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. This week is marked by a serious deterioration in Russia-U.S. relations.
Cartoons Of The Week
Scorpions emerge from Uncle Sam's hat, spread around the world. Vitaly Podvitsky, vk.com/13studiya, September 29, 2016.
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 at her weekly press briefings. The following are Zakharova's quotes of the week:
Zakharova's cover photo on Facebook. (Source: Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167)
"Let me share a secret with you: every day, late at night, I read messages online, horrified by the thought of discovering new hysterical rhetoric against Russia coming from U.S. partners. Of course, the Pentagon and the White House have a leading role in this respect, and everybody else follows suit."
(Mid.ru, September 29, 2016)
Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, September 30, 2016.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic kisses the hand of Zakharova, while Lavrov tries to stop him. On her Facebook account, Zakharova wrote: "Let's start the day with a positive – our work is not devoid of such moments. Especially, our Serbian brothers take the lead (embrace matters into their own hands). But Sergey Lavrov always guards Russian interests. RUSSIA + Republic of Serbia = Kisses ."
Quotes Of The Week
In an interview on the Vesti v Subbotu news show, Lavrov said: "If again the Russian and Syrian air forces are asked for unilateral steps, like, 'give us another three or four days, and we will convince all the opposition groups that they have to separate from Jabhat Al-Nusra,' these talks will not be taken seriously."
(Mid.ru, September 24, 2016)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Vesti v Subbotu news show, in New York, September 24, 2016. (Source: Mid.ru, September 24, 2016)
In a TV interview for the Pozdnyakov program on NTV, Lavrov said: "Even though U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry assures me every time that Jabhat Al-Nusra poses the same terrorist threat as ISIS, they do not touch it... It's a vicious circle. They think – or rather, they don't think, because now I no longer know what they think and I don't know who to trust, but I definitely cannot trust them 100 per cent." He added: "I think they are simply making excuses not to cooperate with us, claiming it is impossible due to the current humanitarian situation. And why is the humanitarian situation so complicated? Well, that's Russia's fault, naturally, so there is no point in investigating further. It is difficult to work with such partners, but these are the only ones we have in Syria. This is just another reason to rely only on our own Armed Forces."
(Mid.ru, August 26; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6632, Russia This Week – September 20-28, 2016, September 28, 2016)
Tweet Of The Week
On Syria and the failure of the cease fire agreement, chair of the International Affairs committee in Duma Alexey Pushkov tweeted: "If we take into consideration that the main goal of negotiations with Moscow was to keep and strengthen the armed opposition, it's clear why the U.S. is now so upset."
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, September 29, 2016)
Source: Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, September 29, 2016.
In The News
Russia-U.S. Relations Regarding Syria – Russian Foreign Ministry: "Washington, Seeking To Bring About A Power Change In Damascus, Is Ready To Make A Deal With The Devil"
Cartoon from Al-Araby Al-Jadid website: UN takes "Aleppo's" pulse as it is under bombardment by "Russia," "Syria," Iran," and "Hizbullah."
On October 3, 2016, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby announced that the U.S. is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia. Kirby stated: "This is not a decision that was taken lightly. The United States spared no effort in negotiating and attempting to implement an arrangement with Russia aimed at reducing violence, providing unhindered humanitarian access, and degrading terrorist organizations operating in Syria, including Daesh and Al-Qaeda in Syria.
"Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments – including its obligations under international humanitarian law and UNSCR 2254 – and was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.
"Rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course, inconsistent with the Cessation of Hostilities, as demonstrated by their intensified attacks against civilian areas, targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need, including through the September 19 attack on a humanitarian aid convoy.
"The U.S. will also withdraw personnel that had been dispatched in anticipation of the possible establishment of the Joint Implementation Center. To ensure the safety of our respective military personnel and enable the fight against Daesh, the United States will continue to utilize the channel of communications established with Russia to de-conflict counterterrorism operations in Syria."
