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RUSSIAN EMBASSY WEEKLY #119
 
PRESIDENT  

Vladimir Putin congratulated all Orthodox Christians and all Russians celebrating Christmas.
The message reads, in part:
“On these festive Christmas days millions of people around the globe feel joy and inspiration, and a sense of following century-old traditions passed on from generation to generation. Their hearts are filled with love and a belief in the triumph of good and justice.
The Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian confessions in Russia play a highly constructive role in strengthening the moral and spiritual foundations of Russian society, preserving our nation’s historical and cultural heritage, and educating young people. This is a large-scale and fruitful effort of great significance that deserves the most profound recognition.

I wish prosperity and good health to all Orthodox Christians and all Russian citizens celebrating Christmas.”

 

From Damascus Airport, the President travelled to the command post of the Russian Armed Forces group in Syria, where he was met by Bashar al-Assad. The two leaders heard military reports on the situation in various regions of the country.
Later that day, a bilateral meeting was held between the Russian and Syrian delegations. During his talks with Bashar al-Assad, the President of Russia noted that it was now safe to praise the long distance travelled on the way to restoring Syria’s statehood and territorial integrity. There are obvious signs of a recovering peaceful life on the streets in Damascus, Vladimir Putin emphasised.

Bashar al-Assad thanked Vladimir Putin for the visit. The Syrian President expressed gratitude to Russia and the Russian military for their assistance in the fight against terrorism and the restoration of peaceful life in the republic. The Syrian leader warmly congratulated Vladimir Putin and the Russian people on Orthodox Christmas.
After visiting the command post, the Presidents visited the Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. Vladimir Putin presented the mosque with a 17th century Quran as a memory of his visit. Afterwards, the President of Russia visited the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus, where he spoke with Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East.


VISIT RUSSIA
 

Gatchina, the palace built by Italian architects near St. Petersburg is more than 250 yers old. In its time this imperial residence has been a hunting lodge, an imperial castle and the residence of the Order of Malta.

 

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended ceremony to launch TurkStream gas pipeline.
The TurkStream project is a gas pipeline consisting of two lines with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic metres of gas per year each. The first line is to ship Russian gas to Turkish consumers, the second one, to the countries of southern and southeastern Europe.
The ceremony was also attended by President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov.
Vladimir Putin: Despite the complex international situation, and the attempts of a number of global players to hinder the expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries, our work is proceeding steadily.
I would like to note that Russia has been exporting gas to Turkey for 30 years, even though not everyone knows about it. It was initially shipped through the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline, then through the direct, transit-free Blue Stream pipeline. Last year alone, 24 billion cubic metres of fuel was delivered to our Turkish partners.

Now Russian gas will be shipped to Turkey via a new route, the TurkStream. This is in many ways a unique deep-sea gas transportation system, unprecedented in some parameters. Two parallel lines with a capacity of almost 16 billion cubic metres of gas each have been built. This involved laying over 1,800 kilometres of pipes, some of them at a more than two kilometre depth. This was difficult, hard work. It is also a high-tech project because the gas pipeline runs at tremendous depth, as well as in a very hostile environment.
The first line will deliver gas from the fields in western Siberia directly to our Turkish partners. The second one will cross Turkey to the Balkans, carrying fuel to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece.
Again, the supply of Russian gas through TurkStream will undoubtedly be of great importance for not only the Turkish economy and the Black Sea region, but will also have a positive impact on the development of many south European countries, and will contribute to improving Europe’s overall energy security.
 

Vladimir Putin held talks in the Kremlin with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, who was in Russia on a working visit.

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel discussed bilateral cooperation and current issues on the international agenda: the situation in Syria, Libya, escalating tensions in the Middle East and the settlement of the intra-Ukrainian conflict in the context of implementing the 2015 Minsk Package of Measures and the agreements reached at the Normandy format summit in Paris on December 9, 2019.
Following the international consultations, the President of Russia and the Federal Chancellor of Germany made statements for the press and answered journalists’ questions.
 
