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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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Germany Wants Nuclear Bombers

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them.

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Via VoltaireNet.org:


Germany’s armed forces are currently studying the possibility of acquiring nuclear bombers capable of using the new American B61-12 atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon itself plans to deploy these new atomic bombs in the German region of Eifel, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The German air force already has multi-tasking Tornado warplanes, which are already capable of deploying American atomic bombs. But those aircraft are going to be replaced, possibly, by European-developed Eurofighters, or by United States manufactured F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Either way, the warplane that Germany selects will have to be equipped with the AMAC (Aircraft Monitoring and Control) system, which allows the use of the new American atomic bombs and enables the regulation of the power of the explosion as well as at what height the bombs explode after they are launched.

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them, and believes that this gives it the right to sit on the UN Security Council sharing the permanent member position occupied by France.

Both countries would thus represent the European Union, under the auspices of NATO.

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1st since Notre Dame: Yellow Vests back despite ‘unifying’ disaster & they are angry

‘Yellow Vests’ march in Paris for 23rd straight week.

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Via RT…


Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality.

Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster.

“The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24.

Saturday’s protests saw a return to scenes familiar since the Yellow Vests first mobilized in November to protest a fuel tax hike. Demonstrators in Paris’ Bastille district set barricades on fire and smashed vehicles, and police deployed tear gas to keep the crowds at bay.

Sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting were reported across the city, and some journalists even reported rioters throwing feces at police.

60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, and in Paris, a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame. A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by police, and elsewhere, 137 protesters had been arrested by mid afternoon, police sources told Euronews.

Beginning as a show of anger against rising fuel costs in November, the Yellow Vests movement quickly evolved into a national demonstration of rage against falling living standards, income inequality, and the perceived elitism and pro-corporation policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Over 23 weeks of unrest, Macron has made several concessions to the protesters’ demands, but has thus far been unable to quell the rising dissent.

After Notre Dame caught fire on Monday, the president postponed a television address to the nation, during which he was expected to unveil a package of tax cuts and other economic reforms, another measure to calm the popular anger in France.

Macron’s address will be held on Thursday.

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O Canada! The True North Strong and Free – Not

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Canadian visitors to Washington sometimes wonder why their embassy stands at the foot of Capitol Hill.

The answer? To be close to where Canada’s laws are made.

A main showcase of Ottawa’s craven servility to Washington is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complicity in the US-led regime change operation being conducted against Venezuela. Not content with ruining his own country with multiculturalism, polysexualism, and the like, Li’l Justin has acted in lockstep with Big Brother to the south inslapping sanctions on Venezuelan officials and serving as a US agent of influence, especially with other countries in the western hemisphere:

‘A Canadian Press report published at the end of January revealed that Canadian diplomats worked systematically over several months with their Latin American counterparts in Caracas to prepare the current regime-change operation, pressing [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro’s right-wing opponents to set aside their differences and mount a joint challenge to the government. “The turning point,” said the Canadian Press [Global News], “came Jan. 4, when the Lima Group … rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s May 2018 election victory and his looming January 10 inauguration, while recognizing the ‘legitimately elected’ National Assembly.” The report cited an unnamed Canadian official as saying the opposition “were really looking for international support of some kind, to be able to hold onto a reason as to why they should unite, and push somebody like Juan Guaidó.”

‘One day prior to Maduro’s inauguration, [Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia] Freeland spoke to Guaidó, the newly-elected National Assembly speaker, by telephone to urge him to challenge the elected Venezuelan president.’

But that’s not all. Canada is out front and center in the “Five Eyes” intelligence agencies’ war on China’s Huawei – with direct prompting from US legislators and intelligence.  As explained by Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Gen. Colin Powell, it’s not that Huawei violated any law when circumventing US sanctions but it is the US that is acting illegally by unilaterally imposing sanctions that were never agreed to internationally. But that’s OK – when it comes to Washington’s claims of jurisdiction over every human being on the planet, Justin and Chrystia are happy to oblige!

Also, let’s not forget Chrystia’s role in keeping the pot boiling in Ukraine. It would of course be cynical (and probably racist) to attribute anything relating to Ukraine to her own interesting family background …

To be fair, the lickspittle attitude of Canadian officials towards their masters south of the 49th parallel is hardly unique in the world. Also to be fair, it’s natural and would be generally beneficial for Canada to have a positive relationship with a powerful, kindred neighbor rather than a negative one. Think of Austria’s ties to Germany, or the Trans-Tasman relationship of Australia and New Zealand, or the links that still exist between Russia and Ukraine despite efforts by the west to set them against each other (as, for example, Spain and Portugal were at loggerheads for several centuries, when the latter was a loyal ally of Spain’s foe, Great Britain, to such an extent that Portugal was sometimes shown on maps and globes in the same pink as British possessions; a similar situation existed between Argentina and British ally Chile).

A close and mutually advantageous relationship is one thing, but Canada’s de facto loss of independence is another. Not only does the US control Canada’s diplomacy, military, and intelligence but also her financial system (with, among other levers, the notorious FATCA law, which places Canadian institutions under the supervision of the IRS, with Canada’s revenue service acting, care of the Canadian taxpayer, as a cat’s paw for not only the IRS but the NSA and other snooping agencies). As explained by one Canadian nationalist (yes, they do exist!), the redoubtable David Orchard, trade is also a critical issue:

‘Canada …, after almost three decades of “free trade” with the U.S., has more than $1.2 trillion in federal and provincial debt, large deficits at every level, no national child or dental care, high university tuition, miserly old age pensions, years of massive budget cuts, and giveaway prices for its exports of oil, gas, timber and minerals.

