Russian general says allegations of his involvement in MH17 crash are stupid

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Retired colonel-general Nikolai Tkachev said that conclusions about his involvement in the crash of Flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines over the Donbass in July 2014 were absurd.
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Commenting on the investigation of Bellingcat group and The Insider, Tkachev said: “This is obvious stupidity and nonsense. I have lived in Yekaterinburg for many years, I work in the field of  military patriotic education of children. I am in constant contact with public organisations, I participate in various public events and always remain within the line of sight of mass media outlets. I have nothing more to add to this.”

Bellingcat experts and journalists of The Insider publication have revealed the results of their another “investigation,” which claims that retired colonel-general Nikolai Tkachev allegedly appears as the key figure in the case of the crash of Flight MH17, which was shot down in the sky over the Donetsk region.

A year ago, Bellingcat unveiled its own investigation into the catastrophe of the Malaysian Boeing in the Donbass in July 2014 without presenting even one single reliable fact in the report.


After the publication of the 115-page report, it became obvious that Elliott Higgins did not have any specific evidence to substantiate his assumptions. The very introduction to the report said that there was no direct evidence of whether it was Russian military or Ukrainian separatists, who used the Bus missile system. However, given the complexity of the Buk-M1 complex, Bellingcat experts assumed that the Russian military delivered the Buk system to separatists and provided them with instructors. The report also said that a column of an anti-aircraft missile brigade was allegedly transporting Buk-M1 complexes in Russia two days after the disaster adding that despite the “significance” of this event the fact of the convoy could not prove its connection with the disaster.


Source  :  Pravda Report

Atmosphere above Russia contaminated with radioactive substance

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The interdepartmental commission completed the investigation into the discovery of radioactive substance ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere and concluded that there were no emissions of the substance from Mayak enterprise in the Chelyabinsk region. It is believed ruthenium-106 could appear in the atmosphere as a result of a breakdown on one of the satellites in near-Earth orbit.
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“The measurements of control samples did not reveal the presence of ruthenium-106 in them. The dose rate of gamma radiation and the density of the flow of beta particles correspond to natural background,” officials said.

The commission was established on the initiative of the Russian State Atomic Agency (Rosatom) and united specialists from the state agency, the Institute for the Safe Development of Nuclear Power Engineering of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Federal Medical and Biological Agency of Russia. Additional verification was carried out from November 29 to December 1.

“According to the results of continuous radiation monitoring at enterprises and nuclear power plants located along the direction of Europe-South Urals, the concentrations of ruthenium-106 in the analysed period did not exceed one-thousandth of the norm. These indicators do not exceed and practically coincide with those that were registered at the same period of time in Europe,” the report said.

The company Mayak does not produce “pure” ruthenium, while no employees have suffered from a possible emission. No traces of ruthenium-106 were found in the bodies of 250 employees of the radio chemical plant, the report also said.

The document suggests that ruthenium could be emitted as a result of combustion of an artificial satellite or its fragments in the atmosphere.

European experts detected the contamination of a part of Russia with radioactive isotope ruthenium-106. Increased concentrations of ruthenium-106 were found in Austria, France and Germany. At first, Rosatom denied the Russian origin of the contamination. Later, however, the Russian Meteorological Agency reported that from September 25 to October 1, excessive radiation background in the atmosphere was recorded by all posts located in the South Urals.

Mayak Production Association is a federal state unitary enterprise that produces components of nuclear weapons and isotopes. The company also deals with the storage and recovery of spent nuclear fuel. The enterprise is located in the town of Ozersk, the Chelyabinsk region of Russia.


Source  :  Pravda Report

Moscow Gets a New Museum

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Gilyarovsky Center opens with film festival

Dec 8, 2017 — 15:00— Update: Dec. 08 2017 — 11:19

Collage-drawing of Khitrovka made from newspaper clippings, part of Roman Seleznyov’s installation-homage to Gilyarovsky. Michele A Berdy / MT

Any new museum opening in a big city is good news, but the opening of a new public exhibition space on one of Moscow’s most expensive pedestrian streets is something of a miracle.

