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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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Photos of new Iskander base near Ukrainian border creates media hype

But research into the photos and cross-checking of news reports reveals only the standard anti-Russian narrative that has gone on for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News obtained satellite photos that claim that Russia has recently installed new Iskander missile batteries, one of them “near” to the Ukrainian border. However, what the Fox article does not say is left for the reader to discover: that in regards to Ukraine, these missiles are probably not that significant, unless the missiles are much longer range than reported:

The intelligence report provided to Fox by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the Ukrainian border. In the images is visible what appears to be an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars. There is a second new installation that was discovered by satellite photos, but this one is much farther to the east, in the region relatively near to Ulan-Ude, a city relatively close to the Mongolian border.

Both Ukraine and Mongolia are nations that have good relations with the West, but Mongolia has good relations with both its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, and in fact participated with both countries in the massive Vostok-2018 military war-games earlier this year.

Fox News provided these photos of the Iskander emplacement near Krasnodar:

Imagesat International

Fox annotated this photo in this way:

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher. One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

[Fox:] The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk. The second deployment is near the border with Mongolia, in Ulan-Ude in Sothern Russia, where there are four launchers and another reloading vehicle.

[Fox:] Earlier this week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said authorities of the former Soviet republic are being “controlled” by the West, warning it stands to lose its independence and identity as a consequence. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood,” Mr Patrushev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, according to Russian news agency TASS.

This situation was placed by Fox in context with the Kerch Strait incident, in which three Ukrainian vessels and twenty-four crew and soldiers were fired upon by Russian coast guard ships as they manuevered in the Kerch Strait without permission from Russian authorities based in Crimea. There are many indications that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, to create a sensational incident, possibly to bolster his flagging re-election campaign. After the incident, the President blustered and set ten provinces in Ukraine under martial law for 30 days, insisting to the world, and especially to the United States, that Russia was “preparing to invade” his country.

Russia expressed no such sentiment in any way, but they are holding the soldiers until the end of January. However, on January 17th, a Moscow court extended the detention of eight of these captured Ukrainian sailors despite protests from Kyiv and Washington.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the other significant point of disagreement between the Russian Federation and the US is the US’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia sees this treaty as extremely important, but the US point of view expressed by John Bolton, National Security Adviser, is that the treaty is useless because it does not include any other parties that have intermediate range nukes or the capability for them, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. This is an unsolved problem, and it is possible that the moves of the Iskander batteries is a subtle warning from the Russians that they really would rather the US stay in the treaty.

Discussions on this matter at public levels between the Russian government and the US have been very difficult because of the fierce anti-Russia and anti-Trump campaigns in the media and political establishments of the United States. President Putin and President Trump have both expressed the desire to meet, but complications like the Kerch Strait Incident conveniently arise, and have repeatedly disrupted the attempts for these two leaders to meet.

Where Fox News appears to get it wrong shows in a few places:

First, the known range for Iskander missiles maxes at about 310 miles. The placement of the battery near Krasnodar is 270 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border, but the eastern part of Ukraine is Russian-friendly and two provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, are breakaway provinces acting as independent republics. The battery appears to be no threat to Kyiv or to that part of Ukraine which is aligned with the West. Although the missiles could reach into US ally Georgia, Krasnodar is 376 miles from Tbilisi, and so again it seems that there is no significant target for these missiles. (This is assuming the location given is accurate.)

Second, the location shown in the photo is (44,47,29.440N at 39,13,04.754E). The date on the “Krasnodar” photo is January 17, 2019. However, a photo of the region taken July 24, 2018 reveals a different layout. It takes a moment or two to study this, but there is not much of an exact match here:

Third, Fox News reported of “further Russian troops deployment and S-400 Surface to air missile days after the escalation started, hinting Russia might have orchestrated the naval incident.”

It may be true that Russia deployed weapons to this base area in Crimea, but this is now Russian territory. S-400s can be used offensively, but their primary purpose is defensive. Troops on the Crimean Peninsula, especially at this location far to the north of the area, are not in a position strategically to invade Kherson Oblast (a pushback would probably corner such forces on the Crimean peninsula with nowhere to go except the Black Sea). However, this does look like a possible defense installation should Ukraine’s forces try to invade or bomb Crimea.