(State.gov, October 3, 2016)
The Russian Foreign Ministry commented as follows on the U.S. decision to suspend bilateral dialogue on Syria: "We regret Washington's decision to suspend its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria. We deeply regret the statement issued by the U.S. Department of State on the unilateral suspension of contact with Russia on the conflict in Syria, excluding communication to prevent air accidents.
"Over the past few days, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have spoken on the phone many times and the two countries' diplomatic missions in Geneva have been working to normalize the situation around Aleppo, where illegal armed groups have violated the ceasefire agreement. But ultimately our U.S. partners decided not to support Russia's intention to announce yet another 72-hour humanitarian pause in the hostilities in this region... Recent discussions between Russian and U.S. officials have focused on Jabhat Al-Nusra, which was never part of the cessation of hostilities. A few words about this group, its patrons and allies, and why the Obama Administration is not trying to separate the anti-government forces it sponsors from Al-Nusra, a recognized terrorist organization directly connected with Al-Qaeda that was involved in the terrible terrorist attacks in the United States 15 years ago. On the contrary, Washington is protecting this terrorist group through opposition forces that have officially announced their decision to join the ceasefire, even though CIA Director John Brennan promised in February to facilitate the separation of Syria's moderate opposition from the terrorists as soon as possible.
"We have seen clearly that Al-Nusra has used previous humanitarian pauses to regroup, recruit new fighters and receive weapons and munitions from abroad, including with U.S. assistance, as information available to us shows. Al-Nusra leaders have said openly that they used these pauses, including the period of 'silence regime' that was announced on September 12, to prepare for new offensive operations such as the one they are now waging around Aleppo.
"The United States has never put real pressure on Jabhat Al-Nusra. It has done nothing to separate the moderate opposition from al-Nusra or to stop the front's bloody attacks, and at the same time Washington actively prevented Russia from stopping these attacks.
"Consequently, Washington's decision to suspend talks with Russia on Syria is evidence of the Obama Administration's inability to implement the key condition of continued cooperation with Russia aimed at settling the Syrian conflict. Or maybe the U.S. administration never intended to do so. We increasingly believe that Washington, seeking to bring about a power change in Damascus, is ready to make a deal with the devil, that is, to join forces with outright terrorists who want to turn the tide of history and who are enforcing their inhuman values in the occupied territories..."
(Mid.ru, October 3, 2016)
In an interview with BBC World News, Lavrov said of the U.S.'s plans in Russia: "We created the International Syria Support Group, where [the U.S.] pledged solemnly to take as a priority an obligation to separate the opposition from Nusra. In spite of many repeated promises and commitments, they still are not able – or not willing – to do this. And we have more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare Nusra and to keep it, you know, just in case for Plan B or for Stage 2 when it would be time to change the regime. I can only recall, speaking of Aleppo, that in August this year the opposition, where more than 50 percent were Nusra, as confirmed by the United Nations, has taken the southwestern suburb of Aleppo, cutting off 1.5 million people and basically organizing siege, preventing them from getting any supplies by the easiest and most available route. And there was no noise, no hysterical statements. The Western people who, as far as I understand, run the show, thought that this would be a prelude to Aleppo being taken by the opposition. Now the situation is different, and we hear all these noises."
Commenting on U.S. actions in Syria, Russian first Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense Franz Klintsevich said: "The Americans will most likely try to use terrorists to achieve victory on the battlefield. Scenarios in this case can be different. No matter how the United States eventually acts, it is clear that the Americans are testing our strength. At the same time, I hope that there are no fools in the U.S. administration, and there will be no direct confrontation between Russian and U.S. military."
(Pravdareport.com, September 30, 2016)
In another interview Klintsevich said that the U.S. deliberately hit the position of the Syrian government forces on September 17. Klintsevich said: "The U.S. have deliberately and thoughtfully hit the governmental forces in Syria. Any air strike is coordinated with the troops on the ground – in this case the U.S. used the intelligence provided by their agents within ISIS. The U.S. have only one purpose – to remove Bashar Assad in order to provide the opposition with the powers in the sake of achieving their own commercial interests."
