#AceNewsReport – Oct.15: According to Putin, the United States is only developing hypersonic missiles with a speed of slightly more than Mach 3: According to Putin, similar systems are being developed in other countries, and this is not unusual.
#AceDailyNews says that according to Interfax Putin has said that Russia has won nuclear arms race with the United States And our systems are flying at speeds in excess of Mach 20. It’s not just a hypersonic missile, it’s an intercontinental missile. And they are on combat duty already in Russia,” Interfax quoted Putin as saying…….
Interfax – Published: Oct.14, 2021
“I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we, having such systems, and for the first time in history, are overtaking our main competitors – in this case the United States – in high-tech weapons systems. We do not abuse this, do not threaten anyone,” Putin said.
According to Putin, the nuclear arms race resumed after the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2003, which Moscow considered “the cornerstone of international security.”
It was not just a defense, but “an attempt to gain strategic advantages by de-energizing the nuclear potential of a potential enemy,” Putin explained.
Russia, Putin said, had two ways: either to create its own missile defense, which “costs a lot of money and it is not known how it will work,” or to develop missiles that will overcome American defenses.
“I said we’re going to do it. The answer from the American partners was as follows: our missile defense is not against you, you do what you want, we will proceed from the fact that it is not against us,” Putin described the situation.
The arms race “is not on our initiative,” he stressed, adding that Russia is ready to conduct a constructive dialogue on this matter.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.10: Some policymakers and traders have speculated additional gas has been deliberately withheld to make a diplomatic point and accelerate the approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline….
#AceDailyNews says according to media report Russia’s pipeline gas export monopoly #Gazprom has met commitments for long-term contracts, its clients confirm. But it has not raced to book extra pipeline capacity for spot buyers, despite European calls for more supplies now they want a license for ‘Nordstream2‘ according to RT News and will provide all the Gas needed for prices to fall …
Others say Russia has withheld gas to create a shortage, drive up prices and increase export revenues, similar to the way the OPEC+ producer group raises oil prices and its revenues: The other possibility is Russia has not supplied more gas because it faces its own shortage and wants to rebuild domestic stocks after they were depleted by a cold winter in 2020/21.
Why Europe faces steep winter energy bills
LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Households across Europe face much higher winter energy bills due to a global surge in wholesale power and gas prices and consumer groups have warned the most vulnerable in the region could be hit by fuel poverty as a result.
WHY THE HIGH PRICES?
Energy companies pay a wholesale price to buy gas and electricity, which they then sell to consumers. As in any market, this can go up or down, driven by supply and demand.
Prices typically rise in response to more demand for heating and people turning lights on earlier in winter, while those in the summer period are usually lower.
But prices have sky-rocketed due to low gas storage stocks, high European Union carbon prices, low liquefied natural gas tanker deliveries due to higher demand from Asia, less gas supplies from Russia than usual, low renewable output and infrastructure outages.
Benchmark European gas prices at the Dutch TTF hub have risen by more than 400% since January, while benchmark German and French power contracts have more than doubled.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.10: The Czech-made L-410 plane crashed at 9.23am (0623 GMT) in the republic of Tatarstan with 22 people on board. The plane broke in two on impact, according to images released by the Russian emergency ministry.
#AceDailyNews says according to EuroNews & Tass at least fifteen people are dead following plane crash in central Russia on Sunday around 06:23GMT in republic of Tartarstan ….
• Updated: 10/10/2021 – 11:39
It added on Telegram that “seven people were rescued” but that “15 were found without any signs of life.”
The seven survivors were hospitalised and one of them is “in a serious condition”, according to the RIA Novosti agency, which quoted a source at the local health ministry.
According to the Interfax news agency, the plane belonged to a local club of the paramilitary organisation DOSAAF, the Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Air Force and Navy.
Russia, long known for its numerous accidents, has significantly improved its air safety since the 2000s, but crashes still occur fairly frequently, especially in sparsely populated areas such as the Far East.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.01: Prior to her work at Sberbank, Rakova was deputy education minister. She allegedly took taxpayers’ money, initially intended for state contracts for a federal education program, and sent it to the Fund for New Forms of Education Development, where she was the CEO.
Rakova is suspected of embezzling more than 50 million rubles ($685,000) and faces up to 10 years in prison. According to REN TV, the Fund for New Forms of Education Development was allocated as much as 2.837 billion rubles ($39 million) during her time in the ministry, meaning the current charges may just be the tip of the iceberg.
On Wednesday, her office and home were searched by law enforcement. One day later, she failed to turn up for questioning and turned off her mobile phone, it was reported.
On Thursday, a Moscow court also detained three of Rakova’s former colleagues, Maxim Inkin, Evgeny Zak, and Kristina Kryuchkova, who are also suspected of taking part in the fraud.
Sberbank is a Russian state-owned financial institution and is the country’s most popular bank. Earlier this year, Forbes declared it to be the “most reliable” of all banks operating in the country.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.22: With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the announcement today by Counter Terrorism Policing that the Crown Prosecution Service has authorised charges against a third individual in relation to the 2018 Salisbury attack – an appalling event which shook the whole country and united our allies in condemnation.
