Welcome to Awful Avalanche, I hope you will read and enjoy my posts!
Welcome to Awful Avalanche, I hope you will read and enjoy my posts!
Enough time has passed that some sociological analysis can be done on criminal recidivism rates among the Wagner forces. Although, to be sure, it is probably not a scientific study when the Wagner chief Evgeny Prigozhin does it himself, and just throws out some numbers. But still, it’s something.
This piece reports on some statements coming out of Prigozhin’s press service. Here are some facts offered by the chief in regard to criminals serving in the Special Military Operation (SMO):
More than 5,000 former criminals, having served out their military contract with the Wagner organization in the SMO, have returned to civilian life with a full pardon. Amongst these, the criminal recidivism rate over the past month is 0.31%.
Which is 10-20 times lower than the normal recidivism rate among these types of criminals, according to Prigozhin. Prigozhin went on to say that crime in general, in Russia, has gone down 10 times since the start of the war. [yay!?]
One example of a successful recidivist: Ben Akhmed Sherif, a native of Tunisia, arrived in Russia around 10 years ago and settled in St. Petersburg where, as his photo shows, he engaged in fire-eating. Back in 2021 he was sentenced to one and half years in a labor colony, his crime being attempted robbery. After barely serving a year, Ben was pardoned by President Putin himself, in July 2022, and went marching off to war, as a Wagnerite. For about half a year he served bravely and received a medal of Valor. Then was discharged with a handsome payout of 1.1 million rubles [around $14,000 American dollars].
Sadly, within just a month or so after his discharge, Ben was detained again, this time for stealing two bicycles, a “Forward” and a “Skill Bike”, worth 18,000 and 15,000 rubles respectively [roughly around $200 bucks]. It is unclear from the narrative if the African native stole these bikes after returning from the SMO, or if (more likely) these were two older crimes that had just come to light and never been accounted for (указывая на непогашенную судимость). Either way, the Prosecution wanted to throw the book at him and send him back to the colony.
Russia is one of those European nations which follow the Code Napoleon (as opposed to English Common Law), what this means in practice is that the prosecution usually gets what it wants.
However, in this case, Ben’s attorney was apparently able to mount a successful defense. The judges took into account the following factors: Ben had lived in Russia for 10 years and has ties to the community, including a family (2 children from a previous marriage). The court also took into account Ben’s previous pardon (by Putin himself), and his valorous service in the SMO. In the end the court decided to leave Ben his freedom. Ben plans to apply for Russian citizenship.
“And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.” (Judges 9:45)
Thus doth Biblical mythology record the story of Israelite leader Abimelech, as he conquered the Canaanite city of Shechem. The story then gets even uglier, as the Israelites commit a Khatyn-type atrocity against the Shechemites, herding a thousand men and women into a “hold” and setting them on fire. I remember as a child, studying the Old Testament, this is one of the reasons I became an atheist even at a young age: I simply couldn’t relate positively to any of this, and always found myself rooting for the “wrong” side. Like, those who worshipped Ba’al and stuff like that…
Anyhow, the lead here is not the fire, but the bit about salting the earth, thus making it uninhabitable. Whether or not that actually happened historically (or to other places like Carthage), this is the meme that continues to this day. The idea being that you hate another people so much that you want to destroy their very sustenance, the land itself.
This is how the Russian mainstream press is treating the news that Great Britain plans to gift Schnorer-state Ukraine with anti-tank shells containing depleted uranium. The latter element being the only metal that is hard enough to penetrate Russian armor. These shells will be delivered to the Ukrainian army, along with the Challenger 2 tanks. Russians claim that the ensuing dust particles (when the shells explode) will harm all biological life and ruin the land itself; and that this is one of the criminal intentions going into this plan. A genocidal plot against the citizens and future citizens of these new Russian regions, in other words. (Personally, I don’t doubt that. I think the main purpose is to penetrate tank armor; but the English leaders also like the added side-benefit of harming Russian children.)
However, the British Ministry of Defense pooh-poohs the danger and accuses Russia of disinformation. They say the Russians exaggerate the risk posed by the depleted-uranium shells; and are deliberately trying to muddle people’s brains by confusing “depleted uranium” with nuclear weapons.
To help explain these issues, I have this article by reporter Alyona Zadorozhnaya. So let’s get started.
Zadorozhnaya: The world has already witnessed the consequences of using depleted-uranium shells. Judging by everything, Great Britain is deliberately creating an oncological threat for future generations of these new Russian regions. This, according to military expert Alexander Bartosh, who was interviewed by VZGLIAD.