(Ria.ru, September 17, 2016)
Duma member Sergey Gavrilov called on the Russian authorities to implement a no-fly zone against U.S. aircraft in Syria and effectively force the U.S. to leave Syrian ground and airspace. Gavrilov said: "I think that this strike has abolished all the agreements Russia has reached with the U.S."
(Ria.ru, September 17, 2016)
The commander of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Viktor Poznikhir, said: "The U.S. and the so-called moderate opposition controlled by them have not fulfilled any of the agreements reached."
(Ria.ru, September 17, 2016)
The S-300 In Syria
(Rt.com, October 4, 2016)
Russian Presidential Executive Order Suspends Plutonium Management; Russian Foreign Ministry: The Obama Administration 'Has Done All It Could To Destroy The Atmosphere Of Trust'
The Russian Foreign Ministry commented as follows on the Russian Presidential Executive Order suspending the 2000 U.S.-Russia agreement concerning the management and disposition of plutonium designated as no longer required for defense purposes and related cooperation (PMDA): "The agreement was signed at a time when our relations with the United States were on an upswing. It entered into force in 2011 during the 'reset' in Russian-U.S. relations. There was considerable hope that the role of force in politics would decline, international tension would lessen and the practice of politically motivated sanctions would become history. Unfortunately, these hopes were dashed. In 2012, the United States adopted the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which applied unprecedented sanctions-related pressure on our country under contrived pretexts.
"Since 2014, following the reunification of Crimea with Russia, the U.S. administration has taken a series of hostile steps aimed at directly undermining our economy and social stability. At the same time, an active build-up of NATO's military infrastructure and the numerical strength of U.S. forces began near Russian borders, which drastically changes the strategic balance in Europe and is fraught with an escalation of military confrontation and tension.
"The administration of Barack Obama has done all it could to destroy the atmosphere of trust, which could have encouraged cooperation. Washington's actions have brought about a fundamental change in Russian-U.S. relations with regard to strategic stability, compared to the situation that existed at the time the agreement was signed and came into force. Under these circumstances, Russia's decision to suspend the PMDA is fully in accord with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969.
"This step that Russia was forced to take is not designed to aggravate relations with the United States. We want Washington to understand that it will not be possible to introduce sanctions against us in areas where that can be done quite painlessly for the Americans while at the same time continuing selective cooperation in areas that are beneficial for them.
"There is another point with regard to the PMDA case. The United States set the course toward altering the plutonium disposition method as agreed with us in the 2010 Protocol to the Agreement, citing the need to save resources and time. Instead of 'burning' plutonium in nuclear reactors, the U.S. intends to use a simplified analogue of the immobilization method, namely, the 'dilution' and burial of plutonium. Meanwhile, this option was considered previously and rejected, since it makes it possible to reverse course. It is telling that the U.S. took this step at a time when we had practically finished building rather costly plutonium disposal facilities.
"We would like to stress that Russia is not abandoning its nuclear disarmament obligations. The presidential executive order provides that Russian plutonium designated as no longer required for defense purposes will remain outside the arms sphere.
"We stress that Russia is not terminating the PMDA but only suspending it. We hope that our position will be duly taken into account and that measures will be taken to restore trust and eliminate the causes that led to the drastic change of circumstances in the sphere of strategic stability. In that case we will be ready to resume the PMDA."
(Mid.ru, October 3, 2016)
Lavrov commented: "I would like to stress that this is a measure of last resort. We considered the agreement an important step towards nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, the United States recently has taken several hostile steps with respect to Russia. Specifically... the United States and its allies openly and freely discuss transitioning to a policy of containing their relations with Russia. They even threaten terrorist attacks in Russian cities [see below, Reactions To Kirby's Statements On 'Attacks in Russia, Body Bags, Downing Jets'– Zakharova: '[The] Statement By [Kirby] is Nothing Other Than A Call To Action Issued To The Radicals']. All these actions taken by Washington are leading to a major shift in strategic stability and are increasingly limiting possibilities for Russian-U.S. cooperation on reducing nuclear arsenals.
