“Really Frightening”: Trees Dry Up and Toadstools Vanish in Karelia After Explosion near Severodvinsk

“Really Frightening”: Trees Dry Up and Toadstools Vanish in Karelia After Explosion near Severodvinsk
Guberniya Daily
August 22, 2019

Residents of Karelia’s Kem District have sounded the alarm. Tree in the district have turned yellow and mushrooms have disappeared after the explosion near Severodvinsk, they claim.

“Ten days after [the accident], the vegetation on the islands in the White Sea near the settlement of Rabocheostrovsk took on a very unhealthy appearance. I get the impression the trees, grass, and moss burned flamelessly. Even toadstools and fly agaric, habitues of these locales, have disappeared on the islands. I would like you to clarify whether any tests will be made, what the republic’s government plans to do in general in response to this issue, and how people’s health will be affected,” a user identified as “Irina Kudryashova” wrote in a letter to Karelian Governor Arthur Parfenchikov, which she also posted on the VK wall “City of Kem Public Oversight.

Kudryashova posted the following photos to back up her claims. She also posted a short video entitled “Yak Island Today August 18, 2019.”

In the same thread, someone identified as “Galina Ivankova” wrote that she was “really frightened.”

“Some men from Belomorsk went out to sea, but when they got to Shuyiretskoye there were warships at anchor there and a yellow cloud overhead. They got turned back: they weren’t allowed to go out into the sea. So welcome to Chernobyl Karelia. Thanks to the mad nuclear scientists,” a person identified as “Oleg Bachanov” wrote in another discussion on the same wall.

“The situation is the same on Yak Island: everything withered and dried in no time. In recent years, especially after 2009, I have noticed that, from the north and the northeast, all the woods and grass on the islands look as if they have been covered in brown paint. There are no berries or mushrooms in these patches,” replied a user identified as “Sandro Avtushenko.”

On August 8, a liquid rocket propulsion system exploded during testing on an offshore platform in the Arkhangelsk Region. Eight Rosatom employees [sic] were hurt; five of them were killed. Fearing radiation, residents of Severodvinsk and Arkhangelsk made a run on iodine in pharmacies.

After the explosion, radiation levels were sixteen times higher than normal in Severodvinsk. Higher levels of background radiation were also recorded in Norway a week after the blast.

Translated by the Russian Reader. NB. The original text was heavily edited to reflect the fact that the claims cited in the article were made by four discrete users on a VK community wall in Kem, Republic of Karelia, not by an indefinitely large number of “residents.”

areaThe area of Northwest Russia, encompassing parts of the Republic of Karelia and Arkhangelsk Region, discussed in the article. Image courtesy of Google Maps

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Putin Says No Radiation Threat from Recent Explosion, But Mum on Details of Accident
The Associated Press (via CBC News)
Aug 21, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Wednesday that a recent deadly explosion at a military testing site in northwestern Russia hasn’t posed any radiation threat, but he remained coy about the circumstances of the mysterious incident.

Speaking after talks in Helsinki with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Putin emphasized that neighboring nations haven’t recorded any spike in radioactivity.

“These are the objective data,” he said. “These things can be tracked.”

The Aug. 8 incident at the Russian navy’s range in Nyonoksa on the White Sea killed two servicemen and five nuclear engineers. It was followed by a brief rise in radiation levels in nearby Severodvinsk, but the authorities insisted the recorded levels didn’t pose any danger to local residents.

Russian officials’ changing and contradictory accounts of the incident drew comparisons to Soviet attempts to cover up the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

The Russian Defense Ministry at first denied any radiation leak in the incident even as the authorities in nearby Severodvinsk reported a brief rise in radiation levels and advised residents to stay indoors and close the windows. Frightened residents rushed to buy iodine, which can help reduce risks from exposure to radiation.

Russia’s state weather and environmental monitoring agency said the peak radiation reading in Severodvinsk on Aug. 8 was 1.78 microsieverts per hour in just one neighborhood, about 16 times the average. Peak readings in other parts of Severodvinsk varied between 0.45 and 1.33 microsieverts.

