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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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Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades.

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Via Oilprice.com


Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Germany Pulls Rank on Macron and American Energy Blackmail

Why France’s Macron, at the last minute, attempted to undermine the project by placing stiffer regulations is a curious question.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It was billed politely as a Franco-German “compromise” when the EU balked at adopting a Gas Directive which would have undermined the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia.

Nevertheless, diplomatic rhetoric aside, Berlin’s blocking last week of a bid by French President Emmanuel Macron to impose tougher regulations on the Nord Stream 2 gas project was without doubt a firm rebuff to Paris.

Macron wanted to give the EU administration in Brussels greater control over the new pipeline running from Russia to Germany. But in the end the so-called “compromise” was a rejection of Macron’s proposal, reaffirming Germany in the lead role of implementing the Nord Stream 2 route, along with Russia.

The $11-billion, 1,200 kilometer pipeline is due to become operational at the end of this year. Stretching from Russian mainland under the Baltic Sea, it will double the natural gas supply from Russia to Germany. The Berlin government and German industry view the project as a vital boost to the country’s ever-robust economy. Gas supplies will also be distributed from Germany to other European states. Consumers stand to gain from lower prices for heating homes and businesses.

Thus Macron’s belated bizarre meddling was rebuffed by Berlin. A rebuff was given too to the stepped-up pressure from Washington for the Nord Stream 2 project to be cancelled. Last week, US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and two other American envoys wrote an op-ed for Deutsche Welle in which they accused Russia of trying to use “energy blackmail” over Europe’s geopolitics.

Why France’s Macron, at the last minute, attempted to undermine the project by placing stiffer regulations is a curious question. Those extra regulations if they had been imposed would have potentially made the Russian gas supply more expensive. As it turns out, the project will now go-ahead without onerous restrictions.

In short, Macron and the spoiling tactics of Washington, along with EU states hostile to Russia, Poland and the Baltic countries, have been put in their place by Germany and its assertion of national interests of securing economical and abundant gas supply from Russia. Other EU member states that backed Berlin over Nord Stream 2 were Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and the Netherlands.

Washington’s claims that Nord Stream 2 would give Russia leverage of Europe’s security have been echoed by Poland and the Baltic states. Poland, and non-EU Ukraine, stand to lose out billions of dollars-worth of transit fees. Such a move, however, is the prerogative of Germany and Russia to find a more economical mode of supply. Besides, what right has Ukraine to make demands on a bilateral matter that is none of its business? Kiev’s previous bad faith over not paying gas bills to Russia disbars it from reasonable opinion.

Another factor is the inherent Russophobia of Polish and Baltic politicians who view everything concerning Russia through a prism of paranoia.

For the Americans, it is obviously a blatant case of seeking to sell their own much more expensive natural gas to Europe’s giant energy market – in place of Russia’s product. Based on objective market figures, Russia is the most competitive supplier to Europe. The Americans are therefore trying to snatch a strategic business through foul means of propaganda and political pressure. Ironically, the US German ambassador Richard Grenell and the other American envoys wrote in their recent oped: “Europe must retain control of its energy security.”

Last month, Grenell threatened German and European firms involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 that they could face punitive American sanctions in the future. Evidently, it is the US side that is using “blackmail” to coerce others into submission, not Russia.

Back to Macron. What was he up to in his belated spoiling tactics over Nord Stream 2 and in particular the attempted problems being leveled for Germany if the extra regulations had been imposed?

It seems implausible that Macron was suddenly finding a concern for Poland and the Baltic states in their paranoia over alleged Russian invasion.

Was Macron trying to garner favors from the Trump administration? His initial obsequious rapport with Trump has since faded from the early days of Macron’s presidency in 2017. By doing Washington’s bidding to undermine the Nord Stream 2 project was Macron trying to ingratiate himself again?

The contradictions regarding Macron are replete. He is supposed to be a champion of “ecological causes”. A major factor in Germany’s desire for the Nord Stream 2 project is that the increased gas supply will reduce the European powerhouse’s dependence on dirty fuels of coal, oil and nuclear power. By throwing up regulatory barriers, Macron is making it harder for Germany and Europe to move to cleaner sources of energy that the Russian natural gas represents.

Also, if Macron had succeeded in imposing tougher regulations on the Nord Stream 2 project it would have inevitably increased the costs to consumers for gas bills. This is at a time when his government is being assailed by nationwide Yellow Vest protests over soaring living costs, in particular fuel-price hikes.