"Our decision is a signal to Washington that it cannot use the language of force, sanctions and ultimatums with Russia while continuing to selectively cooperate with our country only when it benefits the U.S.... If Washington adjusts its political course and fully eliminates the circumstances it created that adversely altered the political, military and economic balance in the world, we will be ready to resume the agreement."
(Mid.ru, October 3, 2016)
Reactions To Kirby's Statements On 'Attacks in Russia, Body Bags, Downing Jets'– Zakharova: '[The] Statement By [Kirby] is Nothing Other Than A Call To Action Issued To The Radicals'
On September 28, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a phone conversation with U.S. State Secretary John Kerry. The Russian Foreign Ministry reported that the two officials discussed the possibility of "normalizing the situation in Aleppo by returning to the basic principles of Russia-U.S. agreements on facilitating a settlement in Syria." However, State Department spokesperson John Kirby said that Kerry had expressed grave concern over the deteriorating situation in Syria, particularly for continued" attacks by the Russian and Syrian regimes on hospitals, the water supply network, and other civilian infrastructure in Aleppo." Kirby then added that Kerry had made it clear that the U.S. and its partners hold "Russia responsible for this situation, including the use of incendiary and bunker-buster bombs in an urban environment, a drastic escalation that puts civilians at great risk."
In his daily press briefing, Kirby said: "[if the U.S.-Russia agreements falls,] the consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria, that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft."
(Mid.ru, September 28; state.gov, September 28, 2016)
Commenting on Kirby's statements, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs Leonid Kalashnikov said: "Most likely, Moscow already discusses what measures should be taken in response to such statements, but Russian politicians, unlike Kirby, do not make them public. What he said was not only a direct threat, but a threat that an official person has made – I cannot even recollect any other similar examples like that. Kirby alluded to Al-Qaeda that the Americans used to set against the Soviet Union – not only in Afghanistan, but also in Central Asia. This is an allusion to the fact that terrorism may penetrate into Russia, and the United States will contribute to that. If the U.S. contributes to the movement of terrorists to Russia, if the Americans supply them with arms, Russian special services will not leave it without attention. Russia will take adequate measures against those who do not just threaten, but mastermind a terrorist war against Russia."
(Pravdareport.com, September 29, 2016)
At her weekly briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zakharova said: "...I do not want to get personal, because we are colleagues [with Kirby], but I would like you to note that this statement has been made by a person who had a long military career in the past. When people resort to such cynicism and use such a tone when they talk about their colleagues, one wonders what will come next.
"I would like to draw your attention to the phrase about the vacuums, probably the vacuums of power, in the above statement by Mr. Kirby. It is Washington and its regional allies who demand that the legitimately elected Syrian President step down. If Washington thinks the current vacuum is dangerous, what would happen if the legitimately elected president and government ceded their positions? After all, there should be logic in one's actions.
"Actually, Mr Kirby blames Russia for the growing activity of extremists in Syria, although it is the United States who has been consistently presenting these extremists as moderate armed opposition. Who did Mr Kirby have in mind when he said that extremist activity would become increasingly more violent? Was he talking about the self-same opposition, which Washington is patronizing?...
"In fact, the above statement by the U.S. State Department spokesperson is nothing other than a call to action issued to the radicals. We cannot consider it in any other way because this statement has not been disavowed. Just one example. Following the recent terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, Russia immediately expressed condolences and sympathy and offered help. But many media outlets, including those sponsored by the U.S., wrote that the condolences by Russian representatives and officials were insufficiently sympathetic. They claim that we are insufficiently compassionate, yet they seem undisturbed by words about Russia sending more troops home in body bags...
"This was not the only statement we heard today. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that it is hard to see how Russia's involvement in the Syrian crisis 'benefits Russia's national security.' What I can say to Mr. Earnest in this regard is that Russia's national security should not be a matter of concern for the White House, which instead had better focus on U.S. national security. It would be great, for example, if the White House lets EU countries take care of their national security. It would make things easier in many ways. Russia will take care of its own national security, the EU will try to develop its own independent national security framework, and Washington will only have to deal with its domestic national security issues."