The announced peak levels were indeed lower than the cosmic radiation that plane passengers are exposed to on longer flights or doses that patients get during some medical scans.

No detail on weapon tested
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CNTBTO) said earlier this week that several Russian radiation monitoring stations went silent shortly after the explosion in Nyonoksa. Lassina Zebro, the organization’s executive secretary, said Tuesday that the two Russian stations reported to be offline were back in operation and are now backfilling the data.

Observers said that several stations coming offline at the same time appeared to reflect a coordinated effort to conceal the radiation data, which could help identify the technology that was being tested at the time of the explosion.

Putin hailed the victims, saying they were doing “very important work for the nation’s security,” but kept mum on what type of weapon they were testing.

Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom said the explosion occurred on an offshore platform during tests of a “nuclear isotope power source” for a rocket engine, a statement that led some experts to conclude that the weapon undergoing tests was the Burevestnik (Storm Petrel), a prospective nuclear-powered cruise missile first mentioned by Putin in 2018 that was code-named Skyfall by NATO.

U.S. President Donald Trump has backed that theory in a tweet, saying that the U.S. is “learning much” from the deadly explosion. In a tweet, he said, “The Russian Skyfall explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!”

The U.S. worked to develop a nuclear-powered missile in the 1960s under Project Pluto, but abandoned the technology as too unstable and risky.

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Sandarmokh: Rewriting History with Shovels

content_IMG_9455“Alternative” excavations at Sandarmokh. Photo by Irina Tumakova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Sifting through History: The “Alternative” Excavations at Sandarmokh Are Meant to Shift the Public’s Attention from Great Terror Victims to WWII Casualties
Pavel Aptekar
Vedomosti
August 20, 2019

The ongoing excavations by the Russian Military History Society (RVIO) at the Sandarmokh site in [Russian] Karelia, where political prisoners were shot during the Great Terror, reflects the desire of Russian officials to switch the public’s attention to the Second World War.

In August, RVIO employees and a Defense Ministry search battalion resumed digging at Sandarmokh. Karelian Culture Minister Alexei Lesonen said the objective was to “separate artifacts having to do with different layers of history and different circumstances.”

It is a matter of words matching deeds. In 1997, local historian Yuri Dmitriev discovered the mass graves of people shot by the NKVD in 1937–1938. Thanks to Dmitriev’s efforts, Sandarmokh became a symbol of the Great Terror.

International Memorial Society board member Sergei Krivenko puts a number on it: archival documents have confirmed that over 6,100 people were shot and buried at Sandarmokh during the Great Terror.

In keeping with the Kremlin’s policy of “inculcating pride in the past,” the authorities have attempted, in recent years, to diminish Sandarmokh’s status as a memorial site. The authorities have tried to discredit Dmitriev and, by his extension, his work by charging him in a notorious “pedophilia” case [in which two men have already been convicted and sentenced, including Sergei Koltyrin, former director of the Medvezhyegorsk Museum and an ally of Dmitriev’s]. They have claimed Memorial’s figures for the number of victims are inflated. They have pushed an alternate account that the Finnish Army shot and buried Soviet POWS at Sandarmokh between 1941 and 1944.

The RVIO’s August–September 2018 expedition turned up the remains of five people. Historian Sergei Verigin said they corroborated the hypothesis about Soviet POWS because the executed people had not been stripped before they were shot and foreign-made shell casings were found next to them. This proves nothing, however. The NKVD used foreign-made weapons when it executed its prisoners [22,000 Polish officers and members of the Polish intelligentsia] at Katyn, nor have the RVIO established when exactly the people whose remains they found were killed.

The Karelian Culture Ministry has asked the RVIO to keep digging. Officials there are convinced that “speculation about events in Sandarmokh […] reinforces in the public’s mind a baseless sense of guilt towards the alleged [Great Terror] victims […] becoming a consolidating factor for anti-government forces in Russia.”

The RVIO did not respond to our request to comment on the claim that the people shot and buried at Sandarmokh were “alleged victims.” They keep digging In early August, the remains of five more people were found.