But it’s true: Turn onto Stoleshnikov Pereulok, walk past Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and another dozen haute couture shops, slip into an archway and head to the Gilyarovsky Center, a new branch of the Museum of Moscow.

The Center is named after Vladimir Gilyarovsky, a journalist who wrote about Moscow and its people — mostly its lower classes — in pre- and post-revolutionary Russia. His stories were expanded and gathered into several collections, among which “Moscow and Muscovites” is the most famous — and most beloved. Until his death in 1935, he lived next door to the new center.

The Center, the fifth branch of the Museum, is not a house-museum dedicated to Gilyarovsky, but rather a space for temporary exhibitions, theater, musical performances, lectures, film festivals, classes, excursions and other events organized by the museum together with the people it serves: Muscovites. Museum director Alina Saprykina said at the opening that the space would reflect both Gilyarovsky’s passionate interest in the people living in the city and the museum’s belief that the history of the city is “the history of the people living in it and their daily lives.”

The center is also part of the museum’s efforts to move beyond traditional museum exhibitions, which include lending parts of its enormous collection of over one million items to non-traditional venues, such as shopping malls. “Let’s popularize our collection,” Saprykina said. “Let’s bring it out to people who do not ordinarily come to museums.”

To celebrate the opening, the museum commissioned two works: a series of photographs by Raul Skrylyov of the once poor neighborhoods described so vividly by Gilyarovsky: Khitrovka, Ivanovskaya gora, and Solyanka. His black and white photographs, mounted on the wall in a collage, capture what you might miss when rushing to work or home: an artist at her easel, a rappelling house painter, migrant workers striking a pose, graffiti, a business center, a ramshackle building, street singers, dog walkers — and dozens of people, of every age and class, checking their phones.

Another installation by Roman Seleznyov pays homage to Gilyarovsky with an artistic recreation of his office and clippings of his newspaper articles that reveal some of the first harsh reviews of his work when the lights are dimmed.

If you’re in the city center over the weekend, stop in for the museum’s “Gilyai-fest,” a film festival of urban stories. The competition program of short films (in Russian) will be shown free of charge every evening from Friday to Monday at 7 p.m.

On Saturday at 3 p.m. the center will welcome one of the city’s greatest film makers, Marlen Khutsiev, director of “July Rain” and “Lenin’s Gate” (released originally as “I Am Twenty”). He will show excerpts from his film “Lenin’s Gate” and talk about how to capture Moscow on film.

The full schedule of films, including several in foreign languages with Russian subtitles shown at the main Museum of Moscow venue, can be found on the museum site.

The first translation into English of Gilyarovsky’s “Moscow and Muscovites” was done by  Brendan Kiernan in 2015 and can be ordered here.


Source  :  The Moscow Times

Russia Denies It Is the Source of Radioactive Cloud Over Europe

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Dec 8, 2017 — 18:24— Update: 18:24

Ilya Yakovlev / TASS

Russian officials on Friday denied that a nuclear plant in the Urals was the source of a cloud of radioactive material that passed over Europe in September.

The European monitors that registered the cloud in late September saidlast month that it likely originated in Russia’s southern Urals. Russia’s Federal Meteorological Service also said in November it had registered extreme levels of Ruthenium-106 (Ru-106) in several locations.

The highest levels of the radioisotope — 986 times the norm — were located at the site of the Mayak nuclear facility, it said.

But on Friday, a commission including representatives of Russia’s nuclear corporation Rosatom — which owns the Mayak facility — and the Institute for Nuclear Power Development of the Russian Academy of Sciences, among others groups, said that Ru-106 was at its natural background level at the time.