(Mid.ru, September 29, 2016)
On her Facebook page, Zakharova wrote: "Don't you think that this kind of ventriloquism concerning 'bodies in bags,' 'terror attacks in Russian cities' and 'loss of aircrafts' looks more like 'go forward' [order given to dogs to attack] command rather than a comment of a diplomat?"
(Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, September 29, 2016)
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that Kirby's statements represent an "emotional breakdown." Ryabkov commented: "This badly concealed invitation 'to use' weapons of terror against Russia displays the low political level of the current U.S. administration regarding Middle East affairs and particularly Syria."
(Ria.ru, September 29, 2016)
Commenting on Kirby's statements, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said: "Rear admiral turned Department of State spokesman John Kirby, I am certain, is well aware of the after-effects of his statement. His words are the most frank confession by the U.S. side so far the whole 'opposition' ostensibly fighting a civil war in Syria is a U.S.-controlled international terrorist alliance." He added: "What makes Kirby's statement particularly shocking is that the scale of direct U.S. influence on terrorists' activity is global. That it reaches as far as Russia. The mask comes off, doesn't it, sirs?"
(Tass.com, September 29, 2016)
Former Duma deputy speaker Sergey Zheleznyak said: "U.S. representatives allow themselves to utter irresponsible statements towards our country that look like threats." Zheleznyak added: "Degenerating into such incitement, foreign politicians possibly seek to influence the anti-terrorist operation in Syria, which Russia's Aerospace Troops carry out jointly with the government troops of President Bashar al-Assad."
(Tass.com, September 29, 2016)
Reactions to Samantha Power's Comments – Pushkov: 'ISIS May Offer [Power] A Job As Its Press-Officer'
Commenting on U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power's statements that Russia is conducting "barbarism" in Syria, Lavrov said that Power is a "bit aggressive," even for a representative of the U.S. Lavrov stated: "We believe it is absolutely unacceptable to use this language... I don't want to discuss the manners of our American colleagues. I believe everyone who is aware of how they work knows about those manners, and I prefer to concentrate on the facts, not on some hysterical statements when people lose control of events and of themselves."
(Mid.ru, September 30, 2016)
Commenting on Power's remarks, Alexey Pushkov, chair of the International Affairs committee in Duma, tweeted: "Powers called Russian strikes on the terrorists 'barbaric.' After she resigns [from the UN], ISIS may offer her a job as its press-officer."
(Twitter.com/Alexey-Pushkov, September 25, 2016)
(For more reactions to Power's comments, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6632, Russia This Week – September 20-28, 2016, September 28, 2016)
Reactions To U.S. Defense Secretary's Comments On NATO's Update Of Its Nuclear Playbook To Deter Russia
Recently, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that NATO is updating its "nuclear playbook" to deter Russia across the Atlantic. Carter said: "We're refreshing NATO's nuclear playbook to better integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence to ensure we plan and train like we'd fight and to deter Russia from thinking it can benefit from nuclear use in a conflict with NATO, from trying to escalate to de-escalate, as some there call it."
Commenting on Carter's statements, the Russian Foreign Ministry wrote on its website: "We could not help but notice the remarks on nuclear deterrence made by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at Minot Air Force Base on September 26, and not only because of their emphatically Russophobic character that, regrettably, has recently become the norm for public statements by representatives of the outgoing administration. We are troubled by his statement that the U.S. is prepared to use its nuclear capabilities in the event of an armed conflict involving Russia in order to prevent it from using nuclear weapons to repel aggression. Apparently, he is referring to the provision in Russia's Military Doctrine that reserves the right to use such weapons if the very existence of the state is threatened as a result of conventional aggression. To be clear, the doctrine addresses aggression against Russia, not Russia attempting to find 'a way out of failed conventional aggression' to which Mr. Carter is referring. This outrageous distortion of an official Russian document shows that the U.S. Defense Secretary is either relying on an incorrect translation or planning to start a dangerous game... The Pentagon chief's bellicose rhetoric goes a long way toward explaining the goal of the U.S. policy to modernize its nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles, about which he proudly talked at Minot Air Force Base. By upgrading its strategic triad – ICBMs, SLBMs and bombers, as well as ALCMs and aerial nuclear bombs – the United States seeks to develop highly efficient means of nuclear attack for decades to come. Importantly, in the process the United States will be covered by upgraded missile defense... Thus, the strategy of exerting military pressure on Russia, which in the logic of the Pentagon's 'planners' apparently implies nuclear brinkmanship, will receive an upgraded and even more dangerous military-technical component. These statements are especially cynical coming from the administration of Barack Obama, the President who declared before the world that the U.S. seeks nuclear disarmament, for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in advance. Naturally, we will have to take into account the U.S. positions and take the necessary reciprocal measures to ensure our national security."
