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The story behind FC Zenit’s twelve year construction saga of Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg

How Zenit Arena has become the symbol of corruption.

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In March 2005, the governor of St. Petersburg Valentina Matvienko and CEO of Gazprom Alexei Miller announced a joint decision to begin the construction of a new ultramodern arena for 50,000 spectators on the Krestovsky island. It was assumed that the construction works for new home for FC Zenit (Zenit Arena or Krestovsky Stadium) would last for three years.

Nobody knew at the time that three years of planned work could easily have turned into twelve.


How did the construction costs increase?

In April 2008, the media began to mention a 70% increase of the initial cost. At the current rate, it was almost $900 million.

Four years later, in October 2012, an increased figure of 43.8 billion rubles was announced, which at the current rate was over $1.4 billion.

Today, in 2017, we can only imagine how great the final cost of the stadium is. That is taking into consideration the difference in rates throughout the years, the sanctions that have influenced the cost of materials and also the permanent rise in prices because of the financial crisis in Russia.


Which stadiums could have been built in St. Petersburg instead of the stadium on Krestovsky?

5 PPG Paints Arenas – where the Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins host their matches:

4 CenturyLink Fields – a sacred place for fans of the MLS champions Seattle Sounders FC and the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL

12 Allianz Stadiums – the home of Juventus Football Club, the most successful club in Italian soccer history

Moreover, Zenit Arena is $200 million more expensive than the famous U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Super Bowl LII will be held next year.

Finally, it’s hard to believe that Zenit Arena has the same construction cost as, perhaps, the most discussed stadium of the last month in North America – the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. On September 16, 2017, Atlanta United played an MLS regular season match versus Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 70,425 spectators, the largest crowd in a stand-alone MLS match.


Why the time and costs suddenly began to grow?

Federal laws against the stadium…

In January 2010, the government suddenly introduced new federal laws for firefighting. The forced reconstruction of the dome of the arena with the replacement of materials, as well as the reconstruction of fire escape stairs, required new investments and an increase in terms for almost a year.

Customer is late, constructors are in a hurry…

In January 2011, the documentation for the redevelopment was received by the builders three months later than expected, so the builders, who hurried to start the work, faced the need to dismantle the roof of the future stadium.

Sudden decision about changing the project…

In October 2011, the St. Petersburg Government Construction Committee approved a new design for the roof exactly two months after the start of work.


What kind of scandals surrounded the construction of Zenit Arena?

FIFA’s dissatisfaction…

FIFA representatives returned a verdict about the stadium’s inconsistency with the organization’s standards five times

The anger of the PM…

Dmitry Medvedev shared his opinion on the progress of construction in 2012: “This is not just a long-term construction, it looks shameful.”

Slave labor and death of workers…

According to the Norwegian magazine “Josimar” 110 North Korean builders had worked on the Zenit Arena. As stated by the Russian lawyer Olga Zeitlina, those laborers lived in terrible conditions and were completely exhausted both mentally and physically. Passports were confiscated in order to prevent them from escaping.

Officially at least ten workers were found dead, but the exact figure remains unknown.

The stadium is more important than hospitals…

The City Governor’s Office approved a plan to reallocate funds for the completion of the stadium and the surrounding infrastructure. For this purpose, $45 million was allocated from the state budget which was intended for schools, cultural facilities, and the healthcare system.

Cormorants are destroying the stadium…

According to Igor Albin, the vice-governor of St. Petersburg, the protective layer of the stadium roof could withstand up to 400 kilograms per square meter, but could not cope with cormorant attacks. This required a new full-fledged defense structure for the arena’s roof.

The stadium is dangerous for the health of spectators and athletes…

Specialists from the Ministry of Health found that the content of ammonia and formaldehyde in the locker rooms and halls was exceeded. Toxins were being given off from the materials that were used to finish the premises. The reason lies in the concrete and additives that were used during the winter period construction.


What strange things were taking place during the construction of Zenit Arena?

The Kremlin oligarchs’ unexpected successes…

In 2013 the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg and Oleg Deripaska’s company Transstroy, which was responsible for the construction works on Krestovskiy island, terminated the contract. In two months Transstroy won the bid for the second time, and the city government re-signed the contract.

Bids for nonexistent works…

In 2014, the bid for the creation of an artificial land plot around Krestovsky island for the construction of an “invisible stadium” for the 2018 World Cup was shelved. The estimated amount of allocated funds was $39 million. The number of similar undisclosed initiatives remain unknown.

Suspended criminal cases…

In 2015, an investigation into an embezzlement case of $2.5 million by one of the subcontracting parties was terminated due to the statute of limitations expiring.

The disappearance of the scoreboard from Zenit Arena…

In 2016, the Investigative Committee and the St. Petersburg Economic Police launched large-scale searches of $2.5 million that were intended for the installation and exploitation of a scoreboard.


What kind of incidents took place in the stadium?

  • The vibration of the field exceeded the permissible limit by seven times
  • The wind damaged the roof of the stadium twice
  • Cracks in the concrete walls were found several months before the opening
  • The stadium was flooded two times, so some parts of it were covered in mold


Who is in the dock?

Only one official!

According to the investigation, the vice-governor of construction Marat Oganesyan ensured the illegal involvement of a subcontractor in the construction of the stadium. The result was the plundering of more than $866,000 through one-day companies.

From 2004 to 2010, Marat Oganesyan led the “Soglasie Group” company, which was engaged in the reconstruction of the buildings of the Moscow Kremlin and built the trade and hotel complex “Moscow City”.


Who is suspected by media?