Bartosh: “I would strongly recommend to the British leadership, that they test this out on their own citizens and in their own territories. And not on people from other nations, like they and the Americans did to the peoples of Iraq and Yugoslavia.
“At the end of the 90’s start of the 2000’s I happened to be working as the Russian Deputy Military Liason to NATO. And I saw with my own eyes the consequences of these barbaric shellings on the territory of Kosovo. According to scientists, the mortality rate there from oncological causes rose significantly. And we see a similar situation in the southern regions of Serbia [where average cancer rates went up].
“Hence, Britain’s declarations on this matter — this is a war crime, and they are attempting to confuse public opinion. The use of depleted-uranium shells should be banned at the highest levels, including the UN.
“Use of these shells in the Donbass region will harm not only the Donbass, but the other new Russian regions. The chemical element can affect humans even decades after the fact. In this manner, Britain is deliberately causing damage to future generations.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova had some very harsh words for the English: “This is a question of the most egregious form of impunity of the Anglo-Saxons. The Anglo-Saxon duet to be precise, London and Washington, and how they operate on the international arena. The people who will be affected by this are not only those who reside in the affected area, they and future generations; those who employ these weapons will also suffer.”
[Zakharova is referring to the fact that soldiers who work with, and transport, these depleted-uranium shells, are also shown to have high cancer rates. All it takes is one particle of dust, entering your body…]
On March 22, 1943, exactly 80 years ago from yesterday, the German Nazis committed the infamous Khatyn massacre in Belorussia.
The Nazi Schutzmannschaft (Police) Battalion 118 destroyed most of the population of the village of Khatyn, as a retaliation for pro-Soviet partisan activities. The villagers were burned alive inside a shed.
This has all been known historically, but many details were concealed from the public for 80 years. Many secrets were kept, especially on the Soviet side. The overriding concern was to keep the peace and prevent internal-Soviet ethnic conflicts from destroying the harmony of the state. A lot of unpleasant facts were swept under the rug, under the pretense that “all good Ukrainians and Belorussians” fought side by side as Soviet heroes, and that all the bad things were done by the Germans. Khatyn was pigeon-holed as “Germans burning Belorussians alive.”
In my opinion, the Soviet government should have looked their own people in the face, told them the raw truth about the Ukrainian Banderites, especially during all those long years (post-war) of anti-guerrilla operations against the CIA-funded Ukrainian terrorists. Instead of all the happy talk about national unity in the face of foreign aggression.
Well, the gloves are off now, as are the rose-tinted glasses. Protocols that were classified as “top secret, never to be published”, have been published for the world to see.
The anti-hero of this story is a man named Ostap Fedorovich Knap, born 14 September 1922 in a town near Lvov when that city was still part of the Polish Republic. An ethnic Ukrainian, Knap was an ordinary worker without much education, who made a living as a welder. When war broke out he served in the German 118th and participated in punitive actions, including Khatyn. In June 1945 he ably switched sides and served in the Soviet army [most likely concealing his past and telling the officers some fairy tale about his whereabouts].
The wheels of justice grind slow, so many collaborators, so little time… On 19 October 1973 Karma finally reached Knap’s doorstep. On 15 March 1974 he was convicted of “betrayal of the Motherland” by the High Court of the Belorussian SSR. He was sentenced to death by firing squad; but, upon appeal, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Belorussian SSR, commuted his sentence (24 April 1975) to 15 years in prison.
Knap served his term in a labor camp called Perm-36. On 18 June 1987, a general amnesty was declared as part of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution. As part of this amnesty, Knap had his sentence reduced to the point where he became a free man on 23 February 1988.
The new information, just recently revealed, is that Knap was interviewed that same year, 1988, in the Belorussian Prosecutor’s Office. The interview is called an “interrogation”, even though Knap was either freed by then, or about to be freed. [Maybe the interview was a sort of allocution required for his release?]
The transcript of this “interrogation” was classified as Top Secret with no statute of limitations. The (Soviet) public was never supposed to see this information. But the current Russian government decided to de-classify and release it. No doubt in the hopes of de-mystifying Ukrainian “heroes” in the eyes of the public. As if the Russian public isn’t already becoming ferociously anti-Ukrainian. The mini-bombshell in this particular protocol, is the news that most of the burning and shooting was performed by Ukrainians, not Germans. To people in the West, especially historians, this is not actually much of a bombshell. But people have to realize that a lot of this was hidden from people growing up in the Soviet Union. That’s why these kinds of archives were labelled Top Secret.