(Rt.com, September 30, Mid.ru, September 29, 2016)
Deputy Duma speaker Irina Yarovaya said: "The feeling is that Mr. Carter, while addressing the servicemen, tries deliberately and with no actual grounds to scare them, in order to make that fear lead the soldiers to follow the commands in a blind manner. It's obvious that the threat to the global security in not Russia's saber-rattling, with is imagined by Carter in a wave of disinformation, but rather tongue-rattling by American military and politicians, which psychotically and aggressively dominates the American policy."
(Ria.ru, September 27, 2016)
Reactions To Obama's UN Speech
Commenting on U.S. President Barack Obama's speech at the UN, Alexey Pushkov, chair of the International Affairs committee of the Duma, tweeted sarcastically: "Obama said that Russia is trying to restore its former grandeur by force.' The U.S., including all their wars and military expenditures, are famous throughout the world solely for their kindness."
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, September 20, 2016)
Source: Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, September 20, 2016
In an editorial article in the official governmental newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, titled "Working on mistakes?" Russian columnist Evgenii Shestakov wrote: "The last farewell of Obama's UN speech was surprisingly restrained and in a way deemed a late repentance. The leader of the White House admitted that his country "has committed its own mistakes" and needs "to intensify the potential of international actions." There was nothing mentioning the former calls for [Syrian president] Assad to leave. On the contrary – [he uttered] appeasing words that in countries like Syria 'it's impossible to gain victory by military means' and that there should be a hard diplomatic path. By the way, apparently Moscow is not in the list of global threats anymore."
(Rg.ru, September 20, 2016)
(For more reactions to Obama's speech, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6632, Russia This Week – September 20-28, 2016, September 28, 2016)
Russian Media On Going Back To The Cold War
The RIA news agency quoted senior researcher of world politics at Moscow State University, Aleksey Fenenko, as saying: "To summarize: after Crimea and Donbas, the Americans are afraid that the concept of containing Russia will fail. After 1991, the Americans decided that there is a need to establish some containing constituencies, which will prevent the restoration of the Soviet Union – Ukraine, Georgia, Baltic States, and Uzbekistan... Now, after Crimea, the Americans are really afraid that Russia is going to 'reconsider' those containing constituencies."
(Ria.ru, September 20, 2016)
Dutch Safety Board's Report On Malaysian Airlines 2014 Boeing Crash
The Public Prosecution Service's website published the following statement concerning the Malaysian Airlines 2014 Boeing crash over Ukraine: "The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, Flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. This was announced today by the JIT during a presentation for the relatives of the victims. Members of the JIT, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, are working together on the criminal investigation into the crash of flight MH17."
Commenting on the Dutch report to BBC World News, Lavrov said that it was very "strange" that the investigation group, which was created in July 2014, had not invited Malaysia until the end of that year. He added: "Another strange thing in addition to what was said by our aviation authorities and by the producer of this rocket launcher, the Security Council adopted a resolution in July 2014 which, among other things, requested regular reports to the Security Council about the course of this investigation. There was no single report to the Security Council, and I wonder why. As for the technical details and the evidence which you referred to, the evidence is based on video images and photo images from social networks and the evidence received from unnamed witnesses, and the report itself and the presenter of the report said that they need to continue investigation. We submitted [a] huge [amount of] material to them, and we would be very much hopeful that they would look eventually into this material."