 
The Libya issues were given detailed consideration. In the context of the Russian-Turkish agreements reached in Istanbul on January 8, both parties stressed the importance of observing the ceasefire declared on January 12. The presidents reaffirmed their readiness to facilitate the political diplomatic resolution of the crisis and expressed a commitment to contribute in every possible way to the success of the international conference on Libya, which is to be held in Berlin.

In view of the tense situation around Iran, the Presidents of Russia and France noted the need for all the sides to show restraint and called for continued efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The presidents also discussed issues concerning the domestic conflict in Ukraine and developments in Syria.
It was agreed to continue personal contacts.
 
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Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, in addition to the launch ceremony for the TurkStream gas pipeline that you witnessed, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan held intensive bilateral talks. They adopted a joint statement following the talks. I would like to highlight several points of this document.

The presidents confirmed their firm determination to advance and expand the bilateral partnership across all areas in every possible way.
As concerns the international agenda, they discussed the developments in the Persian Gulf triggered by the unlawful and very risky campaigns of the United States in Iraq against Iranian citizens, including Commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Qasem Soleimani. On account of the events of the past few days, the presidents spoke assertively in favour of resolving all the issues in the Persian Gulf and the region in general solely by peaceful means and in line with international law.
When it comes to Syria, President Putin and President Erdogan expressed determination to seek resolution of the Syrian crisis in all its aspects based on the documents that were adopted during the Astana process, and particularly emphasised their commitment to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations according to the September 17, 2018 and October 22, 2019 memorandums.
The two leaders agreed upon a common stance regarding the Libyan settlement in accordance with UN Security Council decisions. I would like to underscore the appeal addressed by Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Libyan conflict parties, which is to immediately stop military action and declare a ceasefire from midnight on January 12, 2020, that is, starting from the morning hours on Sunday.
The presidents expressed their readiness to facilitate the success of the Berlin process promoting peace in Libya. President Putin and President Erdogan support inclusivity of the process both in terms of involving all the Libyan parties and bringing aboard Libya’s neighbours.
Foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Turkey were instructed to continue contacts in the days ahead in order to promote the approaches to the Libyan crisis stated above.
I would like to sincerely thank my colleague and friend, Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic Mevlut Cavusoglu, for fruitful and constructive cooperation, as always.
 

Question: On January 2, 2020, the US delegation at the UN Security Council circulated the Security Council’s draft statement for the press denouncing the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad on December 31. Iran was peremptorily branded as the organiser of this attack. How would you comment on this document?

Maria Zakharova: The Russian Federation invariably and consistently upholds the principle of inviolability and security of diplomatic missions. We were ready to work on the US draft this time as well.
But a few hours later, the US military delivered a strike at Baghdad’s civilian airport, which killed several people, including Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, commander of its Quds Force. True to its anti-Iran policy, Washington, without offering any proof, has accused Tehran of masterminding the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad and used an extrajudicial method to punish the Iranian general.
Against this background, the US attempts, in subsequent days, to promote their UN Security Council draft statement turned into a search for justifications for their unlawful and violent action. In this specific case, the UN Security Council’s approval of the proposed statement would have amounted to a display of disregard for the use of force in violation of the UN Charter and for the principle of respect on the part of all countries for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.   
 
 
Comment by the Information and Press Department on Iran’s announcement of another stage in its suspension of voluntary commitments under the nuclear deal

The Iranian government’s decision announced on January 5 to continue the suspension of its voluntary commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme is the result of accumulating contradictions within the deal, which all the remaining signatories should continue working to settle. We see no other effective formula for saving the nuclear deal.