GOVUK: The new Salisbury charging decision: Home Secretary Priti Patel’s statement to Parliament about a further charge relating to the Salisbury poisonings.
Mr Speaker, I would like to thank the opposition for their courtesy and support in allowing some of their Parliamentary time to be used for this statement and the House will of course understand that this is an ongoing investigation and so we are limited in terms of what can be said about these 3 individuals.
In March 2018, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, commonly known as ‘Novichok’.
Two police officers from Wiltshire Police involved in searching the victims’ home were also poisoned with the same agent.
In July 2018, a further 2 members of the public were found unwell in Amesbury, both of whom had been exposed to Novichok. And tragically, one of them died and this is Dawn Sturgess.
An inquest into her death is ongoing. I know that the thoughts of the whole House will be with the loved ones of Dawn today.
Mr Speaker, This House has profound differences with Russia.
By annexing Crimea in 2014, igniting the flames of conflict in eastern Ukraine and threatening western democracies, including by interfering in their elections, Russia has challenged the fundamental basis of international order.
Although attacks like this are uncommon, this is not the first time Russia has committed a brazen attack in the UK.
Today the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia was responsible for the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko. This supports the findings of the independent Litvinenko Inquiry.
However, as the then-government made clear in 2018 and I reiterate today – we will not tolerate such malign activity here in the UK.
The United Kingdom, under successive governments, has responded with strength and determination,
As my Rt Hon Friend the member for Maidenhead, then Prime Minister, announced in 2018, 250 detectives were involved in the Salisbury murder investigation, working around the clock to discover who was responsible.
On 5 September 2018, the independent Director of Public Prosecutions announced there was sufficient evidence to bring charges against 2 Russian nationals for:
conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal
the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey
causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey
possession and use of a chemical weapon, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act 1996
The 2 Russian nationals were known as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, but the police believed these to be aliases.
The then-Prime Minister announced that the government had concluded the 2 men were members of the Russian Military Intelligence Service, the GRU – and that the operation was almost certainly approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.
I want to recognise the exemplary work of our emergency services, our intelligence agencies, armed forces, and law enforcement staff who led the initial response to this despicable attack.
I also pay tribute to the ongoing work to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous attack to justice. We will not let this go.
As Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon has said, this investigation has been extraordinarily complex and our country is very fortunate that so many brave people do such outstanding work to keep us safe.
As a result of these efforts, the police can now evidence that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are aliases for Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, and that both are members of the GRU.
The CPS has now authorised charges against a third individual, known as Sergey Fedotov.
The CT Policing investigation identified that Fedotov entered the UK on a flight from Moscow to London Heathrow and stayed at a hotel in central London between the 2nd and 4th of March 2018, before returning to Moscow.
While in the UK, he met with Petrov and Boshirov on more than one occasion in central London.
The CT Policing investigation has established that Fedotov is in fact Denis Sergeev, that he is also a member of the GRU, and that all 3 individuals previously worked together for the GRU as part of additional operations outside Russia.
All 3 men are now wanted by UK police. Arrest warrants are in place for all 3. The police have applied for an Interpol Notice against Fedotov, mirroring those already in place against the other 2 suspects.
Russia has repeatedly refused to allow its nationals to stand trial overseas. This was also the case following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko when a UK extradition request was refused. This has only added to the heartache of those hurt by these attacks and, Mr Speaker, inevitably further damaged our relations with Russia.
As was made clear in 2018, should any of these individuals ever travel outside Russia, we will work with our international partners and take every possible step to detain them and extradite them to face justice.
Mr Speaker, after the attack in Salisbury, my Rt Hon Friends the Members for Maidenhead and Uxbridge and South Ruislip put in place the toughest measures the UK has levied against another state for more than 30 years, comprising of diplomatic, legislative, and economic measures.
We continue to take robust steps to counter the threat posed by the Russian state.
In 2018, 23 undeclared Russian intelligence officers were immediately expelled from the UK. In solidarity, 28 other countries and NATO joined us, resulting in the largest collective expulsion ever – of over 150 Russian intelligence officers.
This fundamentally degraded Russian intelligence capability for years to come.
The government will continue to provide the security services and law enforcement agencies with all the additional tools they need to deal with the full range of state threats, which continue to evolve.
In direct response to the Salisbury attack, we introduced new powers to enable the police to stop, question, search, and detain individuals at the UK border to determine whether they are a spy or otherwise involved in hostile activity.
These vital powers are already helping the security services and law enforcement agencies to protect the UK from very real and serious threat posed by states who seek to undermine and destabilise our country.
In July 2020, we published a full and comprehensive response to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report. This addressed point by point all the key themes and recommendations raised by the Committee.
But we are going even further and have committed to introducing new legislation to counter state threats to protect the United Kingdom.
Earlier this summer, we held a public consultation on the government’s proposals, to improve our ability to detect, respond to, and prevent state threats, keep our citizens safe, and protect sensitive data and intellectual property.
Responses to that consultation are currently being considered and we will return with comprehensive legislation.
Another crucial strand of this work is combatting illicit finance. Squeezing out the dirty money and money launderers out of the UK to secure our global prosperity is our priority.