(Mid.ru, September 30, 2016)
Commenting on the JIT investigation results, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zakharova said: "Russia is disappointed that nothing has changed in the investigation into the Boeing crash. The conclusions reached by the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office confirm that the investigation is biased and politically motivated. Arbitrarily laying blame and engaging in wishful thinking has become the norm for our Western colleagues. I would like to ask them: When will it be enough? From the very start Russia suggested working together and relying on facts alone. However, the international investigators excluded Russia from fully participating in the investigation and assigned a secondary role to its efforts. It sounds like a bad joke but instead they made Ukraine a full member of the JIT, allowing it to forge evidence and steer the matter in its favor. The investigators continue to ignore Russia's irrefutable evidence, even though it is essentially the only country that has provided credible information and continues to uncover new information. And one more important point I'd like to mention. Everything that forms the evidentiary foundation of the case was supplied to the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office by Ukraine, which is certainly an interested party. We hope now that Russia has transferred to the JIT such indisputable evidence as initial radar images – and any expert will understand why it is indisputable – the situation will change and the JIT's final conclusions, unlike its preliminary conclusions, will reflect the objective truth and point to the real perpetrators of this tragedy."
(Mid.ru, September 28, 2016)
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov commented on the issue, saying that the Kremlin "does not consider the results as a final truth."
(Ria.ru, September 29, 2016)
Russian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Major-General Igor Konashenkov said: "The data, which the investigation group presented… had been taken from two main sources: the Internet and Ukraine's security services. Therefore, the objectivity of that data and consequently the conclusions made on its basis cannot but be doubtful."
(Tass.com, September 28, 2016)
On September 30, 2016, Netherlands Foreign Minister Bert Koenders summoned the Russian ambassador to The Hague, after Russia's criticism of the report. On October 3, the Dutch ambassador to Russia was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged Russia to stop spreading "all sorts of nonsense" about the criminal investigation into the downing of the Malaysian Airlines plane.
(Mid.ru, September 30; Dutchnews.nl, October 3, 2016)
Commenting on the Dutch report, Russian leader of the opposition party Yabloko (that did not make it to the Duma) Grigory Yavlinsky wrote in his website: "It is known that the German intelligence knew about the presence of BUK missile systems in the theater of war. Therefore, the key European political and military leaders were well aware of the fact that the anti-aircraft missile complex was deadly dangerous for the flights in the area made by not only military, but also civil aviation. However, [politicians in] Europe did not know how to stand up to Russia, were at a loss, and did not say anything. Consequently, the airspace over the area of the fighting was not closed [for flights]. The responsibility for the shameful denial of the war, and, consequently, for the loss of passengers from the shot down [MH17] aircraft lies on Europe too... But the principle of identification of the main culprit – the one who started it – is not cancelled. And Russia began it all."
(Yavlinsky.ru, October 1, 2016)
The Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russian-Pakistani tactical military exercise Druzhba-2016 (Friendship 2016) are set to be held September 24-October 10 at the Cherat training ground in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. Around 200 service members from both sides will take part in fine-tuning their cooperation during anti-terror operations in the mountains. Commenting on the drills, Professor Sergey Lunev of the Oriental Studies Department of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations said: "The exercise is not an index of friendly relations, but these are the first drills ever to be held with Pakistan. Before that, Russia abstained from military political contacts with this country [i.e. Pakistan], mainly because of very friendly relations with India in military political sphere and uncompromising opposition between India and Pakistan." Lunev stressed that India is Russia's largest partner on military technical cooperation, since it accounts for about 40% of the Russian weapons export. Lunev added: "'Russia demonstrates discontent at drastic reinforcement of the U.S.-India relations in the military political field as well with this project with Pakistan. Russia is an utterly important partner of India, we won't break relations, they are important for us."
