UPDATE ON KURSK SALVAGE OPERATION
Moskovsky Komsomolets, November 11, 2000, p. 1
Salvage work in the ninth compartment of the Kursk nuclear submarine have been discontinued. Both the military and the public are outraged that only 12 bodies have been recovered, even though the letter of Lieutenant Captain Dmitry Kolesnikov said there were 23 people present.
Officials are keeping silent. The PR Department of the Northern Fleet said, “We don’t know any more than you do.”
According to surveillance done by the Mir apparatus launched from the Akademik Keldysh oceanographic vessel, the first two compartments are destroyed. The military does not have exact information about the third compartment so far. However, the evacuation capsule that can hold all the crew, and can surface in case of an accident, is located in the third compartment. The top-secret codes, for the sake of which the salvage operation has been started, are also located in the third compartment. It has been revealed that the first part of Kolesnikov’s note was written under emergency lights. Thus, for the first few hours after the accident, back-up power was supplied to the submarine.
As we have learnt from reliable sources, the evacuation capsule failed to surface because of a strong impact. Therefore, divers are trying to get into the third compartment. Engineers from the Rubin Design Bureau have worked out a completely safe plan for the next stage of the salvage operation.
LIFE IMPRISONMENT OR FREEDOM?
Moskovsky Komsomolets, November 11, 2000, pp. 1, 2
On October 31, 2000, Deputy Justice Minister Yury Kalinin announced that the Justice Ministry is working on amendments to the law covering the possible release of prisoners serving a life sentence.
Yury Kalinin said, “People sentenced to life imprisonment should have some future, including the hope of freedom.” However, this decision will inevitably reduce the impact of a life sentence.
It is clear that this decision has been prompted by the Justice Ministry’s wish to reduce overcrowding and bring Russian prisons up to European standards. According to the “humanization policy” adopted by the Russian prison system, in the next few years another 350,000 people will be released. However, this reform is being delayed by the presence of prisoners serving life sentences. Although it is planned to build several new prisons for them, their number is increasing, and new prisons will evidently be overcrowded too soon.
Of course, there are precedents for this in foreign countries. And certainly Kalinin has promised that most dangerous criminals, such as psychopaths or serial killers, will not be freed.
EDMOND POPE IS ILL
Izvestia, November 11, 2000, p. 2
The trial of Edmond Pope, a US citizen charged with espionage, in the Moscow City Court was interrupted on Tuesday because of a drastic deterioration in the health of the accused. Pope was taken from the courtroom to a Lefortovo prison cell, when he had either a seizure or sharp pain in his joints. Prison doctors have written the preliminary diagnosis: “rheumatic pains and osteochondrosis of coxial joints.” He has been excused from participation in the trial for at least two days. Pope has bone cancer. Several years ago he had a major operation. His lawyer Pavel Astakhov has long insisted on independent oncologists examining his client. However, the Moscow City Court has declined these appeals each time. According to Astakhov, Pope’s disease is progressing, and he urgently needs expert medical treatment.
MOST RUSSIANS TRUST THE PRESIDENT
Izvestia, November 11, 2000, p. 3
A recent poll indicates that most Russians (71.5%) approve of Vladimir Putin’s performance to some extent. Around 13.3% of respondents disapprove of his actions to some extent, and only 6.3% completely disapprove of him. A further 8.9% were uncertain. In this poll 73.2% of respondents said they have confidence in the president. In the opinion of 64.3% of respondents, the president’s policies correspond to Russia’s long-term interests. Only 19.8% of respondents disagree with this statement.
COMPENSATION FOR CHERNOBYL VETERANS
Trud, November 11, 2000, p. 1
The hunger strike by Chernobyl clean-up workers from the city of Shakhty in the Rostov region has made the Russian government give up its plan to indiscriminately cut welfare payments to all Chernobyl victims, as Labor Minister Alexander Pochinok has announced. He has stressed that mining workers, physicists, and other well-paid specialists who worked at Chernobyl after the accident can be confident about their compensation payments.
Many of these people are suffering from acute radiation sickness, and need expensive treatment. Their rights will be protected by the amendment to the law on social benefits for citizens affected by radiation because of the Chernobyl disaster. The Labor Ministry will submit this amendment to the Duma in the near future. This amendment will affect 1,820 people.
As for other rescuers, they will be paid in accordance with their disability status. The most severely affected (first group) will get 5,000 rubles a month; the second group will get 2,500 rubles a month; and the third group will get 1,000 rubles a month. Thanks to this innovation, about 84% of Chernobyl clean-up workers will be better off.
According to Labor Ministry, up to 50,000 people are in possession of fake certificates of Chernobyl rescue workers. They will soon have to say goodbye to their illicit income, since they will be examined by a medical commission that will confirm or deny their diagnosis.
PRIMORYE TELEVISION LOSES ELECTRICITY
Trud, November 11, 2000, p. 1
On October 31, 2000, the Dalenergo electical utility cut off power for two hours to the TV and radio broadcasting center of Primorye (Maritime Territory). According to Dalenergo, the Primorye branch of the All-Russian TV and Radio Company (VGTRK) owes it about 20 million rubles.
At a press conference, Dalenergo chief Yury Likhoida announced that Dalenergo may cut off power to any facility in Primorye. He also said that his company intends to sue a number of the worst debtors, among which are the municipal governments of Artyom and Nakhodka. Their debts run into hundreds of millions of rubles.