In 2013, the press vigorously discussed the report of the Control and Accounting Chamber of St. Petersburg. As soon as this report was made public the authorities classified this information as confidential. A number of well-known names disappeared from the final version of the document, among them:

Governor Valentina Matvienko, who signed the draft law on the allocation of more than $164 million for a new contractor – Inzhtransstroy. She holds the post of speaker of the Federation Council.

Vice-governor Roman Filimonov, who lobbied for large-scale project changes and increasing the costs. Today he holds a high position in the JSC Russian Railways.

Vice-governor Alexander Vakhmistrov, who was responsible for solving the issues of capital construction and reconstruction of real estate objects. Now he is the coordinator of the “National Association of Builders”.

The name of the chairman of the Construction Committee Vyacheslav Semenenko was mentioned so often in corruption cases on Krestovsky island that his resignation, according to the Media, was the result of scandals around the arena. However, instead of a criminal case, the official was appointed to the Administration of the governor of St. Petersburg.


How is the arena functioning after the opening?

The case of the Krestovsky Stadium remains the most discussed sport topic of the day in Russia.

The reasons why Zenit Arena is not ready to host matches at the highest level are the following:

The overdraft of the construction of a pitch that could roll out beyond the stadium for special events. Today it is not functioning, as the FIFA media center is built near the stadium, which interferes with the construction. The imminent transfer of the media center will require an additional $7 million.

  • The unique roof does not close or leaks when it is raining
  • Zenit FC was forced to change the lawn two times during the last six months. For example, in April the grass rotted due to improper use of the insulation system. It was switched on at night for a month, but should be used only 4 hours per day.
  • Memes regarding the unfinished state of the stadium and its leakages became the most popular segment of the Russian web in the first half of 2017.


Why the construction on Krestovsky island is a sad verdict for Russian realities?

For the last twelve years the country has been living in some kind of reality show, where each episode only confirms how logical the season finale is, but new participants and sensational incidents allow people to believe in an unexpected ending.

Big businesses, officials, rascals from one-day companies and sport giants felt the ground for new frauds, lost a sense of the measure. For them it’s only possible in the reality show called «Russia».


The ghastly saga of the Zenit stadium serves as a supreme example of the sort of things that still go wrong in Russia.

In the twelve years since the project was launched it has become a feeding trough for an unholy collection of profiteers and blunderers. Big prestige projects like this often attract corruption in many countries but the failure of the Russian authorities to get a grip on it in this case, the lack of transparency and basic accountability, and the protection offered to privileged and sometimes corrupt insiders speaks for itself and shows that Russia has still not put the ghastly realities of its corrupt past entirely behind it.”

The Russians actually are not bad at carrying out big construction projects. It depends very much on who is involved. If the project is run by the central government then it runs a reasonable chance of being completed without the timetable or budget suffering from excessive cost overruns.

Projects run by local governments – like this one – are a wholly different matter.

In this case I suspect that part of the problem was that Matviyenko, the mayor of St. Petersburg who initiated the project and who is an exceptionally steely character (she is an outside possibility for Putin’s successor), was over focused on a large number of other gigantic infrastructure projects in the St. Petersburg area, of which the huge dam built to protect St. Petersburg from floods (talked about since the 1950s but only actually built under her) was just one, and as a result she lost focus on the stadium.

Matviyenko then transferred to Moscow in 2011 to become Chair of the Federation Council, leaving her much weaker successors to sort out the mess. They would have been no match to Oleg Deripaska, the tough oligarch who is behind the stadium project.

That points to the nature of Russia’s problems. It is not Germany where people can be left alone to do things properly by themselves. On the contrary if things are to be done properly they require the unremitting attention of those in charge.

As the Russians say themselves, the country works only on manual not automatic.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Labour MP split is a cheap and final ploy to derail BREXIT (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 179.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss a small group of UK Labour MPs decision to quit the party and sit as Independent MPs in the house of commons.

Their excuse for leaving Labour was directed at leader Jeremy Corbyn for presiding over an “institutionally anti-Semitic” party. The real reason they are leaving Labour is because they are staunch remain MPs and are hoping to derail Brexit.

The seven Labour MPs quitting the party to become ‘The Independent Group’, are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

RT reports that Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree took to the stage first, to claim that she could not stay in the party any more because it had become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, a prominent ‘People’s Vote’ advocate appealed to all MPs, not just Labour, to join their group, as the current parties are part of the problem, not the solution.

He argued that “It is time we dumped this country’s old fashioned politics.” Umunna claimed the UK needed a political party “fit for the hear and now” and the “first step in leaving the tribal politics behind.”

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Via RT

Twitter has been rocked by the sudden departure of seven Labour MPs to form their own Independent Group, with party supporters feverishly debating whether the move is better for the party, or a wake-up call to Jeremy Corbyn.

Former shadow cabinet minister Chuka Umunna along with MPs Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey have all jumped ship in the biggest Labour Party split since 1981, when the so-called “gang of four” left to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

In a press conference, Umunna stated that the established parties “cannot be the change because they have become the problem” arguing that it is “time we dumped this country’s old-fashioned politics.”

Jewish MP Luciana Berger said she was “embarrassed and ashamed” at what the Labour Party had become and criticized her former party for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist.”

“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other,” she added.

Reaction to the news online has been a mixture of shock and dismay, to outright derision. Some Labour supporters were quick to delight in the departures, suggesting the party will be stronger without detractors undermining it from within.

Others though said it was time for Jeremy Corbyn to take the criticism seriously.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users commented on Young Labour’s somewhat barbed response to the situation.

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