(Pravdareport.com, September 30, 2016)
Friendship 2016 drills (Source: Pravdareport.com)
Russia and China held Joint Sea 2016 drills September 12-19 in the South China Sea. The participants carried out drills on joint air defense, anti-submarine operations, landing, island-seizing, search and rescue, and weapons use. Russian commentator Aleksandr Hrolenko wrote for the RIA news agency that the drills were aimed at examining the probability and capability of mutual combat readiness in order to repel U.S. fleet actions in the Southern China Sea, the only country which might challenge China in those waters.
The author added that by itself the Russian Pacific fleet regiment cannot change the military-political situation in the Southern China sea, but that its existence and its cooperation with China strengthen the defense capabilities and stresses the sovereignty. This is a twofold approach: China uses those drills as an additional argument in the territorial rival over Southern China sea islands, while Russia projects power in faraway parts of the ocean.
(Mod.gov.cn, September 12; Ria.ru, September 12, 2016)
Chinese naval officers and soldiers conduct a welcome ceremony as a Russian fleet arrives in Zhanjiang, south China's Guangdong Province, Sept. 12, 2016. (Source: Eng.mod.gov.cn)
On September 15, Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov visited Turkey and met with his counterpart Khulusi Akar to discuss the current situation in Syria and the prospect of settling the crisis in the country.
(Ria.ru, September 15, 2016)
It was reported that Gerasimov told his Turkish counterpart that the Turkish operation in Syria is not legitimate, while there are extensive risks in prolonging or expanding the ground operation. The official MOD statement mentioned, though, that "the sides got closer in their assessments of the current situation in Syria and action aimed at supporting the ceasefire in the country."
(Interfax.ru, September 16, 2016)
It was also reported that the Russian and Turkish militaries agreed to establish a hot line between intelligence directorates of the both countries and commanders on the ground.
(Russian.rt.com, September 16, 2016)
Russia's Soft Power – Russia Hosts The International Congress For Separatists
For the second time, Russia hosted the International Congress of Separatists, in Moscow on September 25, 2016. The conference, titled "The Dialogue Of Nations: The Right Of Peoples To Self-Determination And Building A Multipolar World," was organized by the Anti-Globalist movement of Russia (ADR). The honored guests and speakers included representatives of independence movements and parties from Texas, California, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Catalonia, Lombardy, Lebanon, Western Sahara, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the Donetsk People's Republic, and the Luhansk People's Republic. The ADR website noted that "the purpose of the conference was to demonstrate to the general public that the struggle for independence and the right of peoples to self-determination are an integral part of the development of all nations."
The ADR was created in 2012, with the goal of "supporting countries and peoples who stand against the dictatorship of the single-polar world." Among the honorary members of the ADR are Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the Russian media outlet RBC, the ADR is financially supported by governmental grants. It should be noted that it is illegal in Russia to question the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation – calls and actions aimed at questioning that may be considered as of extremist nature and may lead to indictment.
(Anti-global.ru, September 29; Rbc.ru, September 13, 2016)
Source: Anti-global.ru, September 29, 2016
News In Short
- Russian Embassy in Damascus hit by a mortar, no victims reported. (Rt.com, Oct. 4, 2016)
- On October 4, Putin met with the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana. (Kremlin.ru, Oct. 4, 2016)
- On September 30, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov met with Nicaraguan Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Molina in Moscow. The two diplomats mapped out a working schedule for the Russian-Nicaraguan Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation. (Mid.ru, Sept. 30, 2016)
- The number of Russian tourists flying abroad dropped by 28% in the first six months of 2016. (Kommersant.ru, Sept. 12, 2016)
Strange But True
Zakharova announced on her Facebook page that Andrey Fomachkin, a representative of the Belarusian Ministry of Sports and Tourism who carried Russia flag at the Rio 2016 Paralympics opening ceremony and was subsequently stripped of his accreditation, had been rewarded with a flat in Moscow. She wrote: "You will learn tomorrow who this mysterious Count of Monte Cristo is and how our Belarusian hero will react to such a present because Andrey Fomochkin came to Moscow today."
(Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, October 2, 2016)
Andrey Fomachkin at the Rio 2016 Paralympics opening ceremony. (Source: Rt.com)
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