“An examination of test samples did not identify the presence of Ruthenium-106,” the commission said in comments run by the state-run TASS news agency. “The strength of gamma radiation and the intensity of beta rays were at their natural background level.”

An official echoed the report’s findings in comments to the Kommersant business daily.

“The substance was in the air — that’s a fact,” said Rafael Harutyunyan, the institute’s deputy director. “But if the Mayak facility was the source, then around it and in the soil, we would have found concentrations hundreds of thousands of times the norm.”

Instead, the investigators suggest, the radiation could have come from a satellite that fell back to earth, burning up in the atmosphere on the way down and releasing the Ru-106.

In a statement on Friday, the environmental organization Greenpeace said it has launched a petition to demand a “full-fledged check on the release of ruthenium-106 into the air on the territory of the Russian Federation with the involvement of independent specialists and members of the public.”


Source  :  The Moscow Times

Putin: A Modern-Day Tsar, a Soviet-Style Leader, a President Left Behind

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Putin’s reelection bid has Soviet roots

Dec 8, 2017 — 09:53— Update: 14:40

Vladimir Putin (Mikhail Metzel / TASS)

When Vladimir Putin announced to factory workers on Wednesday evening that he planned to run for reelection in March next year, the crowd responded as if the news had come as a major surprise.

In reality, for the Russian president and his subjects, the question was not if he would run, but when he would announce his candidacy.

Putin, who is looking to extend his rule into 2024, is all but guaranteed to win next year. A September poll by the independent Levada Center put his approval ratings at 83 percent. Barring any surprises, it will be Putin’s fourth term as president since coming to power in 2000.

The president made the announcement at an event in honor of the 85th anniversary of the GAZ car manufacturing plant in Nizhny Novgorod. By announcing in a factory outside the capital, Putin wanted to show his proximity to regular Russians, analysts told The Moscow Times.

“Putin likes to fashion himself as the candidate of the people,” Putin’s former speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov said. “Last time he announced he would run for president, it was at a van factory in the Urals.”

“The location changes, but the situation stays the same,” Gallyamov added.

Putin’s announcement followed a trying day for Russians’ sense of national pride. On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) barred Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Games over evidence of a state-sponsored doping scheme.

Many Russian officials, including Putin, have claimed that the scandal is a political conspiracy and part of a larger campaign to discredit Russia led by the West.

The timing of the president’s announcement — less than 24 hours after the IOC ruling — could have been conceived as an attempt to distract from the sour mood left by the ban and an attempt to restore the country’s spirits.

But in interviews with The Moscow Times on Thursday, political analysts dismissed that theory.

“He’ll start some programs. He’ll make some plans. But none of it will matter.”

According to Gallyamov, the date was probably set a few months ago. By not rescheduling, he said, the Kremlin wanted to show that “nothing can overshadow the Russian president’s announcement that he’s running for reelection.”

Political events of this scale take months to prepare — it could not have been set up in a day, confirmed Dmitry Oreshkin, a Russian political analyst.

“Everything has to be planned, the facilities need to be checked and cleaned, the factory workers prepared,” Oreshkin said. “You can’t really just say, ‘Hey, I’ll do this tomorrow.’”

Legally, candidates must announce their campaigns ninety days in advance of election day — March 18, 2018 — so time was simply running out, Oreshkin added.

The Kremlin hoped to stir up intrigue by leaving the announcement till the last minute, Oreshkin says, but the format came across as stale and harkens back to an earlier era.

“The announcement was very Soviet,” Oreshkin said. “Back then big announcements had to be made at a kolkhoz” — a Soviet farm collective — “or a factory where you could show you were close to the working class.”

During a volunteer awards ceremony earlier Wednesday, Putin dangled the announcement before the crowd after an audience member pleaded with him to reveal his decision.

“I have a question for you,” Putin said to the crowd. “If I make the decision, will you and people close to you support me?”

“Yes!” the crowd shouted, erupting into applause.