We believe that the preservation of the comprehensive arrangements and their sustainable implementation should remain the main goal for all the partners. We call on all the countries involved to be guided by these considerations and not to create additional tension and uncertainty with regard to the JCPOA, which is a global achievement.
We have taken note of Iran’s official statement to the effect that the latest suspension is the final one. We expect the IAEA to confirm this.
It is even more important that Tehran has proclaimed readiness to resume its full commitment to the JCPOA as soon as its legitimate concerns are lifted regarding other signatories’ failure to comply with the deal’s conditions.

MERRY CHRISTMAS
 

We wish prosperity and good health to all Orthodox Christians
in the US and all Russian citizens celebrated Christmas!
  
DEFENSE MINISTRY
 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu focused on the situation in the Middle East in a phone call with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday.
"Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper have held talks by phone," the Russian Defense Ministry said.
According to the defense ministry, they "focused on the situation in the Middle East."
  

EMBASSY
 

The event was timed to the 75th anniversary of a tragic incident that took place near Elizabeth City within the top secret U.S.-Soviet project codenamed Zebra on 11 January 1945. One of the seaplanes supplied by Americans to the USSR whithin this project crashed as it failed to take off from the Pasquotank River, leaving four Soviet pilots and a Canadian radio operator dead.

Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov addressed the guests and participants with a speech and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the river bank.
Ambdassador Antonov:
Dear friends,
We have gathered to commemorate the pilots who died on this day 75 years ago in the crash of a Catalina amphibious bomber when it was ferried to the USSR as part of Project Zebra.

I would like thank everyone who made today’s event possible and express a special gratitude to Mayor of Elizabeth City Ms. Bettie Parker, Director of the Museum of the Albemarle Mr. Don Pendergraft and Ms. Marjorie Berry from the Project Zebra Day Steering Committee.
Lend-Lease program, in which the Soviet Union participated since November 1941, played a significant role in providing the frontline and home front with necessary equipment and materials, contributing to the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, its satellites and militaristic Japan.
During Second World War Lend-Lease supplies were usually kept secret because of their special importance. «Zebra» project was among top-secret operations. The public got to know about it only in 1990. As part of this mission, the United States sent more than 160 Catalina seaplanes to the USSR in 1944 – 1945. Their delivery to the final destinations posed deadly risks for pilots.

Tragically, some of them lost their lives. A crash of an amphibious aircraft near Elizabeth City on January 11, 1945 resulted in the death of four Soviet pilots: Nikolay Chikov, Vladimir Levin, Dmitry Medvedev, Afanasy Borodin, and a Canadian radio operator of the Royal Air Force Peter Nataros. Our colleagues from the Russian Consulate General in Toronto found his gravesite and also pay tribute.

Today we commemorate these warriors as well as millions of soldiers, sailors and officers who courageously fought with the enemy and saved peace on the planet. We will always remember our allies in the anti-Hitler coalition. But we also know that the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the fascist attack as Hitler threw in three quarters of his troops to the Eastern Front. Peoples of the Soviet Union paid an enormous price for the Victory – 27 million lives.

Please join me in a moment of silence to honor all those who didn’t come back from the war.
(A minute of silence)
Project Zebra is a great example of the spirit of brotherhood-in-arms which existed between our nations back in those days. Here, in Elizabeth City aviators from the USSR, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada worked side by side united by a common goal.

This year we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II. 2020 was declared by President of Russia Vladimir Putin the Year of Memory and Glory in our country. The “great generations” of our nations stood up against the Nazi beast together and defeated it. Our common duty is to prevent the tragic events of those years from happening ever again. In order to do it, we should preserve the historical truth about World War II and cherish the memory of all those who fought for the peaceful future and gave us the opportunity to live.
  

HERITAGE


160 American flying boats, the Consolidated PBY Catalina were Lend-Leased to the Soviet Union, with Soviet-British crews when we were allies during World War II.
How were they transported? There was a classic route from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, via the Bering Strait to Vladivostok. Those planes would take part in the liberation of the Kuril Islands.
Another route was a northern one as well via Iceland and the north of Norway to Murmansk. One crew with Colonel Vasilyev, who headed the air group, crashed in June 1944 in Norway.
The most exotic one was via Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, the Amazon delta, the Atlantic ocean to Africa, then via Sahara, the Middle East (Iraq, Iran), Baku to Sevastopol. Then those planes would take part in the landing operations in Romania and Bulgaria.