Memorial has demanded an end to the excavations, fearing the mass graves will be disturbed. Archaeologists have also sounded a warning because the traces of dwelling sites used by prehistoric people have been found at Sandarmokh as well and they could be damaged.

The problem, however, is not that artifacts could get mixed up. The problem is there is no comparison between the maximum possible number of Soviet POWs executed and buried at Sandarmokh, as estimated by the Karelian Culture Ministry, and the confirmed numbers of victims of Stalin’s terror campaign who are buried there: 500 versus over 6,100.

The digs at Sandarmokh are a clumsy attempt by Russian officials to alter the meaning of the memorial site and rewrite the past with shovels. More importantly, officials want to juggle the numbers of victims and thus gaslight the Russian public.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Without Fathers, a video made by Anna Artemieva and Gleb Limansky, and published by Novaya Gazeta on August 7, 2017. The annotation reads, “The orphans of Sandarmokh remember their executed relatives. Historian Yuri Dmitriev did not attend memorial day ceremonies there for the first time in twenty years. He is on trial, charged with ‘manufacturing child pornography.'” 

Monetochka, “Burn Burn Burn”

The stats don’t lie, alas
Surveys and forms
Bad numbers, a hard year
But I sing in vain

I replace fabric with foil
Paste a bandage on my webcam
You can’t swing a cat without hitting
The wall-to-wall government

It’s gray and dressed in designer jeans
An absurdity, a caricature
It’s funny: culture has ended
In a multicultural country

The lights are out, the coffin’s made
And I’m cloud sad
In the land of Yesenin’s poems
Art is finished

(Refrain)
Now there’s only ash on the ground
Dig and search where you like, not a soul around
Burn, my country, burn
Don’t put it out, oh, don’t put it out, don’t put it out

The piano in the city park
Is really quite upset
Someone terrible bangs on it
A blue note blacker than night

A boondocks Banksy roams there
In a black hoodie
The lines he spray-paints on the corners
Are the words to this song

The rap of Moscow parties
And northern suburbs blackens
While in my black robe I pray
And my God hears: amen

God sees the shining cross
But I know it won’t help
For there are few too white spots
On my black skin

(Refrain 2x)
Now there’s only ash on the ground
Dig and search where you like: not a soul around
Burn, my country, burn
Don’t put it, oh, don’t put it out, don’t put it out

_______________________________________

Monetochka
VK
August 9, 2019

PREMIERE!

💿💿💿

Monetochka, “Burn Burn Burn”

News about the forest fires in Russia appears in our news feeds less and less frequently, but the problem has not gone away. Today, August 9, the peak of the forest fires was recorded, and yet firefighters are battling the blazes in only seven percent of the affected areas. We have to deal with his problem not only by taking emergency measures but also by engaging in year-round prevention. Volunteer forest fighters tell children and adults about the fires and help extinguish outbreaks at the early stages. But they lack money for training and doing their jobs.

All the money raised when people listen to this track on streaming services will go to purchase backpack pumps, spray guns, and navigators. It will also cover other vital expenditures in Greenpeace Russia’s campaign to combat fires in natural areas, including amending school textbooks, some of which have been found to give erroneous advice on extinguishing and preventing fires.

From August 16, the new track will be available on all other venues. As soon as we get the first stats on the number of listens, we will start helping out financially. Reports will be posted here and on other social networks.

Let’s make the world better together. 💚

For more details, go to https://pomo.sh/monetochka

monetochka-burning

On August 9, Valentin Tarabrin commented, “These fires are a cover-up for illegal deforestation. Millions of hectares are being cut down. Open Google Map and you will see nothing is left of Siberia. These fires are deliberate arson.”

Image courtesy of Monetochka’s VK wall. Translated by the Russian Reader

Greenpeace Russia: Siberian Wildfires Are Planetary Disaster

49754589_303A satellite view of the forest fires in Siberia, July 21, 2019. Courtesy of Deutsche Welle

Wildfires in Siberia becoming a planetary-scale disaster
Gismeteo
July 29, 2019

Grigory Kuksin, the head of Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting project, called wildfires in Siberia and the Far East a planetary-scale disaster.

