Dissatisfaction with government a reason for Volgograd bombings of 26 April?

The “Caucasian Knot” reports that authorities are considering scenarios regarding the two explosions in Volgograd on 26 April. Both devices were loaded with shrapnel as well as ammonium nitrate. The first bomb exploded near the gym at the Academy of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The second bomb exploded while experts were performing mine clearing.

The explosions may have been timed to coincide with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s arrival in Volgograd. Putin was reportedly in the region to dismiss several Interior Ministry officers. Authorities are also investigating possible Chechen connections.

There were no reports of injuries or deaths from the explosions but the bombs resulted in property and structural damage. 

In other news…

Georgia opens visa-free regime for Iraq and 4 smaller European countries.

The government of Georgia has announced that citizens of Iraq as well as Albania, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro will have entry privileges to the Georgian Republic without visas. The changes are being enacted in amendments to Georgia’s law “On Legal Status of Foreigners.”


Another signal Medvedev may run for re-election

The meeting with the core steering committee of United Russia, the majority ruling party in Russia, took place earlier today at the Presidential residence in Gorki, just outside Moscow. President Medvedev addressed a number of political issues including the development of the national political system and the forthcoming State Duma elections and legislative measures to fight corruption.

Steering committee of the United Russia party meeting, Russian presidential residence at Gorki. (photo: Presidential Press Service)

Of particular interest was the President’s announcement that he had submitted to the Duma a draft law that requires banks and registration agencies to disclose information on the property of persons applying for public office, as well as their families.

In light of the recent flap over a multimillion dollar manion supposedly being built for Prime Minister Putin (it was quickly sold after the news became public), and the possible misuse of state funds regarding that project, this Medvedev initiative could be viewed as another in a growing list of direct challenges to any plans Mr. Putin might have on returning to the presidency.

President Medvedev addresses steering committee of the United Russia party at Gorki. (photo: Presidential Press Service)

In spite of well meaning but routinely off base Washington pundits who have convinced themselves that President Medvedev is a mere puppet of Mr. Putin, the Mendeleyev Journal has been on record for over 2 years in saying that Medvedev is strongly considering a run for re-election regardless of the Prime Minister’s plans. Their visions for the future of Russia prove to be quite different with each passing day and Medvedev clearly favours a more democratic approach to governance.

Today’s edition of the Mendeleyev Journal is sponsored by Smooth Favorites, the Smooth Jazz and Memorable Oldies heard at www.MyFavoriteChannel.com 

Russians with Disabilities

He used his hands to “walk” down the escalator, then slide the improvised skateboard from under his arms and glided onto the platform to board the next train. He waited until the last moment to board a Metro wagon. I understood why because he’d have been trampled under afoot by the rush and mix of passengers debarking and boarding the Metro and so his timing was crucial.

What astounded me however was what transpired after the train began moving.

But first a little explanation is in order. When the train is ready to depart an announcers voice comes on from overhead ceiling speakers. There is a rhyme and reason to those announcements as you can determine the direction of the train by the gender of the announcer: on the ring line, a male voice indicates clockwise travel, and a female voice counter-clockwise. On the radial lines, travellers heading toward the centre of Moscow will hear male-voiced announcements, and travellers heading away from the centre of the city hear female-voiced announcements. Here is a trick to remember the pattern: the male voice is sort of like the boss saying hurry to work, and the female voice is like the wife saying hurry home. Hope that works for you.

Sound recording booth at Moscow's Underground Metro (Moscow Metro PR dept/http://engl.mosmetro.ru)

The announcements just prior to arriving at a station have patterns, too. At multilevel stations where you can change to another line, the announcement informs riders that it’s an interchange station with a reminder not to forget belongings when departing. At single stations it lists the station name and cautions passengers to be careful when stepping off.
Have you every head one of those announcements? Here is a recorded sample.

Each announcment is tailored to the particular stop and near our Moscow home I might hear something like this: “Осторожно, двери закрываются. Следующая станция “Петровско-Разумовская”. Уважаемые пассажиры, просьба заранее приготовиться к выходу из поезда.” Basically, “Caution, the doors are closing. The next station is Petrovsko-Razumovskaya. “Passengers prepare to exit the train.” Listen to the female voice on this announcement.

What happened next on that Metro car was totally unexpected. The little man used his hands for feet and rolled his skateboard to the centre of the wagon. Believe me, although no one said anything, he had everyone’s attention.

When he spoke you could have heard a pin drop. The silence literally downed out the normal thumping of the train wheels moving along the track. He calmly explained that he was a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the national nightmare that lasted began on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989. Russians sometimes call it “Russia’s Viet Nam.”

