Power plant fire kills at least one in Ukraine’s Donetsk region

At least one person was killed and five injured Friday in a major fire at the Vuhlehirska Thermal Power Plant in the town of Svitlodarsk. The town is in Ukraine’s Donetsk region and the plant is a coal thermal plant.

The fire began in the plant’s second block that housed equipment for processing coal dust.

State emergency services have set up temporary water purification facilities and distributed portable heaters. One of the plant’s functions was to provide hot water and steam to heat homes.

The fire started around 3 PM and continued to burn into Saturday, destroying the plant’s four power-generating units. The first left the town’s 12,000 residents without heating, hot water and electricity. Patients in the town’s hospital were moved to a facility in the nearby town of Debaltsevo.

The fire was extinguished on Saturday.

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In Russia, never equate bread with a taxi as such is banned.

From the Moscow Times:

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service in Kostroma fined a taxi company for an “unethical” advertisement that a local organization said was insulting to “the world’s revered bread,” a news report said Wednesday.

The fine involves a commercial with the slogan, “If you make five typos in the word ‘bread,’ you get ‘taxi,'” Lenta.ru reported.  The anti-monopoly watchdog fined the head of the advertising firm 4,000 rubles for the commercial and banned its further usage.

хлеб = bread, and такси = taxi.
хлеб = bread.

In a statement on the agency’s official website titled “His Majesty — Bread! You Mustn’t Insult It,” the watchdog says a council of experts reviewed the advertisement after receiving a complaint from the local chapter of the Council of Veterans.

The complaint said the advertisement’s “insulting attitude to bread” was “rude” and that such an interpretation of bread “besmirches the Slavic people and insults the world’s revered bread.”

такси = taxi.
такси = taxi.

In a statement on its official website regarding the advertisement, the anti-monopoly service cites a law on advertising that bans the use of swear words, obscene and offensive images, comparisons and expressions that include references to sex, race, nationality, profession, social class, age or language, human and civil state symbols, religious symbols, and cultural heritage sites.

It is not clear which category bread falls under.

(Mendeleyev observation: Veterans constitute a key voting block to the Putin administration. Not that anyone could comprehend why a group of old soldiers would feel slighted over comparing bread to a taxi, but what the hell–if they’re offended, apparently we should all be offended.)

Moscow airport (SVO) to offer free Skype calls

Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) has installed Skype-kiosks at the airport. They’re free to use, at least for now, and the airport and Skype is conducting tests to see whether consumers will take advantage of the unique service.

AeroExpress skype

Found in the AeroExpress area, the video calls are free. The system is activated once someone steps up to the booth and types in their Skype user name and password to begin calls. The system automatically shuts down via interactive floor panels once there is no longer a human presence in the booth.

Calls are free worldwide as a convenience to travelers. One must have a login and password already registered with Skype in order to use the service.

Changes to the Moscow Metro

This Spring you are going to see some interesting changes coming to the Moscow Metro system.

Just yesterday the Metro announced that in order to drive sales of e-cards for Metro passes, riders who purchase passes with cash will pay an extra 2 Rubles per ride.  Instead of 28 Rubles, a cash ticket will cost 30 rubles while e-card rides remain at 28 Rubles each. The city says it is an experiment so we’ll see if that lasts or is retracted. The rate of 28 Rubles was set on 1 January 2011, an increase of 2 Rubles from the previous year.

Next, at several stations today morning commuters were greeted with floor signs, a first for the Metro system. This is also an experiment and the Metro is asking riders to comment on the change to see if it makes navigating the Moscow Metro easier for residents and tourists alike.

(Photo: Moscow Municipal Progams)
(Photo: Moscow Municipal Programs)

The signs are in Russian Cyrillic and in English. If the testing goes well the concept will be rolled out across the entire system. There are currently 188 stations in the Moscow Metro with several more scheduled to open this year.

The third and perhaps largest change is the map used by millions of riders and thousands of tourists. Over the years as the Metro has grown it has become increasingly difficult to publish a map that is concise yet at least somewhat correct in it’s geography. For several years the Metro has used the prestigious Art Lebedev design studio to create maps for the Metro. This time the city commissioned the Lebedev studio to create a map with a flexible graphics system.