Smoke from fires usually moves east or north, but this time it is moving west. Thus, the smoke has engulfed Siberian cities and has reached the Urals. The smell of burning is reported in the Volga Region and Tatarstan.

The wind that changed its direction is expected to bring the smoke to Kamchatka. It may even reach other continents across the ocean, which means it will become a planetary-scale disaster.

Kuksin believes that the smoke will continue to affect the region for a few more weeks. Heavy rain is needed to extinguish such a large fire, but no precipitation is expected.

The expert believes it necessary to reconsider the area of control and implement special measures to avoid similar situations in the future.

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Why There Are So Many Forest Fires in Russia
The scale and aftermath of the disasters are exacerbated by the consumerist mindset of authorities and the lack of resources in a weak economy
Vladimir Ruvinsky
Vedomosti
July 29, 2019

Dense smoke from forest fires has covered cities in Siberia, the Urals, and the Volga region. The fires could have been dealt with at an early stage, but regional authorities avoid fighting fires when they can avoid it due to a lack of money and means.

According to Greenpeace Russia, the fires have encompassed over three million hectares of forest, an area comparable in size to Belgium. The total for the spring and summer of 2019 is eleven million hectares, an area larger than Portugal. During this century, 2003 and 2012 saw worse fire seasons, but Grigory Kuksin of Greenpeace Russia says the records set during those years will probably be beaten this week. Usually, the smoke from the fires drifts towards the sparsely populated east and north. This year, however, the fires have attracted more attention since the smoke has drifted westwards, towards Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, and Kazan.

The current fires are largely a consequence of decision-making by Russian authorities. More than 90% are the burning fires are located in so-called monitoring zones, areas where regional authorities may not fight fires if the expenditures on extinguishing exceed the damage they cause. This regulation was adopted in 2015 when Russian federal authorities basically legalized what had been an implicit rule during Soviet times. But the Soviet authorities had, in fact, fought fires in remote areas. Nowadays, regional governors are not officially obliged to fight them. They take advantage of this, especially because they lack money and equipment.

While Russia has lots of woodlands, its economy is too week to fight all forest fires. Kuksin argues that the gigantic monitoring zones could be decreased while increasing prevention measures and using available resources to better effect. Most fires are caused by people: they are mainly sparked when loggers burn residue wood in logging areas.  Such fires could definitely be put out immediately, but local authorities have made a practice of refusing to fight them. They are the major cause of the biggest fires, which have turned into insoluble problems that only the rains can solve.

The way the authorities see things, the anticipated costs of putting out fires in the monitoring zones are always higher than the damage caused by them. The damage caused by forest fires is primarily calculated in terms of the minimum price of timber. This cost can be written off (and if not, there is no damage), i.e., forest fires often cost almost nothing in terms of official damages. However, as Konstantin Kobyakov, an environmentalist at WWF Russia, points outs, Russia loses three times more forest in fires annually (three million hectares) than the forest industry removes (one million hectares), meaning the country already faces a deficit of woodlands that will only keep growing.

Kuksin recalls that gas and oil industry infrastructure, such as pipelines, is located in the monitoring zones, and uncontrolled blazes are approaching hundreds of villages and small towns. Damage assessment does not account for air and water pollution or the real harm caused to people’s health by acrid smoke, which is harder to calculate but does considerably increase mortality. In addition, stable high-pressure systems have formed over the gigantic fire zone in Siberia, triggering abnormally heavy rains along the perimeter. The fires generate a lot of greenhouse gases and soot, which accelerates the melting of arctic ice and climate change, meaning they increase the risk of more fires in the future.

Translated by the Russian Reader

(disseminating information containing hidden insertions affecting the subconscious human mind)

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Yakutsk Reporter Fined for Violating Law on Freedom of Mass Information
OVD Info
July 25, 2019

The Yakutsk City Court has fined journalist Mikhail Romanov 30,000 rubles for violating Article 13.15.9 of the Administrative Offenses Code (abusing freedom of mass information), Interfax reports.