A possible factor in Macron’s sabotage bid in Germany’s Nord Stream 2 plans was his chagrin over Berlin’s rejection of his much-vaunted reform agenda for the Eurozone bloc within the EU. Despite Macron’s very public amity with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Berlin has continually knocked back the French leader’s ambitions for reform.

It’s hard to discern what are the real objectives of Macron’s reforms. But they seem to constitute a “banker’s charter”. Many eminent German economists have lambasted his plans, which they say will give more taxpayer-funded bailouts to insolvent banks. They say Macron is trying to move the EU further away from the social-market economy than the bloc already has moved.

What Macron, an ex-Rothschild banker, appears to be striving for is a replication of his pro-rich, anti-worker policies that he is imposing on France, and for these policies to be extended across the Eurozone. Berlin is not buying it, realizing such policies will further erode the social fabric. This could be the main reason why Macron tried to use the Nord Stream 2 project as leverage over Berlin.

In the end, Macron and Washington – albeit working for different objectives – were defeated in their attempts to sabotage the emerging energy trade between Germany, Europe and Russia. Nord Stream 2, as with Russia’s Turk Stream to the south of Europe, seems inevitable by sheer force of natural partnership.

On this note, the Hungarian government’s comments this week were apt. Budapest accused some European leaders and the US of “huge hypocrisy” in decrying association with Russia over energy trade. Macron has previously attended an economics forum in St Petersburg, and yet lately has sought to “blackmail” and disrupt Germany over its trade plans with Russia.

As for the Americans, their arrant hypocrisy is beyond words. As well as trying to dictate to Europe about “market principles” and “energy security”, it was reported this week that Washington is similarly demanding Iraq to end its import of natural gas from neighboring Iran.

Iraq is crippled by electricity and power shortages because of the criminal war that the US waged on that country from 2003-2011 which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Iraq critically needs Iranian gas supplies to keep the lights and fans running. Yet, here we have the US now dictating to Iraq to end its lifeline import of Iranian fuel in order to comply with the Trump administration’s sanctions against Tehran. Iraq is furious at the latest bullying interference by Washington in its sovereign affairs.

The hypocrisy of Washington and elitist politicians like Emmanuel Macron has become too much to stomach. Maybe Germany and others are finally realizing who the charlatans are.

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Russia Readies Own Web To Survive Global Internet Shutdown

Russia is simultaneously building a mass censorship system similar to that seen in China.

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Via Zerohedge


Russian authorities and major telecom operators are preparing to disconnect the country from the world wide web as part of an exercise to prepare for future cyber attacks, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week.

The purpose of the exercise is to develop a threat analysis and provide feedback to a proposed law introduced in the Russian Parliament last December.

The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Program, requires Russian internet service providers (ISP) to guarantee the independence of the Russian Internet (Runet) in the event of a foreign attack to sever the country’s internet from the world wide web.

Telecom operators (MegaFon, VimpelCom (Beeline brand), MTS, Rostelecom and others) will have to introduce the “technical means” to re-route all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), Russia’s federal executive body responsible for censorship in media and telecommunications.

Roskomnazor will observe all internet traffic and make sure data between Russian users stays within the country’s borders, and is not re-routed abroad.

The exercise is expected to occur before April 1, as Russian authorities have not given exact dates.

The measures described in the law include Russia constructing its internet system, known as Domain Name System (DNS), so it can operate independently from the rest of the world.

Across the world, 12 companies oversee the root servers for DNS and none are located in Russia. However, there are copies of Russia’s core internet address book inside the country suggesting its internet could keep operating if the US cut it off.

Ultimately, the Russian government will require all domestic traffic to pass through government-controlled routing points. These hubs will filter traffic so that data sent between Russians internet users work seamlessly, but any data to foreign computers would be rejected.

Besides protecting its internet, Russia is simultaneously building a mass censorship system similar to that seen in China.

“What Russia wants to do is to bring those router points that handle data entering or exiting the country within its borders and under its control- so that it can then pull up the drawbridge, as it were, to external traffic if it’s under threat – or if it decides to censor what outside information people can access.

China’s firewall is probably the world’s best known censorship tool and it has become a sophisticated operation. It also polices its router points, using filters and blocks on keywords and certain websites and redirecting web traffic so that computers cannot connect to sites the state does not wish Chinese citizens to see,” said BBC.

The Russian government started preparations for creating its internet several years ago. Russian officials expect 95% of all internet traffic locally by next year.

As for Russia unplugging its internet from the rest of the world for an upcoming training exercise, well, this could potentially anger Washington because it is one less sanction that can keep Moscow contained.

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