ARMORED TRAIN IN RUSSIA
Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 17, 2001, p. 3
The special armored train of leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il has said farewell to Russia. Having travelled across half the country, this train made a strong impression on us – especially on those, who had to put up with cancelled trains, intensive security at railway stations, traffic jams…
As if in revenge, this special train was followed by accidents: a stone thrown through a train window, a cement post in the way…
In short, Russian investigators and police will remember this visit of the North Korea leader for a long time.
The first accident with the armored train occurred on Sunday, August 5, when the train carrying Kim Jong-il left Moscow for St. Petersburg. Between Rizhskaya and Ostankino a stone was thrown into one of the windows of the train and made a considerable hole in the glass. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The hole was patched up with a piece of plywood.
At first, this accident was kept secret in official circles, because of a “possible hidden political motive”. However, as it turned out later, there was no hidden motive. The “criminals” – four homeless teenagers – were detained. The silly fools didn’t even know about the visit of the North Korean leader to Russia, and threw a stone at a passing train “just for fun”.
The next incident was far more serious that the first. It happened in the Tver region. The armored train nearly ran into a cement post lying across the rails. Fortunately, the train was going at a low speed and the engine drivers managed to stop the train at a distance of 150 meters from the post. If the train had collided with the post, it would not have come off the rails, as it is specially equipped, but the passengers would have felt a strong jolt.
And a really scandalous thing happened to the train last Monday, not far from Irkutsk. On the evening of August 13, a man waiting for a suburban train decided to cross the rails. The man did not notice the oncoming train – and was hit so strongly that his body knocked down three other people. An ambulance was immediately called, but the doctors only could verify his death. The victim was 52-year-old worker Alexander Babich.
The traffic police of the Irkutsk region announced that the man was killed not by the armored train, but by the accompanying locomotive, and the victim was drunk. However, this does not make any difference to the relatives of the victim. Actually, the suburban train for which the man had been waiting was delayed because of the armored train of the North Korean leader.
Another scandal was connected with a photo published in one of the national newspapers, showing a window with bullet traces. News agencies declared that this was the armored train of Kim Jong-il, fired on somewhere in the Novosibirsk region. The Novosibirsk police rushed to search for the sniper – but soon it turned out that the picture showed some other train.
On Wednesday Kin Jong-il celebrated North Korean independence day aboard his train. He sang Russian songs and treated Russian officials to his favorite dishes, thus marking the end of the four-week visit, which has brought so much misfortune to our country.
REFORMS FOR THE INTERIOR MINISTRY
Izvestia, August 17, 2001, p. 2
Yesterday the Interior Ministry officials tried to explain to journalists the details of the reforms started in the ministry. According to Deputy Minister Ivan Golubev, the main task of the ministry from now on will be to serve the public. And he asked people not to fear that crime rates would sharply increase in the near future.
In order to change the situation for the better, from now on all crimes will be registered.
Golubev stressed, “I would like you to note that it does not mean a real increase of crime. It means that if police register all crimes, the statistics will increase correspondingly.”
He also noted that from now on the main priority of the ministry would be to serve the public. The rate of solved crimes will no longer be the main criterion for police performance; this practice has led to unsolved crimes being concealed. However, the new criteria were not announced. According to Golubev, this question is now being addressed.
The abolition of the Regional Departments for Combating Organized Crime and establishment of Operative-Search Bureaus on their basis are explained by the need to maintain the integrity of the ministry and “management hierarchy”. And Ivan Golubev denied allegations that the main aim of the reform was to eliminate the influence of former interior minister Vladimir Rushailo.
AMMUNITION WASHED AWAY BY FLOOD
Izvestia, August 17, 2001, p. 2
It became known yesterday that in the Partizansk region of Primorye (Maritime territory), heavy rain has washed away nearly 10,000 shells for antiaircraft emplacements from arsenals. The ammunition belonged to the Pacific Fleet. The press center of the fleet announced that the shells were not dangerous either to people or to the environment. However, we can only rely on the assurances of the military.
The Interior Department of Primorye has already started a search, while the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Pacific Fleet began investigating the case. Local police and civil defense specialists examined the banks of the flooded river, but have not found any ammunition yet.
The military isn’t permitting Civil Defense or emergency workers or the local administration to approach the arsenal, which makes the situation even more dangerous. Now they are trying to calculate how far the ammunition could have been carried, and in which direction.
According to the Krasnoarmeisk Mechanisation Institute, which deals with problems of disposing of weapons, antiaircraft shells cannot cause much trouble by themselves: “The most important thing is that they should not be found by people who may try to take them apart.”
The Primorye department of the Emergencies Ministry told us that Primorye had always been one of the most dangerous areas: the territory is full of all kinds of military stockpiles. The security structures report ammunition finds almost every day. Within a year, there have been several accidents near the former arsenal there, as a result of which children were injured. Besides, there are a lot of deserted military posts, with ammunition and shells on their territory. The number of civilian casualties has already reached several dozen a year.
MI-24 HELICOPTER CRASH
Izvestia, August 17, 2001, p. 2
It became known yesterday that on Wednesday in the Vedensk region of Chechnya a MI-24 helicopter crashed, or more likely was shot down. The aircraft commander and the pilot-navigator were killed.
There has not yet been any official reaction to the disaster. Only a representative of Sergei Yastrzhembsky and deputy commander of the group Alexei Kuznetsov expressed their view. The Cabinet announced that “it was just an accident, not a military casualty”. Kuznetsov, in turn, confirmed the death of the crew. According to him, the pilots tried to save themselves and used parachutes. However, the height was too low, and the parachutes did not open, so the men were killed by the fall. He did not mention the battles in the mountains. Neither the Military Prosecutor’s Office nor the Moscow agencies know what is going on in the Vedensk region now. But the separatists’ websites keep reporting huge casualties among federal troops.
And while the government does not want to comment on the battles in the Vedensk region, information agencies announce that “230,000 tons of grain has been harvested in Chechnya, 180,000 tons more than last year”.
Izvestia, August 17, 2001, p. 3
Three seamen of the Virgo tanker have been released on bail of $48,000 in cash until the court hearing on September 13. All the crew are still at a hotel in St. John’s, Canada. US officials and the Russian government are taking an active interest in the case, which makes it possible to speak of its political nature.
The US officials accuse the Russian crew of the manslaughter of three seamen from the US Starbound trawler, who drowned as a result of a collision on August 5. Only the captain was saved, and he blamed the Virgo tanker for the disaster. The Primorsk Shipping Corporation is outraged. Its security manager Vitaly Raspopov said, “This is a political game. At first our solicitors in Canada asked the marine police, and told us that our crew were free to go anywhere. However, as they were boarding a plane, three of our crew were arrested.”
According to Raspopov, the incident is viewed as an armed seizure of a vessel, since representatives of the Canadian police, the FBI and coastguards kept the Russian crew on board the tanker. The captain’s demand that his solicitor should be present during the search of his cabin was ignored. Under threat of arrest, the crew were taken off the ship and moved to a hotel.
According to the Primorsk Shipping Corporation, officials of Canada and the US are treating the Russian seamen as criminals, without producing any evidence of their guilt. Vladivostok will press for the crew to be allowed to return home. A representative of the Russian ambassador to Canada has flown to St. John’s.