On average you get about 90 seconds between train stations more or less. He had to perform his version of an “elevator speech” in the few seconds remaining. And he delivered! Displaying his body that had been severed in half at the waist, he pointed to what was left of himself and declared “I am a son of Russia and have served her faithfully as you can see. Now our government has no use for me and I need your help to survive.”

More silence.

A usual short metro ride from one stop to another is typically accompanied by the sway and rocking of the wagon. It was feather lite on this segment. No sound, no movement at all, other than knowledge that the train was racing forward.

Then the arrival announcement came over the speakers. The stillness had been broken. It was my stop but I waited until the last possible second to see what would happen.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Russians pass money around very freely, in a trusting sort of way. Next time you ride a Маршрутка (Marshrutka) van just watch how the fare is passed from row by row to the driver in the front, sometimes change being made as the money makes it’s way back and forth. Pretty amazing. Just call out the number of passengers you’re paying for (четыре, пожалуйста/”four, please”) and send the rubles to the front.

Маршрутка (Marshrutka) van (Photo: Georgi Varzonovtsev)

Several passengers passed coins in his direction, and it seemed that most of the donors were female, but many passengers seemed uncomfortable and hurried out of the wagon. Perhaps in order to avoid a potential run-in with the милиция (police) he exited also.

I saw him several days later, skateboard tucked to his side, as he laboured on his hands to scale the tall steps to one of Moscow’s city administrative buildings. They say that “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears” but I sincerely sent good wishes his direction to find a source of support. However in those days of the new “wild west” rough ride on the transition to capitalism, and with active military troops months behind in pay, it would be a miracle had his quest been met with success.

Which is why I was so interested in President Medvedev’s visit to Moscow’s дождь (“Rain”) TV studios earlier this week. (Watch news on the channel here.) It was the station’s one year anniversary and in particular a special day for Yevgenia Voskoboynikova of the Rain staff. Yevgenia was one of Rain’s very first employees and she is a disabled person, in a wheelchair, but working for one of the finest TV stations in Russia.

Yevgenia Voskoboynikova (L), President Medvedev (C), Nataliya Sindeyeva (far R); (photo: Presidential Press Service)

Let’s join the on-air conversation:

Yevgenia Voskoboynikova: We will soon be celebrating our one-year anniversary, and as it happens, I was one of Dozhd’s first employees. But you could say I was lucky, because I think here in Russia, it is very difficult for people with disabilities to get a good job.

President Medvedev: You have raised a complicated topic. I will tell you directly and honestly, especially since you know this very well for yourself, that unfortunately, we have never had a culture of integrating disabled people into regular life. We didn’t notice these people, and in the USSR even respective statistics were concealed. The concept was, everyone was able-bodied, and if somebody was not, that person was seen as non-existent. I have to say frankly that this attitude has remained within the mentality of many people. It is a kind of stereotype, but one that is now gradually being overcome. As you know for yourself, new building standards are being used in large cities – and even smaller ones, as well – so that disabled individuals can enter and exit normally in their wheelchairs.

Yevgenia Voskoboynikova: I can confirm that this is true in Moscow.

President Medvedev: Moscow is the leader in this sense. But other places are advancing as well. As for finding jobs, this is an area where we need to proceed in the same way people are proceeding throughout the world, and not shy away from giving certain incentives and preferences to employers who hire people with disabilities. But naturally, this must be done sensibly. Because as you yourselves understand, there are many individuals who are witty, clever, and smart. And if, for example, we widely open that door, then no doubt a murky flow of tricksters will rush there bringing absolute opposite results to what was intended. Still, overall, there is to be a system of incentives for employers, so that this would not be a good luck, as you describe your case, but rather, a standard, typical situation, the same way it works throughout the world.

Another important aspect here is education. We have almost no inclusive schools where disabled children study together with children without disabilities. As a result, they are divided, and children with disabilities have a kind of fear; they are afraid to socialise with non-disabled children. At the same time, able-bodied children have a difficult time socialising with disabled children, because they do not know how to behave, etc. This is just not right; they should be together. Incidentally, there is some good experience with that in Moscow, but this should happen throughout the entire country. In general, we have many various social programmes, and I imagine that you probably know some of them. The programmes are good, but if we’re being honest, this is partially am attitude issue. I do not see anything exceedingly complicated here, but it will take some time.

Yevgenia Voskoboynikova: In other words, we are to raise a new generation.

President Medvedev: We must raise a new generation of disabled individuals to make them able-bodied members of our society.

дождь ("Rain") TV studios; (photo: Presidential Press Service)

Nataliya Sindeyeva (Station Manager): Mr President, I want to add something. As an employer, I had simply never encountered disabled people before; it’s true that we do not often see disabled people, they are not out on the streets, and we do not meet them.

President Medvedev: Because that’s the way everything works here, we make it difficult for them to even enter a restaurant.