‘For 150 years, great Canadian leaders have warned that without an economic border with the United States, we would soon no longer have a political border.

‘We once owned the world’s largest farm machinery maker, Massey Harris, headquartered in Toronto; built the world’s largest and most respected marketer of wheat and barley, the Canadian Wheat Board, based in Winnipeg; created a great transcontinental railway system, beginning in Montreal, which tied our country together; and saw Vancouver’s shipyards produce the beautiful Fast Cat ferry.

‘Instead of spending hundreds of billions on foreign-made machinery, electronics, automobiles, ships, fighter jets and passenger aircraft (even payroll systems for federal employees!), we can build our own, both for the domestic and export market.

‘We once designed and built the world’s most advanced jet interceptor, the Avro Arrow, so we know it can be done. [Emphasis added] With Canada’s resources and ingenuity, it could create a prosperous, domestically controlled economy that would give Canadians multiple benefits, security and pride of ownership. All that is required is some of the will that drove our ancestors to create an alternate power in North America. As George-Étienne Cartier, the great Québécois Father of Confederation, put it, “Now everything depends on our patriotism.”’ [Note: Orchard is the author of the must-read book The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. To begin at the beginning, in the late 1680s, as part of English-French rivalry in North America, Massachusetts Puritans sought to root out the nest of popish deviltry known as Quebec. Following their disastrous 1690 defeat, they decided to fight Satan closer to home by hanging witches. The rest, as they say, is history…]

Scratch a Canadian patriot and you’ll hear about the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow. As a watershed moment in Canada’s downward slide into subservience, the cancellation of what by all accounts was a magnificent aircraft – and a snapshot of what Canada’s international competitiveness (including in advanced aerospace) could have looked like had it been able to develop independently – might have been the point of being sucked into the American vortex. As noted by one response to my suggestion that Ottawa’s stance on Venezuela amounted to Canada’s annexation by the US: “Canadian here…unfortunately, the above is true (not literally of course, but in practice). It goes back even before the time of Diefenbaker, who canceled our Avro Arrow program on demand from the US – thus destroying our aerospace industry and causing brain drain to the US/Europe.”

To this day, the decision of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to kill the Arrow project (and “put 14,528 Avro employees, as well as nearly 15,000 other employees in the Avro supply chain of outside suppliers, out of work”) on what came to be known as “Black Friday,” February 20, 1959, remains controversial and shrouded in mystery. A mix of budgetary, political, technological, and personality factors has been cited, none of them conclusive. Pressure from the US side, including unwillingness of Washington to purchase a Canadian aircraft when the US could pressure them to buy American planes and missiles, no doubt played a key role: “Instead of the CF-105, the RCAF invested in a variety of Century Series fighters from the United States. These included the F-104 Starfighter (46 percent of which were lost in Canadian service), and (more controversial, given the cancellation of the Arrow) the CF-101 Voodoo. The Voodoo served as an interceptor, but at a level of performance generally below that expected of the Arrow.”

While we may never know reliably why Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow or how Canada or Canadian industry might have followed a different path, there’s no question of the superior capabilities of the Arrow. As it happens, one of the few pilots who had a chance to test the Arrow in an impromptu friendly dogfight is now-retired USAF fighter pilot Col. George Jatras, later US Air Attaché in Moscow (also, this analyst’s father). As he related in 2017:

‘I’ve received a number of messages in the last couple days about this bird, including some that say it may be revived. I don’t know how The Arrow would compare to today’s aircraft, but I had a first-hand lesson on how it faired against the F-102.

‘In 1959, I was stationed at Suffolk County AFB on Long Island with the 2nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron. We had an informal exchange program with a Canadian fighter squadron stationed near Montreal. From time to time, two or four aircraft from one of the squadrons would fly to the other’s base on a weekend cross country.

‘On one such exchange, I was #3 in a four ship formation led by [former Tuskegee airmanErnie Craigwell (I don’t recall who the other pilots were). As we entered Canadian airspace, cruising at about 40,000 ft., we spotted a contrail well above our altitude (probably at 50,000ft.) and closing very fast.  As the other aircraft appeared to be passing by, we could clearly see the delta shaped wing and knew it was the Avro Arrow that the Canadian pilots had told us about. Then, instead of just passing by, he rolled in on us! Ernie called for a break and we split into elements. When we talked about the encounter afterwards we all agreed that our first thought was, “This guy is in for a surprise; he doesn’t know that he’s taking on the F-102.”  Well, we were the ones in for a surprise. Even with two elements covering each other, not one of us could get on his tail. His power and maneuverability were awesome.  After he had played with us for a few minutes, like a cat with four mice, he zoomed back up to about 50K and went on his way. What an aircraft! What a shame that it never went into production.’

What is perhaps most curious about the Arrow’s demise is that “everything was ordered brutally destroyed; plans, tools, parts, and the completed planes themselves were to be cut up, destroyed, scrapped and everything made to disappear.”  Why? Well, security of course! Don’t engage in conspiracy theories …

The Canadian national anthem finishes with a pledge: “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” It should be noted that understandably resentful Loyalists fleeing the US following the American Revolution were a major contribution to the growth of Canada’s English-speaking population. American troops – back when we were the plucky underdog fighting the mighty British Empire – invaded Canada in 1775 and during the War of 1812 but were defeated. Relations got testy during the American Civil War as well, and even afterwards the US was wary of a proposed united “Kingdom of Canada,” hence the choice of the name “Dominion” in 1967. If today’s Canadians think we-all down here don’t know whom they’ve mostly had in mind to “stand on guard” against all this time, they’d better think again.

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence – eh?

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