Fox has this wrong, but it is no great surprise, because the American stance about Ukraine and Russia is similar – Russia can do no right, and Ukraine can do no wrong. Fox News is not monolithic on this point of view, of course, with anchors and journalists such as Tucker Carlson, who seem willing to acknowledge the US propaganda about the region. However, there are a lot of hawks as well. While photos in the articles about the S-400s and the Russian troops are accurately located, it does appear that the one about Iskanders is not, and that the folks behind this original article are guessing that the photos will not be questioned. After all, no one in the US knows where anything is in Russia and Ukraine, anyway, right?

That there is an issue here is likely. But is it appears that there is strong evidence that it is opposite what Fox reported here, it leaves much to be questioned.

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Vladimir Putin calls new Ukrainian church ‘dangerous politicking’

President Putin said creation of the “Orthodox Church in Ukraine” is against Church canon and that the West drove Constantinople to do it.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In an interview with the Serbian newspapers Politika and Vecernje Novosti ahead of his visit to Serbia, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted the creation of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”, a schismatic agglomeration headed by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists was “dangerous politicking.” He further noted that:

The establishment of the new religious entity in Ukraine is nothing but an attempt “to legalize the schismatic communities that exist in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a major violation of Orthodox canons.”

“Yet, hardly anyone in the U.S. or in the Ukrainian leadership worries about this,” Putin said.

“Once again, this has nothing to do with spiritual life; we are dealing here with dangerous and irresponsible politicking,” he said.

President Putin had more things to say in the interview, and we present what he said in full here (emphasis ours), as reported on the Kremlin.ru website:

Question: The Serbian Orthodox Church has taken the side of the Russian Orthodox Church in the context of the ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine. At the same time, a number of countries are exerting pressure on Patriarch Bartholomew and seek to ensure recognition of Ukrainian ”schismatics“ by Local Orthodox Churches. How do you think the situation will evolve?

Vladimir Putin: I would like to remind your readers, who are greatly concerned about the information regarding the split in the Orthodox community but are probably not fully aware of the situation in Ukraine, what it is all about.

On December 15, 2018, the Ukrainian leaders, actively supported by the USA and the Constantinople Patriarchate, held a so-called “unifying synod”. This synod declared the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, with Patriarch Bartholomew signing the tomos (decree) granting it autocephaly on January 6, 2019. Thus, it was attempted to legalize the schismatic communities that exist in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a major violation of Orthodox canons.

Yet, hardly anyone in the US or in the Ukrainian leadership worries about this, as the new church entity is an entirely political, secular project. Its main aim is to divide the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, sowing seeds of ethnic as well as religious discord. No wonder Kiev has already declared ”obtaining complete independence from Moscow.”

Once again, this has nothing to do with spiritual life; we are dealing here with dangerous and irresponsible politicking. Likewise, we do not speak about the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It is de-facto fully controlled by Istanbul. Whereas Ukraine’s largest canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has never requested autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew, is absolutely independent in its actions. Its connection with the Russian Orthodox Church is purely canonical – but even this causes undisguised irritation of the current Kiev regime.

Because of this, clergymen and laymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being persecuted and deprived of churches and monasteries, and attempts are made to deny the Church its legitimate name, which raises tensions and only leads to further discord in Ukrainian society.

Evidently, Ukraine’s leaders have to understand that any attempts to force the faithful into a different church are fraught with grave consequences. Yet, they are eager to put interconfessional concord in the country at stake in order to conduct the election campaign of the current Ukrainian President based on a search for enemies, and to retain power by all means.

All of this does not go unnoticed by Orthodox Christians.

Naturally, Russia does not intend to interfere in ecclesiastical processes, especially those happening on the territory of a neighboring sovereign state. However, we are aware of the danger posed by such experiments and blatant interference of the state in religious affairs.

The situation continues to degrade in Ukraine, and though the Orthodox faithful of the Autonomous but Moscow-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church are the hardest hit, worry over Ukrainian lawlessless-made-law has the Jewish community in that country nervous as well. This is perhaps to be expected as the Azov Brigade, a neo-Nazi aligned group that is hypernationalist, is a good representation of the character of the “hate Russia at all costs” Ukrainian nationalists. A parallel piece in Interfax made note of this in a piece dated January 17th 2019:

[A] bill passed by the Verkhovna Rada introducing a procedure by which parishes can join the new Ukrainian church makes it easier to seize places of worship, and supporters of autocephaly have already started doing this across the country, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said.