Earlier, it was reported a beat cop had charged Romanov with violating Article 13.15.1 of the Administrative Offenses Code (disseminating information containing hidden insertions affecting the subconscious human mind)

Administrative charges were filed against Yakutsk vechernii (The Evening Yakutsk) reporter Mikhail Romanov after he published an article in April about Yakutsk libertarian Anton Ammosov. Romanov’s article detailed how Ammosov, a former employee of the Northeast Federal University, was beaten by FSB officers, threatened with torture, and had his home searched for posting comments about the Network case and the suicide bombing at the FSB’s offices in Arkhangelsk.

OVD Info has published Ammosov’s story.

Romanov told OVD Info about his interrogation at a police station on July 4. He noted then that the charges against him had been filed at the FSB’s behest.

Earlier, Ammosov recounted that, in November 2018, he was suddenly detained and taken to the local FSB headquarters, where he was beaten, threatened with torture by electric shock, and interrogated after he posted comments on the website ykt.ru.

In January 2019, Ammosov learned that he had been fired from his job. After reports of Ammosov’s persecution were published, an FSB field officer who had interrogated him hinted there would be consequences for this.

Image courtesy of ResearchGate. Translated by the Russian Reader

Smog in Siberia, Fires No One Puts Out

fullscreen-1oaq“Help! We’re suffocating.” A message from Achinsk in Krasnoyarsk Territory in Siberia. Courtesy of instagram.com/ksyushenka_shapotkina and Vedomosti

Smog Has Engulfed Cities in the Urals and Siberia
Vedomosti
July 24, 2019

Nearly 2,000,000 hectares of forest are burning in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Almost no attempt is made to extinguish them since most of the fires are burning in remote areas where the cost of fighting the fires exceeds the cost of the damage they can cause [sic].

Translated by the Russian Reader. For the full album of horrifying photos of smoke-engulfed cities in the Urals and Siberia, click this link.

fullscreen-1nuyUst-Ilimsk, Irkutsk Region (Siberia), Russian Federation. Courtesy of instagram.com/anastasiahaimovskaya and Vedomosti

fullscreen-1pgyKrasnoyarsk. Courtesy of instagram.com/nadyapinchuk and Vedomosti

 

Anastasia Shevchenko: 174 Days Under House Arrest for Thought Crimes

shevchenko“Anastasia Shevchenko has spent 174 days under house arrest.” The boxed caption in the lower lefthand corner (“Criminal Code Article 284.1”) is a reference to the charges on which Shevchenko was indicted. Russian Criminal Code Article 284.1, adopted in 2015, criminalizes “engaging in the work of a foreign or international non-governmental organization that has been deemed undesirable.” Open Russia was declared an “undesirable” organization by the Russian Prosecutor General in April 2017. Shevchenko, an Open Russia activist, is the first person indicted under Article 284.1 since it was adopted. Image courtesy of Pravozashchita Otkrytki, Open Russia’s civil rights project.

Pravozashchita Otkrytki
Telegram
July 16, 2019

The house arrest of Anastasia Shevchenko has been extended again, this time until August 20, 2019.

During a hearing at the Lenin District Court in Rostov-on-Don, the state investigator asked the judge to extend Shevchenko’s house arrest for two months, that is, until September 17, 2019. He claimed there were many forensic examinations that needed to be analyzed. Pravozashchita Otkrytki lawyer Sergei Kovalevich said no new evidence had been entered into the case file during the last six months and no investigation was underway.

The prosecutor supported the state investigator, arguing Shevchenko was a possible flight risk. Pravozashchita Otkrytki lawyer Sergei Badamshin reminded the court, however, that Shevchenko’s foreign travel passport had been confiscated by the state investigator.

The conditions of Shevchenko’s house arrest are the strictest. She cannot go for walks, communicate with strangers, and use communication devices. By comparison, people jailed in Russian remand prisons are allowed regular walks and are not prohibited from communicating with other people.

Translated by the Russian Reader