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Catastrophic Fire in Siberian Mall – worst in recent memory – at least 64 dead [Photos/Video]

Investigators have allegedly found signs of negligence

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A tragic fire has erupted violently and unexpectedly in a Siberian mall, making it one of the worst in recent Russian memory, claiming the lives of at least 64 people, including children. The fire raged in a shopping mall called “Winter Cherry”, in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, one what should have been a quiet Sunday afternoon, March 25th, 2018. Now it’s an ashen valley of tears.

The shopping center “Winter Cherry” was opened five years ago. The mall complex contained shops, a large cinema, entertainment centers (including children’s playgrounds) and a fitness club. It was a four floor complex of around 19 thousand square meters.

The last time fire inspections were conducted there in 2016, “no serious violations were found”, according to Russian media, but we will have more to say about this, as it appears there is more to it than just that.

The Inferno

The youtube channel 112 has a video of the moment the fire allegedly began, as what appears to be electrical lighting explodes violently over the children’s playground. Parents grab their children and rush out, as very ominously, and all too fast, black smoke suddenly fills the entire corridor and rooms in a matter of seconds, obscuring completely the camera’s view.

Footage of smoke rising from the exterior of the mall can be seen here, without commentary or reporting:

RT has several reports with video and coverage of the events:

As always, thanks to smartphones and the internet, there are now heartbreaking communications of the victims with their loved ones, including those of children on the internet. I do not share this for shock, and contemplated not sharing them at all, but I did for one reason.

It is all too easy, for us to become desensitized to tragedy, we hear about it every day on news apps, on TV, and via the internet. We must not forget that there were very real Children suffering in this inferno, and now they are gone. If that is depressing, it should be, that makes us human, we should not so easily hear stories of tragedy like a weather report, we should feel something. It should also motivate us to prevent such tragedies in our own communities, as we will later read on, it is possible this fire was preventable.

Here are some of the victim’s messages, according to RT:

“I cannot escape,” 12-year-old Vika Pochankina, who was in the cinema with her classmates, told her aunt Evgeniya Oganisyan on the phone, Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

“Tell mom that I loved her. Tell everybody that I loved them,” the girl said, before hanging up. It is unclear if the girl or any of her classmates survived.

As reports emerged of scores of children still missing, a screenshot of a chilling message from a young girl, Maria Morozova, who was at the mall, appeared online. “We are burning. Maybe goodbye,” it read.

There is also a graphic video of someone jumping from the Inferno, which is not for the faint of heart.

On a more positive note…if you could call it that, here are some accounts from survivors:

“We were sitting in the cinema on the third floor. A woman ran to us and screamed that we should run. Everyone started to run away, me and the children, there were seven of us. When we ran out, no one could help us with anything,” Ekaterina, who was in the cinema with her children, told Ruptly.

“When you read the list of the deceased, you realize that you know all these people,” a young woman, Lyudmila Nagornaya, said. She referred to unofficial lists that have emerged on social media.

According to RT, another fire has erupted in the evacuated mall on Monday, as firefighters are still searching through the debris, after putting out the first one, which had a temperature ranging between 600-800 degrees Celsius.

RT reports:

The smoldering debris prompted a new phase of the fire, Russian Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told reporters on Monday.

“We keep washing down there. The search and rescue mission has to be completed. Relatives of the victims are waiting for the results,” the minister added.

In the meantime, rescuers have been searching through the five-story building of the Winter Cherry mall, risking their own lives, as the mall’s structure is no longer secure.

The deadly blaze on Sunday killed 64 people, according to the latest figures. Six bodies still remain under the debris. 17 bodies have been identified so far, with investigators working with the families of the victims. Some cases will require genetic expertise due to the condition of the bodies, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said.

The Investigation – allegations of negligence?

Now that the flames are out, an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire.

According to Sputnik, Kremlin spokesmen Dmitri Peskov was quoted as saying:

“It would be completely wrong to talk about some versions now. You know that the Investigative Committee is working on the scene of the tragedy. In fact, only the Investigative Committee can now put forward any versions of what has happened, and it is wrong to get ahead of ourselves and talk about something now,” Peskov told reporters.

Others including witnesses, however, have been quick to declare the cause of the fire to be what they consider criminal negligence. The Sputnik report continues.

In an interview with the channel Rossiya 24, child ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova has suggested that the reason for the fire was negligence of security norms.

“Negligence is the cause. All norms are written. But the way we treat these [security] norms is the catastrophic cause of the tragedy we have witnessed today,” Kuznetsova said.