“In a way, it all reminds me of [Alexander] Pushkin’s play ‘Boris Godunov,’” says Oreshkin.

Pushkin’s play — written in 1874 and based on the Russian tsar of the same name who ruled from 1598 to 1605 — begins with police coercing a crowd to stand outside the Kremlin and beg Godunov to become their tsar.

“Right now the people are crying,” Oreshkin says. “And finally Putin comes out and says, “I won’t abandon you. We will get up off our knees together again. Don’t worry about the doping situation or the West or anything else.’”

For Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political scientist, the display was reminiscent of a tradition of appealing to a segment of the population who draw their salaries from the state, and are therefore loyal — if passive — supporters. Appeasing them, Pavlovsky says, ignores a now entrenched middle class, who have entirely different concerns.

“It was a false start,” Pavlovsky said. “It shows that Putin is a person from the past ruling a country that has gone on ahead of him.”

With no real rivals, Putin will hardly need to fight for votes. The only opposition candidate with clout, Alexei Navalny, has been sidelined due to a conviction his supporters say is politically motivated. Other candidates are seen as either spoilers or outdated.

With or without challengers, Pavlovsky said, Russians can expect Putin to discuss declining birth rates, high mortality and the low quality of medicine because the Kremlin knows voters want to hear about those issues.

Andrei Kolesnikov, chair of Russian Domestic Politics program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, pointed to the Kremlin’s cool-headed reaction to the IOC decision as a hint that he will not rely as much on the West as an enemy in his rhetoric.

Noting last month’s hefty $8.6-billion plan to encourage young families to have babies as an indicator, Kolesnikov said Putin will focus on social and economic issues during his campaign.

“What else can he discuss?” Kolesnikov said. “The country is in a depression.”

Oreshkin’s outlook is similarly pessimistic. Whatever Putin talks about during his electoral campaign, he says, Russia is facing years of stagnation akin to the final years of the Soviet Union’s era under Leonid Brezhnev.

“Like Brezhnev, he’ll talk about something,” Oreshkin says. “He’ll start some programs. He’ll make some plans. But none of it will matter.”

Source  :  The Moscow Times

Bellingcat Links Russian General to Downing of Flight MH17

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Dec 8, 2017 — 16:30— Update: 16:55

Vladimir Putin (R) greets Regional Troops Commander-in-Chief Colonel-General Nikolai Tkachev (L) during a meeting with top Russian officers on the occasion of their promotion or appointment to new posts ( Mikhail Klimentyev / TASS)

Russian Colonel General Nikolai Tkachev has been identified as a key figure in the downing of MH17 in a joint report released Friday by Bellingcat and The Insider.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 at the height of the conflict between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists. In 2015, the Dutch Safety Board found that the plane was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile, adding to suspicions that Russian-backed separatists were responsible for the airliner’s downing.

In September 2016, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) published a call for information about a key suspect in the incident — Nikolai Fedorovich, also known as “Delfin.”

“The investigation has identified, to a high degree of certainty, Delfin as Colonel General Nikolai Fedorovich Tkachev, currently serving as the Chief Inspector of the Central Military District of the Russian Federation,” the joint report said Friday. Tkachev is the most senior Russian officer linked to the downing of MH17 to date.

Former separatist commander Igor Girkin told The Insider that he had met Delfin. He confirmed the meeting in comments to the RBC business portal Friday.

“I honestly do not know his name,” Girkin told RBC. “But I know the callsign: Delfin. I was sure that he was a retired general.”

The Kremlin has denied involvement in eastern Ukraine and the downing of the airliner, which claimed the lives of all 298 people onboard.

Bellingcat’s report with The Insider used open source data and forensic voice analysis to identify Tkachev.

In an interview with The Insider, Tkachev denied having been in Ukraine in 2014, let alone having traveled outside of Yekaterinburg since 2012.

On Friday, JIT said it had “taken note” of the joint report but could not yet offer additional comments.


Source  :  The Moscow Times