“They need this law to seize our churches. You can’t just come with a crowbar to someone else’s barn, but now the law allows you to do so. They aren’t creating something of their own, but are trying to steal what’s ours,” Ukrainian Orthodox Church spokesperson Vasyl Anisimov told Interfax on Thursday.

The religious entity set up in December with Constantinople’s involvement and called the Orthodox Church of Ukraine “in fact doesn’t yet exist in nature. It’s fake. It doesn’t have any parishes of its own or government registration,” he said.

However, “the supporters of autocephaly don’t have plans to create anything of their own at all, so they have chosen the path of takeover, and the authorities are helping them in that,” Anisimov said.

“Hence, the legislation passed by the Verkhovna Rada today is in fact absolute lawlessness,” he said.

“If you pass legislation affecting an industry, you should talk to industrialists, and if it’s legislation on the agricultural sector, talk to farmers. And here legislation on a church is passed, and moreover, this legislation is aimed against this church, it is protesting, and Jews are protesting, too, because this legislation may affect them as well – but nobody is listening, and they change the law for the sake of an absolutely absurd and unconstitutional gimmick. But, of course, it’s the people who will ultimately suffer,” Anisimov said.

 

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According to Ukraine, the Crimean Bridge doesn’t exist (VIDEO)

Ukraine tries to deny the reality of the completion and soundness of the Crimean Bridge, though Ukraine was unable to build it, itself.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia’s VESTI News is truly an entertaining channel at times. This news service is strongly supported by the Russian government, and one of the criticisms it receives from Russian people is that it is an “extreme” propaganda house, telling all manner of crazy stories to distract its watchers’ attention away from the real problems that Russian people face at home.

No doubt there is truth to this, as this is a technique certainly duplicated in the US, Great Britain and elsewhere. Every nation has the right to its own propaganda. However, Vesti also seems to have a lot of fun making fun of other nations’ propaganda, and here they found a great one. Apparently, Ukraine’s propaganda ministry is trying to make the assertion that the Crimean Bridge collapsed and its debris is floating around in the Kerch Strait, “with the tectonic plates.”

See for yourself.

According to Ukrainian scientists and even “psychics”, this bridge is doomed to fall into the Kerch Strait once a sufficient earthquake hits it. Some claims appear even to say that the bridge already is not there, or at least, is not there in the way the Russian news sources have described it.

Of course, the VESTI team erupts into its famous snark, talking about how the bridge is very much alive and well and that it is the new “pride of Russia,” and so on.

This bridge is indeed quite an engineering feat, being completed only about three years after the rejoining / annexation / invasion / hostile takeover / or was it a voluntary referendum? of Crimea to the Russian Federation. This is a rapid speed for such a major project, but it is not very unusual for such projects to progress rather quickly when they are done with a will.

Burj Khalifa (formerly Burj Dubai) is presently by far the tallest building in the world, reaching skyward 828 meters, over half a mile into the sky. It took a little over four years to construct this landmark building, and it was done steadily and with a will to completion. Its would-be successor is not having as smooth an experience, for the Jeddah Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has hit problems, and even though this tower is projected to go only about 130 meter higher (reaching a significant milestone of one kilometer tall), its construction started in 2013, and as of the latest update, only 63 floors are completed.

The Crimean Bridge was built with a will to make a point, presumably to Ukraine, the rest of Russia and the world:

This is the New Russia. Look what we can do!

And, they did a marvelous feat of engineering in a very short time.

VESTI indeed does try to make some people feel better by pointing out the problems of other countries. Sometimes that is a distraction. But sometimes it is worth a serious bit of consideration.

Ukraine has a leader most of its people apparently cannot stand, who is a warmonger and a crybaby at the same time, begging the West for help while breathing threats against Russia.

While there are no doubt many, many wonderful people there trying to do wonderful things, it does seem to be that the country is suffering because of its willingness to be a pawn of the West. Russia is feeling the Western squeeze and it is not pleasant, but the Russians also seem to know that they can get themselves through this, and so they have reason to be glad when the country makes a good accomplishment such as the Crimean Bridge. The political and geopolitical importance of this project is such that it is very likely that all sorts of great engineering went into the bridge. It is prudent, and Russians seem to understand prudence very, very well.

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