Accidents occurred during those flights, and we should cherish the memory of the heroic crews, including Soviet-British and American ones.
On January 11, 1945, a Catalina with a Soviet-British crew took off from Elizabeth-City only to lurch onto the wing and fall into the Pasquotank River, seconds later. Five members of the crew died, four Soviet pilots Capt. Nikolay Chikov, Capt.Vladimir Levin, senior lieutenant Dmitry Medvedev, junior lieutenant Afanasy Borodin and Canadian radio operator of the British Royal Air Force Peter Nataros. The others were rescued.
The rescuers saw some crew members on the plane, they began to save them, then they saw Soviet navigator Vladimir Levin emerge on the surface. Then he went under again, lifted the Briton whom he saved from the cockpit and who was trapped by the debris and couldn't get out by himself. He actually saved him, but drowned.
Navigator Vladimir Levin was brought to the Soviet Union to be buried at the Donskoy cemetery in Moscow.
  

RUSSIAN TECHS
 

Russian IT company thanks everyone who took a ride in its self-driving car and helped it have another great year at CES2020! Yandex can't wait to give more autonomous rides in June at NAIAS in Detroit!
 

#WWII HISTORY
 



75 years ago, the Red Army launched the Vistula–Oder Offensive. Its objective was to liberate Poland from Nazi troops and to advance to approach routes leading to Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany.
The Soviet 1st Ukrainian and 1st Byelorussian Fronts faced off the Army Group A with 185 divisions including 33 tank and motorised divisions, and 21 brigades. The Red Army troops faced having to break through seven defence lines, which were distributed 300 - 500 kilometres in depth.
During the first stage of the Vistula–Oder Offensive on January 12-17, Soviet troops managed to advance 100 - 150 kilometres. On January 17, the Polish capital city Warsaw was liberated. The second stage of the operation lasted until February 3. On January 19, the Red Army liberated Krakow and Lodz and entered the German territory of Upper Silesia. By February 3, Red Army units advanced to the Oder River and captured staging grounds on its western bank.

 
CULTURAL DIPLOMACY
Once upon a time, the turntable of my friends was playing heavens music: that was "The Concert of the Century", the plate, made out of the live recording from the Carnegie Hall.
Listening to Bernstein, Horowitz, Dieskau, Menuhin, and others, I was dreaming about the people in fracks, sitting in the golden room and swimming in the tunes of music.
That was 20 years ago: I was 10. In two weeks I will be 30 years old and I'm playing my debut in the Carnegie Hall.
How did it happen? Very easy: I knew, how I wanted to spend my 30th birthday and all technical solutions do no matter. The people from the Carmel Foundation could make it happened, and they did. My gratitude is endless.
It's not just a concert, it's a story of my life, which is just coming to its very beginning. I will speak and play about love to the past, future, and present. Not that mysterious "love", which we always promote through the songs, romantic movies, and books, but a "Love Actually", which is just a mechanism to let through ourselves the things, which are important to us.
See you there!

 

"Pipeline to Russia: The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in World War II" – now available online!

This publication by the U.S. National Park Service and Alaska-Siberia Research Center is free for the public. You are welcome to download and share this book with your friends, colleagues and affiliated institutions, and keep this title in your e-library.

The heroism and dedication of the Soviet and American participants of the Alaska–Siberia Airway will not be forgotten. It is our civic duty to express our deep respect to those whose efforts led to the program’s success and, in the process, brought the war to a close. This is our history. Future generations should be brought up with a respectful spirit of patriotism to understand this history of cooperation between our countries. This edition will preserve awareness of that massive effort for all time.

DOWNLOAD THE BOOK

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