we know that he does not know anything about music, and nobody is interested in his comments anymore."[14]

On May 4, 2016, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov told the Russian government-funded media outlet Sputniknews.com that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is not Russia's ally. "Assad is not our ally, by the way. Yes, we support him in the fight against terrorism and in preserving the Syrian state. But he is not an ally like Turkey is the ally of the United States," Lavrov said.[15]

Russia-U.S. Relations:

On May 6, 2016, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was asked about the frequent telephone conversations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov (25 since January 2016). Zakharova responded in rhyme:

"His heart is in Moscow. His heart is not there.

"His heart is in Moscow, chasing a bear.

"Chasing not grizzly, but Kremlinese.

"His heart is in Moscow, wherever John is."

The four-line stanza was inspired by My Heart's in the Highlands, by Robert Burns. Zakharova added that the international agenda "can be resolved exclusively on condition that Russia takes part."[16]

Russia Vs. ISIS: Russia Doubts The Efficiency Of The U.S.-Led Anti-ISIS Coalition

On May 6, 2016, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vitally Churkin said at a UN Security Council meeting about the situation in Iraq that ISIS is expanding its activities into Libya, Afghanistan, and Europe. According to Churkin, ISIS' increased activities give grounds to doubt the efficiency of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.[17]

On May 2, 2016, ISIS released the fourth issue of its Russian-language magazine Istok ("The Source").

Russia And Ukraine: Poroshenko Says Russia Is Financing A "Fifth Column" In Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Russia is financing and supporting a "fifth column" in Ukraine. He has also called on Ukrainians to unite in order not to "become very easy prey for the enemy in a hybrid war."[18]

On May 2, 2016, the Ukrainian city of Odessa marked the anniversary of the killings of pro-Russian protesters in 2014. The commemoration was overshadowed by a bomb alert.[19]

Russia In The Arctic: Russian Submarine Launches Kalibr Cruise Missile During Barents Sea Trials

On May 5, 2016, the Russian Stary Oskol diesel-electric submarine launched a Kalibr cruise missile during Barents Sea trials. "The missile was launched from the underwater position at a Northern Fleet range in the Barents Sea. The coastal target at the Chizha training range [in the Arkhangelsk Region in north Russia] was accurately hit," said Russia's Northern Fleet spokesman Vadim Serga.[20]

Russia In Yemen: Russia Taking Action in Yemen

On May 6, 2016, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that Russia is taking an active part in contacts on resolving the crisis in Yemen.[21]

Interview Of The Week: Russian FM Lavrov Talks To Rossiya Segodnya News Agency

On May 4, 2016, the Russian international news agency Rossiya Segodnya published an interview with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov. In the interview, Lavrov says that it is not quite true that Russia supports federalism in Syria and Kurdish autonomy. "When we are asked whether we will support federalization, we say that we will support everything the Syrians agree to among themselves. Will we support Kurdish autonomy? We will if all Syrian sides agree to it. It's possible to enumerate a great many elements of state structure, in the form of questions addressed to us. But afterwards one should not say that we will support whatever decision, federalization, autonomy, etc. We will support any decision the Syrian parties make. That is what our position boils down to. They should conduct the talks independently, for which they have a framework outlined by the UN Security Council, and the available experience of the coexistence of Syrian ethnic, political, and religious groups."[22]

 

Endnotes:

[1] Rt.com, May 9, 2016.

[2] Tass.ru, May 6, 2016.

[3] Kremlin.ru, May 6, 2016.

[4] Asahi.com, May 7, 2016.

[5] Tass.ru, May 6, 2016.

[6] Mid.ru, May 6, 2016.

[7] Tass.ru, May 5, 2016.

[8] Defense.gov, May 4, 2016.

[9] Rt.com, May 4, 2016.

[10] Tass.ru, January 12, 2016.

[11] Sputniknews.com, May 3, 2016.

[12] Sputniknews.com, May 6, 2016.

[13] Kremlin.ru, May 5, 2016.

[14] Themoscowtimes.com, May 6, 2016.

[15] Sputniknews.com, May 4, 2016.

[16] Tass.ru, May 6, 2016.

[17] Tass.ru, May 7, 2016.

[18] Interfax.com.ua, May 7, 2016.

[19] Rt.com, May 2, 2016.

[20] Tass.ru, May 6, 2016.

[21] Mid.ru, May 6, 2016.

[22] Mid.ru, May 4, 2016.