Throughout the entire story, across multiple sources, there have been consistent reports that the fire alarm was not working, or had been deactivated by an employee. The Investigative Committee has already appeared to confirm that, at the least, via their spokeswoman saying in the same Sputnik report:

“The issue of detention of the fifth suspect, a PSC [private security company] employee who turned off an alarm system after receiving a signal about the fire, is being discussed. Serious violations were committed both during the shopping center’s entry in service and in the process of its work. Fire exits in the shopping center were blocked,” the spokeswoman said, as quoted in the committee’s Telegram channel.

To give complete context to this report, when the spokeswoman mentions a “fifth suspect”, Russian news sources are already reporting that four suspects have been detained prior.

A separate Sputnik report with witness testimony makes the situation appear even more damning for the mall owners and employees responsible. Witnesses allege that mall employees lied to men who were trying to save children. If this is true, the reason for this bizarre and indeed criminal action is completely incomprehensible:

“I saw young men pulling children out. My boyfriend was in a state of shock. They tried to enter the cinema hall, but the employees of the “Winter Cherry” told us there were no kids. The guys were doing it on their last breath, holding their noses [not to get poisoned from gas]. But it turned out there were children. They lied to us, they could have saved the kids!” the witness told RT.

Currently, according to Life.ru, investigators have detained the formal manager of mall Nadezhda Suddenok, however upon further examination, they identified the real owner of the complex as businessman Denis Shtengelov, who according to Kommersat.ru, is currently not in Russia. There are allegations presented on that same site, that billionaire Shtengelov perhaps suffered a financial deficit, and did not invest sufficiently in the safety of the mall. If this is true, that is a vast understatement.

What is really odd, is that according to Kommersat.ru, the company that manages the building belongs to the category of “small business”, and is therefore subject to more lax fire inspections, as a result of a technicality. In Russia, a small company is a firm with an annual revenue of no more than 800 million rubles.

Moreover, in a Kommersat article, Russian expert Alexei Petropolsky, member of the organization Opora Rossii (Pillar of Russia) has made a very strong observation, (and accusation), saying:

The most important thing, is that this is a place of mass gathering, and therefore it must have a “safety passport”, which is checked by the Ministry for Emergency Situations, and the FSB. Most likely, the safety passport was issued through corrupt ties.

While we can not independently verify those claims, if taken together, they all present a very bleak image, and we can only wait for more evidence, and the investigation to complete.

There is nothing more to say, except:

+Eternal Memory+

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Ariel Cohen exposes Washington’s latest twist in anti-Russia strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’

Too many reputations and other interests are vested in the legend for it to vanish from American politics anytime soon.

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


Russiagate allegations that the Kremlin has a subversive hold over President Trump, and even put him in the White House, have poisoned American political life for almost three years. Among other afflictions, it has inspired an array of media malpractices, virtually criminalized anti–Cold War thinking about Russia, and distorted the priorities of the Democratic Party. And this leaves aside the woeful impact Russiagate has had in Moscow—on its policymakers’ perception of the US as a reliable partner on mutually vital strategic issues and on Russian democrats who once looked to the American political system as one to be emulated, a loss of “illusions” I previously reported.

Contrary to many expectations, even if the Mueller report, said to be impending, finds, as did a Senate committee recently, “no direct evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Russiagate allegations are unlikely to dissipate in the near future and certainly not before the 2020 presidential election.

There are several reasons this is so, foremost among them the following:

  1. The story of a “Kremlin puppet” in the White House is so fabulous and unprecedented it is certain to become a tenacious political legend, as have others in American history despite the absence of any supporting evidence.
  2. The careers of many previously semi-obscure Democratic members of Congress have been greatly enhanced—if that is the right word—by their aggressive promotion of Russiagate. (Think, for example, of the ubiquitous media coverage and cable-television appearances awarded to Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Maxine Walters, and to Senators Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal.) If Mueller fails to report “collusion” of real political substance, these and other Russiagate zealots, as well as their supporters in the media, will need to reinterpret run-of-the-mill (and bipartisan) financial corruption and mundane “contacts with Russia” as somehow treasonous. (The financial-corruption convictions of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s single “big win” to date, did not charge “collusion” and had to do mainly with Ukraine, not Russia.) Having done so already, there is every reason to think Democrats will politicize these charges again, if only for the sake of their own careers. Witness, for example, the scores of summonses promised by Jerrold Nadler, the new Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
  3. Still worse, the top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal—subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted—to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries. Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia. Anything Trump suggests must be opposed, regardless of the cost to US national security. Will the Democrats go to the country in 2020 as the party of investigations, subpoenas, Russophobia, and escalating cold war—and win?

Readers of my new book War With Russia?, which argues that there are no facts to support the foundational political allegations of Russiagate, may wonder how, then, Russiagate can continue to be such a major factor in our politics. As someone has recently pointed out, the Democrats and their media are now operating on the Liberty Valance principle: When the facts are murky or nonexistent, “print the legend.”

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