Moscow the Beautiful

The Church of the Holy Trinity at the Borisovo Ponds (храм Троицы в Орехове-Борисове) is along the Kashira Highway in southern Moscow. It was built in 2001-2004 to a Byzantine Revival style.

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Moscow is often assigned second place to Saint Petersburg when it comes to beauty. We disagree, and although Peter is indeed beautiful, we believe such honours belong to Moscow.

 

The “White Nights” of Russian summers are returning. Saturday night we went to bed and it was dark. We have blackout curtains but didn’t bother pulling them shut. Well, I woke to very bright sunshine. It was Sunday morning and so I roused the Mrs and told her that likely we would be late for church.

She calmly suggested that I look at a clock because it felt like about 4-5am to her. Okay, but it looked bright and warm enough to be 10am to my eyes. As is most often the case in marriage–the wife was correct. It was only 4:30am upon checking.

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We went back to sleep and woke up later–making it to church in plenty of time.

Nadiya Savchenko Is Free!

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Savchenko seated in the cockpit on the way home.

After two years of illegal detention in Russia, Ukrainian national hero Nadiya Savchenko has been released in a prisoner swap for two Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian Anti-terrorism forces. Savchenko, a pilot in the Ukrainian air force, had been captured by Russian soldiers operating in Eastern Ukraine. She was spirited across the border into Russia and charged with the murder of two Russian journalists. Ironically, she was also charged with entering Russia illegally.

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President Poroshenko, Left with Nadiya Savchenko, Right.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko met with Savchenko after her liberation from Russian prison and return to Ukraine. He awarded her the title of the Gold Star of the Hero of Ukraine.

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In his remarks the Ukrainian president said, “We have been worrying, praying, working actively and organizing protest rallies for long 709 days in order to make this day come true. The day when Nadiya Savchenko, hope and faith in our victory return to Ukraine. Just as we have brought Nadiya back, we will return Donbas and Crimea under the Ukrainian sovereignty.”

Poroshenko emphasized that Nadiya Savchenko “has become a symbol of pride and unbroken spirit”. “This is what Ukraine is. This is what a Ukrainian woman is. This is what an officer of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is. We are proud of Nadiya’s behavior in captivity of the Russian aggressor.”

Poroshenko added, “However, this is only the beginning, because we are waiting for the return of Yuri Soloshenko, Hennadiy Afanasyev, Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and many other Ukrainians retained in Russia and the occupied territories.”

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Savchenko with her family upon arrival at Kyiv (Kiev).

In a move likely motivated by the desire to see Western sanctions end, Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned Savchenko prior to her release. In return, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also pardoned the two Russian soldiers, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev. The two men, who admitted to serving in Russia’s special forces, were shown on Russian state television arriving at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. Vnukovo, one of Moscow’s three international airports, is where the Russian state fleet is based.

Given the statements of both men about their feelings of being abandoned by the government who claimed that they were operating in Ukraine without Kremlin consent, it is unclear how they will be treated. It is crime in Russia for citizens to acknowledge the war with Ukraine.

The relatives of the two Russian journalists killed had appealed to Russian President Putin to pardon Savchenko. On Wednesday (25 May 2016) the president met with Yekaterina Kornelyuk, widow of VGTRK special correspondent Igor Kornelyuk, and Marianna Voloshina, the sister of Rossiya TV channel sound operator Anton Voloshin to inform them that Savchenko had been pardoned and was being returned to Ukraine.

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Relatives of the slain Russian journalists met with Putin.

Putin thanked them for their appeals on Savchenko’s behalf. Putin said that their appeal “was an expression of the hope that decisions such as this, motivated above all by considerations of humanity, will help to reduce the confrontation in the conflict zone.”

Victory Day 2016 in Russia

Russia’s 71st annual Victory Day celebration has come and gone. While each year offers a slightly different feel on a familiar theme, this year apparently carried the theme of military hardware and modernization. Moscow often uses the parade to sent a message to the West regarding Russian military might.

As the parade has grown over the years, special tickets are necessary to attend and security is very tight. Most Russians watch the parade on television, and coverage is mandated on the Kremlin controlled media. The parade was smaller this year with only 10,000 troops marching.

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The parade of military hardware on Red Square featured over 130 displays, from Tigr multipurpose vehicles, T-90 and Armata tanks, BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers, BMP-3 infantry combat vehicles, Msta-S self-propelled howitzers, and Buk-M2, Pantsir-S and Yars air defense systems. The airborne feature of the parade was led by a group of Mi-26 transport helicopters, the world’s largest.

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The parade included an updated version of the Buk antiaircraft missile system, as now identified by Dutch investigators as responsible for shooting down a civilian airliner (Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17) over Eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014.

Russia’s Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces Oleg Salyukov was in charge of the parade. The traditional inspection of troops was conducted by Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu.

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Russian President Putin told the audience on Red Square that the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 (WWII) “will always be a sacred deed of our people, a call to live honestly, hold high the bar of truth and justice….”

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Some of Putin’s remarks dealt with the world-wide threat of terrorism: “Today, civilization is again facing cruelty and violence: terrorism has become a global threat. We must defeat this evil; Russia is open to joining efforts with all states and is ready to work on creating a modern, non-aligned system of international security.”

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The annual Victory Day celebration includes parades, ceremonies, displays and parties in parks. There is a time honoured tradition of citizens giving flowers to veterans. The veterans are decked out, many still able to fit into their wartime uniforms, often glistening with medals.

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President Putin also took part in the Immortal Regiment Procession, an event that began in the Russian city of Tomsk in 2012. Relatives of soldiers who fought in the war carry placards with a photograph and the name of their relative.

Hardly a Soviet family was spared the pain of losing multiple family members. It is estimated that 28 to 30 million citizens perished; approximately 10 million of the lives lost were military personnel.

Prior to the war, Stalin’s purges of the 1930s had decimated the Red Army leadership. The surviving generals were typically young, inexperienced, and not as well educated in the art of warfare. They were simply outclassed by a superior leadership corp that marked the Nazi military leadership.

Poor leadership and decision making, as Stalin often dictated even the smallest of strategy details, is estimated to have led to millions of deaths. Especially in the early phases of the war, the surviving Generals of the Red Army who had experience were often mere instruments for Stalin’s directives.

(photos: Presidential Press Service and the Mendeleyev Journal)

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Loose Cannons in Russian Army

The Russian city of Novosibirsk has been a major staging area for sending Russian army regulars to fight in Eastern Ukraine. Stripped of insignia and anything that would identify the Russian military, men and equipment regularly make the trek from this city to Ukraine.

On 8 May however the Russians discovered a loose cannon in their ranks-literally. While rounding a corner to take the highway out of the city, one cannon broke loose and provided for a little excitement on the streets of Novosibirsk.

Authorities claim the unmarked equipment was en route to a Victory Day parade.

Orthodox Easter 2016

It is Easter weekend in most of the Eastern world. The word in Russian for Easter is пасха (Paskha), the same as in Greek Πάσχα. The initials “XB” are for Христос воскрес (Christ risen!).

We invite you to enjoy our page on Orthodox Easter as found here.