Metro map lebedev studio c 2013 release

Called Metro Map 2.0 (the first version was released in 2010), and according to the Lebedev studio, “The second edition of the Moscow Metro Map from our studio carries almost twice as much information. We’ve put up a layer of all text in the Latin alphabet; highlighted metro stations with connection to the rail system platforms; added express buses and trains stops as well as metro-related parking; and marked rivers, airports, and handicap-accessible stations. The connection at Biblioteka Imeni Lenina station is finally represented with a circle.”

Metro map future

The Lebedev studio says that the project took almost four years to develop as they tried to create a new map that is recognizable, yet novel enough to be geographically accurate while at the same time satisfying both passengers’ demands and design requirements. In their estimation, the final design is a flexible graphics system that allows creating a whole range of maps of various size and complexity.

To see the stations in relation to well known streets and landmarks, see the 2010 version below.  Double click on the photo for the largest size.

Metro map lebedev studio a

Has the propiska system returned to Putin’s Russia?

The Russian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the right to assemble (as did the Soviet constitution) but the government feels that there are acceptable limitations to certain kinds of expression, including the fact that one must apply and receive permits to practice those freedoms in public.

Monday a group of 15 protestors stood in front of Lenin’s tomb area and unfurled a large banner protesting registration, the old Soviet requirement that citizens obtain written registration (permission) to live in a certain region and at a specific address.  In Soviet times the practice was used to limit citizens from freely moving from one area or city to another without government permission.

All 15 were arrested.

The practice of registration was struck down by the Russian Constitutional Court in 1996 just two years prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union but recent changes in migration policy have made registration compulsory for all citizens. In December 2012 the Duma (parliament) added stricter penalties and President Vladimir Putin signed the changes into a law titled the Concept of Migration Policy of the Russian Federation which covers the period up to the year 2025.

Russians over the age of 14 are required to notify the federal migration service if moving to another place in the country where they intend to live for more than 90 days. In November of 2011, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin introduced on-line registration making it easier for Russians to inform the government of their place of residence. While many Russians simply ignore the requirement, if caught the penalty for failing to acquire official registration documents includes fines between 2000-2500 rubles, between $65 to 80 USD at current exchange rates.

Article 27 of the Russian Federation Constitution grants citizens the right to move and live without government interference, in theory at least. Russian authorities however say that the current registration regime is different from the Soviet Union’s propiska system wherein a citizen was required to see government permission prior to moving. The current system allows a citizen to move first and then register although the system of obtaining registration documents tends to be difficult, time consuming, and sometimes even corrupt with bribes paid for completion.

The government still maintains stricter controls on citizens who wish to move from other regions into the cities Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. These cities have been plagued by illegal immigration from what Russians consider the “near abroad” which include former the Soviet Republics and nearby countries such as China and Turkey.

Although Article 3 of the Constitution states that Registration or non-registration may not serve as a ground or condition for the implementation of the rights and freedoms of citizens, registration is required to access government services such as healthcare and public school education.  Proof of registration is also required for things like purchasing and licensing a car. The requirement extends to employment but is sometimes ignored by private employers.

Internal Passport

Russian citizens over the age of 14 carry an Internal Passport, shown above. These are needed for many services and transactions from buying a cell phone to opening a bank account. Looking almost identical to an International Passport for foreign travel, the Internal Passport included information on everything from education to martial status to employment history and pages 4 – 11 are reserved for the stamps required to certify the legal right to reside at a particular address.

How these new policies will mesh with the recent promise of eliminating the Soviet practice of internal passports and adoption instead of a bio-metric card system for Russian citizens is yet unknown.

Russian Easter: Great Lent has begun

On Monday, Orthodox Christians began to observe the Lenten Fast, sometimes called “Great Lent” and the period that will last approximately seven weeks leading up to Easter Sunday.  Easter this year on the Eastern religious calender falls on 5 May.

5P_FjQZKmhg

The purpose of Great Lent is to prepare the faithful to enter into the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus as preparation for the celebration of the resurrection.

Fasting during this period includes abstinence from certain foods, intensified private and public prayer, self-examination, confession and repentance, and some couples choose to abstain from sexual relations during Lent.  Since the beginning of Christianity the early Church Fathers have taught that the period before Easter should be marked by an extended time of prayer, penitence, and fasting.

Fasting from certain types of foods is intended as spiritual preparation for an experience of deeper prayer and communion with God and the foods traditionally abstained from are meat, eggs, milk, cheese , wine (all alcohol), and oil. In the Orthodox world the two longest fasts are prior to Easter and before Christmas.

The Orthodox community that fasts the most during a calendar year is the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church with over 200 fasting days annually.