Knap recounted how the Ukrainian Politsai of the 118th Battalion herded the villages into the barn. They posted a Ukrainian named Leshchenko at the doors, with a machine gun, to shoot anybody who tried to flee. Knap and other Ukrainians also shot at people after the barn had been set on fire. They used stationary machine-guns, hand-held machine guns, and even just pistols and rifles to shoot the Belorussian peasants.
The 118th was in a fact a mainly ethnic Ukrainian Battalion, formed on the basis of the Bukovina cell of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). That was the same group that did the much more famous Babiy Yar atrocity. In Khatyn, the 118th operated jointly alongside the SS Special Battalion commanded by Oskar Dirlewanger. As reporter Anton Antonov notes, during Soviet times the role of the Hitlerites was emphasized, and the eager participation of the Ukrainian punishers was more or less swept under the rug. For reasons that we have mentioned.
One might also note, in passing, that the Ukrainian Banderites perfected the tactic of burning people alive, this was almost like their Signature tune. The same tactic that their physical and ideological descendants were to employ 71 years later, on May 2, 2014 in Odessa.
Even before this war started, in fact going back even years and decades, the Western world has launched a racist crusade against Russian athletes. Branding them as cheaters and dopers, and eventually managing to exclude them from international competitions. In many sports, with Russian athletes out of the way, this allowed the U.S. and its client states to sweep the podium unfairly. Don’t even get me started on figure skating, the unseemly humiliations and denigrations to which Russian elite athletes have been subjected…
This story comes from another winter sport: Cross-country ski racing. The reporter is Dmitry Zubarev, who covers the ski beat. His source is a woman named Elena Valerievna Vyal’be, who heads the Federation of [Nordic] Ski Racers for the Russian Federation. This organization, in turn, is a member of the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS). Or rather, was a member, until expelled, last year. The FIS is the governing body for international skiing and snowboarding, founded in 1924 during the first Olympic Games in Chamonix, France. It claims 135 member nations. Problem: It’s a Westie institution, based in Oberhofen, Switzerland. Due to this flaw in its genesis, it is anti-Russian to the core and goes along with the typical negative propaganda and discrimination against Russian athletes.
According to Vyal’be, FIS Head Johan Eliasch “made a phone call to our Secretary-General”, and from the tone of the call, the message was clear: Eliasch wants Russia to return to the fold. Reason being: Sales are down, viewer interest in the sport has declined, without the thrill of competing against Russia. [yalensis: viewer interest in televized cock-fighting declined for much the same reason; little joke there…] As we shall see below, Eliasch comes from the world of business so the bottom line is important to him. But not as important as overriding ideological considerations.
Russia is definitely interested in returning, Russians love to compete in all international organizations. But wait, there’s a catch!
According to Vyal’be, Eliasch placed two conditions: Firstly, Russians cannot compete under the national flag; they have to compete as stateless beings. In the past, Russia has sucked it up and accepted this humiliating condition at various competitions. But the second condition is more onerous: The FIS demands that each Russian athlete sign a sort of loyalty pledge to the West: “They demand that the Russian athletes either verbally or in written form, confirm that they do not support the Special Military Operation.”
Vyal’be replied to Eliasch: “None of our athletes will stoop to this.” Personally, I wish she had said something a little bit stronger to him. Like: “I will cut your head off and sh*t down your neckhole.”
I mean, as a mind experiment, imagine this scenario: You are signing up for your neighborhood bowling league, but they demand you sign a pledge that you never voted for Biden. I mean, even if you did vote for Trump, you should be outraged, because your political views are none of their f*ing business!
Eliasch, by the way, reading his wiki bio, is both Swedish and English at the same time. He has been a businessman and politician before taking the FIS gig. According to wiki he helped to destroy the Amazon Rain Forest in 2008, although the charges against his logging company were later dropped.
It also seems that not everybody was happy with Eliasch’s election to the FIS:
“At the 53rd International Ski Congress in May 2022, Eliasch ran unopposed and was re-elected as FIS president through 2026 but some delegates called the elections undemocratic as it was not possible to vote against him; as a result 15 national associations walked out during his election and 40 % of the delegates abstained.“
Well, he seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t really believe in democracy anyhow. At least not freedom of speech and thought. In that respect, he seems more like the Spanish Inquisition. And nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition to head an international sports association.
Sports should be neutral.
Yesterday (March 20), fresh from his Crimean trip, President Putin met with a bunch of African leaders in Moscow. I love this photo:
I am too ignorant to know who any of these people are (except for Putin), but I note that most of them are wearing nice suits and ties (well, a couple of robes or daishikis, but at least no green tee-shirts, thank goodness!) I particularly like the guy in the cowboy hat, whoever he is.
Truly Putin and his team of Doubles [little joke there] have been super-busy this week: First the Crimea and Mariupol road trips, then this African conference, and his big meeting with Xi. I don’t know where this guy gets the energy…
Anyhow, I have to admit that it warms the cockles of my heart to see Russia making such good friends in Africa. There is a lot of work to be done there, rebuilding the old ties that existed in Soviet times. And so many years wasted in the futile pursuit of Old Europe. Who turned out to be a painted puppet, a mechanical doll. Just like ETA Hoffmann’s dancing doll, Olympia, manipulated by the evil masterminds Coppélius and Spalanzani (=American Neo-Cons, in this analogy). As Hoffmann’s muse Nicklaus chides him: “What is the point in loving an inanimate object who does not have a soul?”
As more news comes in about the conference, we learn that Putin has made a very generous offer to African nations worried about food insecurity. I don’t want to get into the so-called “Grain Deal” just now, it’s a topic for a whole post unto itself. (Stay tuned.) I’ll just say that the Westies tried to portray Ukraine as the Feeder of the World, and Russia as the bad guy trying to starve needy nations. While, in reality, it was the other way around: Ukraine and its Western sponsors were cynically using the grain deal to transfer weapons right under the eyes of gullible Russians, and then routing Ukrainian grain to Europe anyhow. I read that most of the grain went to feed European pigs. [Literally: pigs, not people.]
Hence, I think this is a very smart move on Putin’s part. In essence he has promised free wheat to gluten-tolerant but deserving African nations: “I would like to add the following,” Putin announced to the African leaders. “Should we be forced to cancel the [grain] deal after 60 days, then we promise to send the same amount of grain from Russia that was shipped in the previous period, and which was promised to especially needy African countries; and we will ship it for free. There will be no charge for the wheat.”
Putin went on to say that Russia also wanted to send them free fertilizer, but the West won’t let them: “You realize that a part of our frozen assets are in European countries. Including fertilizer. We already shipped one portion of this product, and are prepared to ship the next portion, without charge. Unfortunately, they are putting up obstacles to this.
“I wish to underscore, that our country fulfills all of its obligations in an honest manner, both regarding shipments of food, fertilizer, fuel, and other products that are critical for the nations of the [African] continent. In this way we contribute to their food and energy security.”
Today continuing (and concluding) my review of this piece by reporter Yury Zainashev. We left off in the middle of an interesting interview with Sergei Tsekov, a veteran parliamentarian who represents Crimean interests in the upper ranks of the Russian government.
VZGLIAD: Immediately after Crimea’s reunification, there was a state of euphoria. But then, after about a year had passed, I heard that the prices of goods started rising sharply. Some people in Crimea started grumbling that “things were better under Ukraine.”
Tsekov: The feeling of joy continues to this day. People can see what is happening in Ukraine, they compare it with their current life in Crimea, and once again are convinced: The choice they made in 2014 was the correct one.
As for the prices, it’s true that they really did go up, higher than in Ukraine, for a while. But you have to take into account that in Ukraine not only the pensions, but even the salaries are relatively low, so you can’t sell goods at high prices if the purchasing power of the population is so low. That’s just the dictates of the market. Over time, gradually, in Crimea the prices started to level off, and became comparable to those of the neighboring Krasnodar Region [in the Russian mainland]. Also, if you compare with Moscow, prices here are generally lower.
And so, in general, I don’t see any deep regrets on the part of the overwhelming majority of Crimeans. As in, oh, our lives would have been better if we had stayed in Ukraine? No, I don’t see any signs of that. Even stipulating that, yes, certain products in Ukraine are cheaper than here, even now, but still the quality of life is better in Russia. And taking into account that our daily lives don’t just consist of the price of food, but also many other factors. Like transportation, schools, and so on.
VZGLIAD: Being completely objective, the social sphere of Ukraine might have been better in some ways? But now the new regions — Donbass, Kherson, and Zaporozhie — are switching over to the Russian way. Is it worth it for them to keep something of the Ukrainian experience?
Tsekov: From the point of view of real wages, everything was of an order lower, and has remained to this day. The pension age in Ukraine starts earlier, but it is a big question, how much these pensions are worth, and what are the chances of living to that age? Thus, in terms of the social sphere, the new regions do not need to keep anything from the old Ukrainian system. That is excluded.
Everything was miserable, pathetic. The pensions are still being paid, perhaps, to this very day, but just look at the prices for communal services. There is no comparison with Russian prices: gas, electricity, water. Everything is much more expensive [in Ukraine] than in Russia.
In this way, in terms of money, the older generation in the new territories will lose nothing, just as we [in Crimea] lost nothing. We only gained. After the reunification, Crimean pensions went up, by an order of magnitude, higher than they used to be under Ukraine. In 2014 our pensioners immediately felt the difference: They saw that they had started to receive 2-3 times more. And pretty much the same thing will happen with the new territories as well.
VZGLIAD: What would you say are the sharpest social and economic problems faced by the residents of the new regions?
Tsekov: The infrastructure is completely worn out: the water pipes, the roads, the bridges, street lights, hospitals, schools, kindergartens. Everything is in a horrible condition, similar to the way Crimea was, 9 years ago. Practically all of the years we spent as part of Ukraine, up until 2014, practically everything was destroyed or fell apart, everything that we had inherited from the Soviet Union.
I think that the first stage of this process [for the new regions] will somewhat resemble Crimea during the years 2015-16. Or perhaps will be better. Kherson is an agrarian region. The Khersonites always provided Crimea with their products, and now they will be able to move their goods freely into Crimea. I think that the farmers in the new regions should preserve whatever value they produced within the Ukrainian framework, while now enjoying the advantages of the Russian system. From Kiev they never received any governmental assistance for agriculture.
But after 2014, the Crimean farmers felt a very great support from the Russian government! If the harvest turned out poorly for certain seeds, if there were any epidemics, Moscow would very quickly step in and compensate them for their losses. The government also started to provide them with a large amount of agricultural technology, which they could lease, at low prices. The government started to offer incentive grants for the development of certain agrarian products. Russia guaranteed the purchases of products grown in Crimea.
Not more than a couple of years had passed since the reunification, and our farmers were already saying: “You simply can’t compare the working conditions under Ukraine and under Russia. In Russia things are so much better!” And I believe that our new regions will come to much the same conclusion.
As for other spheres [of the economy], well in Crimea, these past 9 years, the shipbuilding industry has really come alive. Several of these companies have received grants from Russia, but the main thing they have is a guaranteed market that will purchase their products. This is what really stimulated them to get to work. And the same thing, I hope, will happen in the new regions as well.
VZGLIAD: Well, the main impediment to securing a peaceful life in the new regions, well, it’s because things are still so dangerous there?
Tsekov: Many of my comrades are active there. I head an organization called “The Russian Community of Crimea”, and very many of our activists are working there. Some of them even occupy high positions, both in Zaporozhie and Kherson Oblasts. They are occupied with educational, and also material-technical issues. They experience great hardships, obviously. I am planning to take a trip and visit them in the near future, I want to see how things are going there. For example, in the schools.
The educational staff are still terrorized, as my colleagues inform me. The teachers receive constant threats from Kiev: If you continue to collaborate with Russia, then we will find you and punish you. We constantly hear this theme. This is why we have to win this war. And then those fears will fade into the past.
Yesterday (March 18) was the 9th Anniversary of the Reunification of Crimea with Russia. To celebrate the occasion, President Putin made a surprise visit to the peninsula. As the RT piece describes it, Putin’s focus was on inspecting projects dedicated to making the lives of children happier and more productive. For example, a children’s art school that was scheduled to open that very day.
Nine years is enough time to figure out if the reunification was a success, or not. This piece by journalist Yury Zainashev offers some opinions and prognoses for the peninsula, and for the free city of Sebastopol. (Readers need to keep in mind that Sebastopol is somewhat of a separate entity, both historically and politically, and in terms of its legal status, from the rest of the Crimean peninsula.)
At a forum dedicated to this significant historic event (the forum took place before Putin’s surprise visit), Russian Vice President Marat Husnullin spoke about the achievements: Over the past 9 years Crimea eventually became capable of meeting all of its own needs regarding gas, water, and electricity. There are plans to build a highway ring by 2024, encircling the entire Azov Sea.
Speaking at the same forum, Crimea’s leader, Sergei Aksyonov noted that the Special Military Operation, by liberating the North-Crimea Canal, helped Crimea with its water problem. “Thanks to your decisions,” Aksyonov praised President Putin, “the [taking of the] North Crimea Canal removed the necessity of constructing de-salinization plants.” Aksyonov reported that, in the past 9 years, 1,600 kilometers of waterways have been built.
In his own remarks, Putin made special mention of the large transportation infrastructure projects, including the new airport in Simferopol, the “Tavrida” super-highway, and the Kerch Strait Bridge. Putin mentioned the Ukrainian terrorist attack that damaged the bridge, but assured that the repairs will be completed according to schedule.
Other metrics mentioned at the forum: In the Republic of Crimea, over 250 major investment projects to the tune of almost 450 billion rubles [around $6 billion U.S. dollars]. In the city of Sebastopol, around 100 projects to the tune of over 217 billion rubles [around $3 billion bucks].
Not everything is perfect. There are unsolved issues, one of which Putin named: The persistent income discrepancy between Crimeans/Sebastopolitans and the residents of the Russian mainland, to the detriment of the former: “There is this discrepancy, and it is very painful for the people of Crimea and Sebastopol. We need to think about this a lot and try to overcome this income gap.” As he said this, he directly addressed Maxim Reshetnikov, who is the Minister of Economic Development for the entire Russian Federation.
yalensis: These are just my thoughts, but I am guessing that Crimea’s economic backwardness, in comparison to the rest of Russia, is due to its being stuck for 30 years as a subject of the economically backward and underdeveloped Ukrainian entity. I have said this many times: A series of Ukrainian governments accepted all of these magnificent blessings that were handed to them on a silver platter; and then did very little with them. Did not cultivate, did not invest, just let everything run down while all the riches flowed into private pockets. It’s like a parody of a Biblical parable…
Reporter Zainashev continues his piece with a rather good interview of Sergei Tsekov, who is a member of the Soviet of Federation in the Crimean Parliament. Tsekov shares his vision of a Crimea that shows the way for Russia’s other new regions, such as the Donbass, Zaporozhie and Kherson. These regions will probably face even greater challenges, and even more economic backwardness, than Crimea. They have many deficits, but can be helped over certain hurdles, by absorbing the Crimean experience.
Tsekov, by the way, has an interesting political biography. Born in Simferopol in 1953, just one year before Khrushchev’s fatal gifting of Crimea to Ukraine, Tsekov grew up pure Soviet, from head to toe. When the year 1990 rolled around, it found him as a member of the Parliament of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. He was one of only four Deputies who voted against Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence in July 1990. Nonetheless, he continued serving in the Crimean Parliament, now of an independent Ukraine, representing the Party of Regions (of course). And now, by all indications, Tsekov is happy to be a Russian, and still doing what he does.
VZGLIAD: Sergei Pavlovich, we were reminded at the forum that everything on the peninsula, having to do with transportation, has been renovated: The airport, the railroad, new highways have been constructed. What else has changed in this time?
Tsekov: The schools. When you are talking about the material basis of schooling, then the situation — Russian vs Ukrainian — it’s like heaven and earth. The schools are now being renovated every single year, every type of repair or renovation. Before 2014, around 30% of the schools in Crimea had leaking roofs. The same number had no food services. There were no indoor toilets, the children had to use the public toilets on the street. There were no gymnasiums for sports. And so on.
If somebody brought them a single basketball as a gift, there was unbounded joy. And now all of the schools are equipped with every type of sporting inventory. Remarkable changes! Almost every school now has indoor toilets, the roofs have been fixed, the windows, which used to whistle when the wind blew, have been replaced. All the schools have food or catering services. Computers have appeared in the schools, along with interactive whiteboards, and all the other modern types of equipment. During Ukrainian times, hot lunches were a rarity. Today over 90% of the schools serve hot lunches.
Salaries for the educational workers, to my knowledge, are now 2 or 3 times higher than in Ukraine. I travel a lot around the peninsula, like I always did; after all I was a Peoples Deputy already back in the early 1990’s. And nowadays I don’t hear any complaints about the salaries of schoolteachers, like I always used to hear, before 2014. The schoolteachers regard their current salary level as normal and adequate. I mean, of course they would like to get more.
[to be continued]
We all remember a few days back, that thrilling dogfight over the Black Sea, involving an American Reaper Drone MQ-9 versus a Russian Sukhoi-27 jet. The jet won.
We recall that the Americans were really p*ssed off, and yet acting sort of intimidated at the same time. They accused the Russians of “reckless and unprofessional” behavior; even said the Russian pilots rammed the drone. Clearly the incident rattled their cage. They made it sound like this was double-Maverick Tom Cruise, just running wild in the sky and acting all crazy and mavericky.
Yesterday we learned that Russian Defense Minister Shoigu, instead of reprimanding the hot-dogging pilots, chose to award them with medals [and, although the article doesn’t say so, I am guessing they also get a cash prize]. When reading my translation of the RIA piece, also keep in mind that the Americans be bitching that they were over “international waters” at the time of the incident. Technically, that’s probably true, but the Russian side has an answer for that.
Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, General Sergei Shoigu handed out awards to the pilots of the Su-27 who prevented the American MQ-9 drone from violating the boundaries of the region of temporary regime of use of airspace, established for the duration of the Special Military Operation.
The Ministry had previously alerted users of this airspace as to the temporary boundaries, in accordance with international norms.
[yalensis: In other words, this was a completely justified safety measure, as done in all wars, according to international agreements, in order to prevent potential civilian loss of life in a war zone, by establishing temporary no-fly zones.]
According to information possessed by the Ministry, the incident took place Tuesday morning in the region of Crimea. An American drone, with its transponders switched OFF, was flying in the direction of Russia, having violated the boundaries of the region of temporary regime of use of airspace, established for the duration of the Special Military Operation.
After the drone was spotted, Russian destroyers from the Air Defense forces patrol, took to the sky. The drone resorted to some sharp maneuvering, which led it to lose control, lose altitude, and fall into the sea. The Russian destroyers never entered into contact with the drone, never employed any on-board weapons, and returned safely to their base.
[yalensis: I sort of believe the Russians. Americans claim the jet rammed or at least dinged the drone, but a lot of commenters have pointed out that, at those kinds of speeds, even the slightest ding, even with a small object, would have sent the jet itself crashing into the sea. But you never know… Plus, why would the pilots be rewarded, unless they did something really cool?]
The American government claims that the drone fell because the Russian jet rammed its propeller, located in the aft part of its hull.
[yalensis: Again, those would be the actions of a very skilled maverick!]
As Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared, Washington is not taking into account the fact that the Black Sea area is now restricted air space, since the start of the Special Military Operation. Lavrov pointed out that such actions on the part of the Americans look like a provocation designed to increase tensions in the area. In the words of the Minister, the Americans are always claiming that they are a responsible power, interested in strategic stability. None the less, their actions do not match their deeds.
Today I have this piece by reporter Vera Basilaya. Which is a response to this article in the American magazine Politico. The gist is that the Americans, as embodied by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, are getting really impatient with Ukrainian procrastination on the battlefield: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin projected a sense of urgency on Wednesday after a virtual meeting of the multinational Ukraine Defense Contact Group, saying that “Ukraine doesn’t have any time to waste.” If I were the Ukrainians I be, like, “Lloyd, stop bugging me, I’m fighting as fast as I can. Oh wait, I have an idea! Why don’t you grab a gun and drag your fat ass out here into the mud of Bakhmut…”
Austin and the other Westie officials have made it clear that they don’t really give a fig about Bakhmut, the main thing they need from Ukraine is to take back Crimea. After all, that shiny new American naval base in Sebastopol is not going to build itself! First a lot of Ukrainians have to die.
Politico goes on to say that everything the Americans are supplying now — tanks and armored vehicles, pontoon bridge throwers, etc. — is with the expectation of a major spring counteroffensive. Most likely in May, after the mud hardens and everything else is in place. The Ukrainians need to recapture something big and important. The two main options, in the American playbook, are “push south through Kherson into Crimea, or move east from its northern position and then south, cutting off the Russian land bridge,” according to Politico. But time is running out.
Unlike Austin, I don’t wear a bunch of shiny boy-scout patches on my chest, and I know nothing about military strategy. But my gut tells me that the Ukrainian High Command are right about Bakhmut: If they can’t hold Bakhmut, then none of those other pipe dreams are going to be possible anyhow.
But moving along to the Russian response… By the way this sentence is an example of bad writing in Russian:
“При этом наступление через Херсон в США считают нереалистичным…” I know what Vera means in her poorly constructed sentence. The literal translation: “Moreover, the offensive via Kherson, in the U.S. they consider this unrealistic.” A more idiomatic translation: “In the U.S. [certain unnamed people] believe that the counteroffensive through Kherson is not a realistic option.”
I know I am quibbling here, but certain formulations in Russian journalism always irritate me. There are these vague references to “in Scotland it is thought that Bulgarian wrestlers are too fat…”, like naming a country but being vague about exactly which people you are talking about. I prefer the clear-eyed Hemingway-esque approach: “This one guy in Scotland who nobody ever heard of, stated that Bulgarian wrestlers are too fat.” The very headline to Vera’s story starts with the words “In the USA…” (В США…) “In the USA they [an indeterminate they without an actual pronoun] have named the dates for the start of the massive counteroffensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.” Who is this “they” of whom you speak? Too much virtual passive voice. Too much passive aggression. Name names, dammit!