Nataliya Sindeyeva: Disabled people in Russia are just not adapted socially. Besides, there is a negligence in our society. We are now planning a series of videos where we want to talk about integrating disabled individuals into society and show people like Yevgenia Voskoboynikova who work, who are integrated into normal working life and conditions.

Such programmes should be supported on a government level. In Europe and America in the 1960s and 1970s, as we learned when making our videos, there were numerous TV advertisements, billboards, publications in the press, etc., that simply showed and emphasised that there are disabled people among us. And this gave an unbelievable push toward helping these individuals.

President Medvedev: I agree. By the way, there was no Internet in the 1960s in America or elsewhere, and now, this should also be done via the web, because opportunities to reach people are much higher. Videos are important. But overall, this simply must be one of the serious topics up on the web, including via online television.

Nataliya Sindeyeva: We are working on it.

Weather Map, дождь ("Rain") TV studios; (photo: Presidential Press Service)

What makes Orthodoxy different?

What makes the Orthodoxy Christian faith different from others? Are there differences in theology, or just a few traditions that are different from most Western Christian faiths?

Here is part 1,2 and 3 of a series narrated by Stephen Baldwin (yes, the Stephen Baldwin of Hollywood acting fame).

We hope that you enjoyed this education series!

Chernobyl – 25 years since time stood still (part 1)

The stillness was shattered 25 years ago. While it’s been much quieter on the surface since, Pripyat and its Chernobyl nuclear plant have shaken the world to the core.

For the most part, time stands still at Pripyat.

Atop the old municipal swimming pool, a large clock once looked to by so many in the neighborhood has stopped. For good. (photo: Pripyat.com)

Oddly however, tourism is up at the Chernobyl site. For the mere purchase of a ticket you can tour the surrounding areas and certain parts of the grounds of the famed disaster area. Do so at your own risk because radiation levels are still above levels considered safe for humans.

Streets in the city of Pripyat, home to the Chernobyl plant, are empty. (photo: http://www.pripyat.com)

April 26, 2011 marked the 25th anniversary of those tragic days and hours at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. We’ll have more in our next edition, part 2.

Chernobyl remembered

(Pripyat/Chernobyl, Ukraine) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych took part in memorial events on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The two heads of state attended a service at the St Elijah Church in Chernobyl commemorating the victims of the 1986 accident at the nuclear power plant. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia held the Easter service.

(L to R: Patriarch Kirill of all Russia, Russian President Medvedev, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv, Ukrianian President Yanukovich)

Ukrainian Chernobyl Safety deputy Yuri Andreyev said that the territory adjacent to the Chernobyl church has the background level of 6 microroentgen per hour compared with 18 in much further away in Kyiv. Saint Elijah Church has remained open the past 25 years to meet the spiritual needs of residents who chose to remain in the area.

L to R: Russian President Medvedev and Ukrainian President Yanukovich lay first stone for future memorial.

Later the two leaders took part in the ceremony of laying the first stone of the future memorial to the liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster. The monument will be erected by December 14, when Ukraine marks the Chernobyl Accident Liquidators Day.

In addition, those attending the ceremony visited the memorial centre to view an interactive exhibition devoted to the heroic liquidators of one of the largest man-made disasters of the 20th century.

President Medvedev of Russia (L) and President Yanukovich of Ukraine (R) lay wreaths at the monument to those who died at Chernobyl.

The two leaders laid flower wreaths at the monument in memory of the first victims of the Chernobyl disaster, which is located directly on the accident’s site in front of the plant. The memorial is a complex of red granite slabs engraved with the names of 28 liquidators who died during the summer of 1986. Attenders paid tribute to the victims with a minute of silence.

(photos: Presidential Press Service)

Easter greeting from Russia

As has been his custom each year, President Dmitry Medvedev and Mrs. Svetlana Medvedeva attended the Easter service at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Mrs. Svetlana Medvedeva stand during the Easter service at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, 2011.

Since becoming President, Mr. Medvedev has made no secret of his personal Christian faith. From the official residence in Gorki, Russia, the president congratulated Orthodox Christians and all those celebrating Easter on Resurrection Sunday.

“I sincerely congratulate you on this happy holiday of Easter Sunday.

Easter celebrations contain the bright light of faith and goodness, fill our hearts with hope, joy and feelings of good-will towards others, and draw us towards the eternal spiritual values ​​of Orthodoxy and centuries-old traditions of our people, which remain the basis of our unity today.

The Russian Orthodox Church plays an important constructive role in consolidating the moral foundations of our society, as well as strengthening international and interfaith cooperation. Its fruitful interaction with the state promotes our country’s continued development.

I wish Orthodox Christians and all citizens of Russia celebrating Easter peace, happiness and prosperity.”

Altar assistants light candles for Easter worshipers at Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow.