First time in Russian history, terrorists managed to successfully attack an important piece of infrastructure. In the middle of the night, the terrorists shot and killed two police officers, taped two power plant workers to chairs, tortured them, found out where the generators were, and planted the bombs at a power plant in Kabardino-Balkaria. The first generator (that had been working since its construction in 1938) exploded at 5:20 am local time. The second generator (remodeled in 1962) exploded 20 minutes later. The third bomb did not work. The fire, amplified by the oil, was put out only by 8 am. FSB detached the third bomb and blew it up in a local forest.
The reports about the amount of power plant's security vary; power plant workers say there were only two police officers guarding the entire power plant at night, while Russian electric corporation Rusgidro says that there are many layers of security. Regardless, the terrorists' timing was perfect, as the day-time shift includes dozens of security and employees, who start their work at 8 am. However--overall--the terrorist act was unsuccessful, as the power plant did not suffer significant damages, and the electric supplies in the region were not interrupted. The Caucuses' Muslim terrorists claimed responsibility for the 2009 hydroelectric plant explosion in Siberia, but the official investigation proved that Islamic extremists were bluffing and had nothing to do with the explosion. This time they clearly did.
Continue reading "Terrorists Attack Russian Hydroelectric Plant" »
The record-breaking heat across Russia was interrupted by a short storm that hit some cities more than others. Not just the farmers, but common people prayed for the rain. And they got it. Now that the brief and strong rain is over, Moscow suburbs forecast for this weekend: 110F. The temperatures will stay high at least until the end of July. No one (but property) was hurt in eastern Moscow, where wind tore out the trees and a construction crane.
Finally, they are talking. I mean if the Chairman of the Duma's Foreign Relations Committee Konstantin Kosachev is saying things like that, it means something. Whether he consulted with the Kremlin before making such a bold and courageous statement or not is an open question, but when a man of his statue says that "our society is to no lesser extent the victim of the erstwhile regime, was no less articulate in condemning the crimes of Stalin's totalitarianism, and acted on its own, without external intervention and democratically, to remove the communist ideology from power," it tells you a lot.
Let us be fair. It is not easy for the country's leaders while the Communist Party (CPRF) still gets around 15 percent of the votes to say publicly that the Soviet system were a criminal one. And most likely the main reason why Lenin's tomb is still sitting on the Red Square is that no one wants CPRF to increase its ratings by getting their people on the streets to defend their beloved corpse.
Continue reading "Separating Russian from Soviet" »
Street thermometer shows 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in Russia's fourth largest city of Nizhny Novgorod. (Photo by RIA Novosti)
I am not sure if the snowcaps are melting in the North Pole (there are none in Moscow), but one thing is sure: "current Russian temperatures have overtaken those in Turkey and Egypt," reports RIA Novosti, calling Russia "tropical." The situation is verging on apocalyptic, continues the agency, and many people with heart problems and diabetes have been forced to see doctors, while children are suffering from heat stroke and sunburn. Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned "We must stop any attempt to capitalize on this disaster, this drought." Moscow is forecasted to maintain
Moscow, indeed, has been sunny and hot for weeks. An 85-degree day is now considered a cooling. Parts of central Russia are hitting or expecting to hit 115F. Moscow, which is only 3 degrees south of Alaskan Juno's latitude, is not built for the African-style heat. Certain underground subway stations warmed up and reached 90F and pavement on the freeways is softening or melting. Many people do not own air conditioners. Despite the obvious dangers of the extreme heat, my friends and most Muscovites love the weather and are cancelling their plans to travel to warm-climate countries. After all, Moscow suburbs are hotter than Africa!
Visit RIA Novosti's website to see the photos of Russians enjoying the heat.
Many Western media outlets said that there has been a media blockade in Russia of the recent spy scandal. My experience in the Moscow suburbs has been quite the opposite.
When an FBI operative--posing to be a Russian agent--gave Anna Chapman a fake passport to pass it on to another "spy," she chickened out and called her father, a former KGB senior official. He told her to give up, and she went to the NYPD, reports Gazeta.ru. Yuliya Latynina of Echo Moskvi Radio station said phrases that have been repeated around Moscow: "look at that Western media! They call her [Anna Chapman] a [James] Bond girl! Katya the Cow-Girl she is; without bra and panties... In her reports to the Russian intelligence she wrote 'imagine, in America you can come into a cafÃ© with a friend and meet an important businessman; unbelievable business opportunities!' Sounds more like an opportunity for prostitution," polished off Latynina. Other outlets have also commented that the U.S. initiated the scandal to get its own spies back home safe and soon.
When Vice President Joe Biden appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last Friday night, he said it was all right that the United States only got four accused spies from Russia while giving up 10. "We got back four really good ones," said Biden. "And the 10, they've been here a long time, but they hadn't done much." When comedy host Leno showed Biden an alluring photo of accused Russian spy Anna Chapman, a darling of New York tabloids, Biden said "let me make it clear, it wasn't my idea to send her back. I thought they'd take Rush Limbaugh."
Enjoy the full photo version of the spy swap brought to you by the Russian media (in the extended post).
Continue reading "Spy Swap Photos, Coverage in Russia" »
Having visited then-Soviet and later Russian summer camps as a kid, and later having volunteered as a camp counselor in America, I have noticed the indescribable differences in attitude towards kids' safety in two countries. While the unregulated environment of Russian summer camps maybe provides for a better, wilder "summer adventure," American camps drill into camp counselors and children "safety first" and eventually provide it - the safety.
Yesterday's events in Yeysk (Krasnodar Krai) speak volumes about the degradation of Russian government and private institutions in their ensuring of children's safety. Seven camp counselors and 63 children (ages 8-16, all from Moscow), traveled by boat to a local island. Despite the signs "Swimming Strictly Prohibited" and absence of lifeguards or medical personnel, camp counselors allowed children to swim. In the meantime, counselors got drunk! While the counselors were drinking, six children disappeared. One counselor attempted to save the kids--who were being dragged into the open sea by strong currents--and died himself.
Government will cover all funeral expenses, and... that's basically it. Unlike the American Camping Association (ACA) there is no independent organization supervising summer camps' safety standards in Russia. Government officials who are supposed to fulfill the ACA's role are easily bribable, and most of them are using their 30-to-48-day vacations during summertime. An American family would see an opportunity to sue such a camp for millions of dollars. However, Russian camps do not have insurance to cover expenses associated with such legal cases, and the legal system itself does not allow for such law suits. I assume the parents of dead children can hope for about $5,000-$10,000 per child in government compensations from Moscow Mayor Luzhkov or Russian Federal government.
Continue reading "6 Children, 1 Adult Die at a Russian Summer Camp; Medvedev Orders Country-Wide Inspection" »
A friend in Moscow told me a true story. A couple weeks after the Moscow subway bombing, he was taking a train. A lady, in a traditional Muslim dress (but not in burqa), entered his subway car. All the passengers crammed--pressing each other--into the opposite side of the train car. The Muslim lady set down on the other side of the train car by herself, and started crying very hard. My friend was one of many who felt guilty, yet confused about what was right, and whose freedoms were more important. He still does not know what the right answer is. On the other hand, he told me how much he respects the U.S. for being able to fight for their freedom, yet respect each other's choices, no matter how challenging it is.
For over two centuries, America has been a free country with free people. The freedom of the nation as a whole and individual freedoms have not conflicted throughout the country's history but only complimented each other. Russia Blog's editors hope that today's ever-changing and challenging world will only strengthen America and its people. Happy Fourth of July, America!
An American friend wrote to me about the current Russian spy scandal in America: "Not good PR for you and [your friend] if he decides to go to Harvard... this is all hilarious... I'm loving all the coverage of a bunch of Russians getting paid to befriend Americans. I wish the U.S. had a program like this, I'd totally do this! Can you imagine?! I'd get my rent and tuition paid just to blurt out stuff that you can automatically look up (in even more depth) on the internet."
This ordinary American summed it all up in the brief four lines: this is funny, embarrassing, wasteful, and - most importantly - hurtful to many Russians like me--to those who honestly fight through American immigration hurdles, challenge the financial crisis to earn income, pass application tests and study hard to get American college and graduate degrees, make new life-long friends, fall in love with America's culture and natural beauty, and by default share their knowledge (and income) with Russian and American friends, families, businesses, and government agencies.
Continue reading "Thanks a Lot, Kremlin!" »