But I digress…
One needs to recall that it isn’t just the Americans who are egging on the Ukrainians to perform their super-duper counteroffensive. Macron (in France) and Sunak (in England) are also urging the Ukrainians: “Just do it. Just do it.” Or, as a Russian journalist might put it: “In France and in England it is thought that the Ukrainians are procrastinating and not meeting up with expectations…”
Meanwhile, Russian military expert Alexander Perendzhiev, in an interview with Radio Sputnik, was somewhat bemused by all this public discussion: “I don’t think there was ever before, in the history of war, an occurrence where people simply announced in advance their planned offensive or counteroffensive, in such great detail, naming specific directions of attack.” Perendzhiev posits that all this talk might be part of a disinformation campaign on the part of Washington. He does believe, on the other hand, that Kiev truly is preparing a spring campaign. They have to show some result for all that money that was tossed at them.
Today I have this rather odd story from Gazeta.ru, the reporter is Stefan Braun, who covers the Figure Skating beat. Readers who are not familiar with this particular subculture may be surprised to learn that, when it comes to elite athletics (and figure skating is, yes, an athletic sport), some of the normal geopolitical rules simply don’t apply. But let’s just get to it, and you’ll see what I mean.
The hero of this story, Daniil Semko is a Ukrainian figure skater, hails from Odessa, trains in a skating team led by Russian coaches Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin. Pay no attention to their funny names (“zhuk” means “beetle” in Russian; and “svinin” is, well swine), these two individuals are some of the best Ice Dancing coaches in the world, probably, and both former Silver Medalists themselves in the sport.
Daniil’s ice-dancing partner is a Russian girl Maria Ignatieva, who hails from the city of Yekaterinburg.
A couple of days ago, Daniil suddenly showed up in a Moscow Hospital, in pain and bleeding. The story he told the doctors: He had accidentally collided with a random stranger in the middle of a crowd in Petrovsky Park. Feeling a sharp pain in his leg, he suddenly noticed that he was bleeding. It became clear to him that the unknown man had stabbed him. The perp quickly disappeared in the crowd.
A limping Daniil was able to make his way, on his own, to the Botkin Hospital. The doctors, quickly looking him over saw that it was not his leg, but one of his right ribs that was bleeding, from what was clearly a stab wound. The doctors were able to patch him up and stop the bleeding. Happily, it was not a life-threatening wound.
While Daniil remained under observation in the hospital, the doctors called the police. However, by the time the latter arrived to investigate a possible crime, Semko had changed his story. He told the police that he himself, being clumsy, had accidentally bumped into “somebody’s bag” and cut himself in the rib with something sharp. He assured the cops that he had no intention of pressing charges against anyone and didn’t want them running off on a wild goose chase trying to find the perp.
[yalensis: Clearly, in those minutes or hours between his admission to the hospital and the arrival of the cops, Daniil had some time to think about the consequences of his original story, be that the true one or not.]
Now Russian media is reporting that Semko plans to leave Russia as soon as possible even though he not only trains in Moscow, but also has his own students there, whom he coaches.
Suspiciouser and suspiciouser…
Daniil and Maria, despite him being a Ukrainian citizen, and her a Russian citizen, actually compete, in international competitions, for the Hungarian skating team. They have been skating together since 2021. According to their online profiles, they switch back and forth from training in Budapesht and Moscow. When they are in Moscow, they work with Zhuk/Svinin who are specialists. This past season they have also worked with Russian choreographer Maxim Stavisky, who has created some programs for them.
Stavisky himself is a two-time world champion in Ice Dance, and is a well-known Russian media figure, appearing regularly on the TV show “Ice Age”.
The duet Ignatieva/Semko [yalensis: In figure skating it is customary to name the woman first, as Ice Dance is a chivalrous sport which considers the female more important, and the male simply presenting the female, just like in ballet] are considered promising competitors. They won silver medals at the Volvo Open Cup series during the 2021-22 season, and also took the bronze in the Hungarian National championships. This season they worked they way into the Top 10 of the European Championships, which is considered a fantastic result and shows how much progress they have made.
In 2021 Semko also graduated from the Ukrainian National University of Physical Culture and Sports, which certification allowed him to earn money as a coach. Besides skating, Semko is also a musician: He plays the guitar and harmonica, composes his own songs; and has performed in various “underground shows” in Budapesht.
That’s Daniil’s story, and the mystery remains: Who stabbed him, and why? Or was it just a random accident, like he said?