We are at the forefront of the international fight against illicit finance, combatting the threat from source to destination.
We have introduced a new Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime and a Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regime.
The National Crime Agency continues to lead UK effort to bring the full power of law enforcement to bear against serious criminals, corrupt elites, and their assets, including through increased checks on private flights, customs, and freight travel.
In July and September 2020, working in tandem with the EU, we announced sanctions against the Russian Intelligence Services for cyberattacks against the UK and her allies.
We have also taken robust action in response to the poisoning and attempted murder of Alexei Navalny – enforcing asset freezes and travel bans against 13 individuals and a Russian research institute involved in the case.
The government will continue to respond extremely robustly to the enduring and significant threat from the Russian state.
We continue to make huge strides to counter this threat and to increase our resilience and that of our allies to Russian malign activity.
Mr Speaker, we respect the people of Russia, but we will do whatever it takes, everything it takes, to keep our country safe. We will actively work to deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats emanating from Russia until relations with its government improve.
Mr Speaker, I would like to end by paying tribute to the resilience of the people of Salisbury, who suffered a sickening and despicable act in their community, and to the people of Amesbury, who lost one of their own in the most dreadful of circumstances.
Our government will be relentless in our pursuit of justice for the victims of these attacks and continue to do whatever is necessary to keep our people safe.
I commend this statement to the House.
REUTERS RELATED: The European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) ‘ has ruled that Russia was responsible for the 2006 killing of ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died an agonising death after he was poisoned in London with Polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope.
Kremlin critic Litvinenko died at age 43, three weeks after drinking green tea laced with polonium-210 at London’s plush Millennium hotel in an attack Britain has long blamed on Russia.
In its ruling, the EHCR concluded Russia was responsible for the killing.
“Mr Litvinenko’s assassination was imputable to Russia,” its statement said.
The court ordered Russia to pay Litvinenko’s widow, Marina Litvinenko, 100,000 euros ($161,600) in damages.
The Kremlin rejected the verdict in its entirety.
“The ECHR hardly has the authority or technological capacity to possess information on the matter. There are still no results from this investigation, and making such claims is at the very least unsubstantiated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
From his deathbed, Litvinenko told detectives he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin, also a former KGB spy, had directly ordered his killing.
Russia has always denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s death.
A lengthy British inquiry concluded in 2016 that Mr Putin probably approved a Russian intelligence operation to murder Litvinenko.
The judge who oversaw the British inquiry said there were several reasons why the Russian state would have wanted to kill Litvinenko, who was granted British citizenship a month before his death on November 23, 2006.
They included information that he had likely started working for MI6 and accusing Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) of carrying out apartment block bombings in Russia in 1999 that killed more than 200 people, which the Kremlin blamed on Chechen rebels.
He was also close to other leading Russian dissidents and had accused Mr Putin’s administration of collusion with organised crime.
The British inquiry also found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, carried out the killing as part of an operation probably directed by the FSB.
The ECHR agreed, despite both men having always denied involvement.
“The court found it established, beyond reasonable doubt, that the assassination had been carried out by Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun,” the ruling said.
“The planned and complex operation involving the procurement of a rare deadly poison, the travel arrangements for the pair, and repeated and sustained attempts to administer the poison indicated that Mr Litvinenko had been the target of the operation.”
It concluded that the Russian state was to blame and that had the men been carrying out a “rogue operation”, Moscow would have the information to prove that theory.
“However, the government had made no serious attempt to provide such information or to counter the findings of the UK authorities,” the ruling said.
‘Extremely idiotic’ ruling
A Russian judge sitting on the ruling panel, Dmitry Dedov, disagreed with his six colleagues on the court’s main finding.
“I found many deficiencies in the analysis by the British inquiry and by the court which raise reasonable doubts as to the involvement of the suspects in the poisoning and whether they were acting as agents of the state,” he said.
Since the ruling Mr Lugovoy, who is a member of Russian Parliament, said the EHCR ruling was politically motivated and damaged the credibility of the court.
“I think this decision is absolutely politically motivated,” Mr Lugovoy said in an audio message shared by his assistant.
“I am very sceptical about it. I think it is extremely idiotic and damaging to the reputation of the European Court of Human Rights.”
British authorities charge third Russian over Skripal attack
On the same day as Russia was found guilty of the murder of Litvinenko, British police said a third Russian had been charged in absentia with the 2018 Novichok murder attempt on former double agent Sergei Skripal.
The attack on Skripal, who sold Russian secrets to Britain, caused the biggest row between Russia and the West since the Cold War, leading to the tit-for-tat expulsion of dozens of diplomats after Britain pointed the finger of blame at Moscow.
Russia has rejected any involvement, casting the accusations as anti-Russian propaganda.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious, slumped on a public bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March 2018. They, along with a police officer who went to Skripal’s house, were left critically ill in hospital from exposure to the military-grade nerve agent.
A woman later also died from Novichok poisoning after her partner found a counterfeit perfume bottle in which police believe it had been smuggled into the country.
In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians, then identified by the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with conspiracy to murder Skripal and the attempted murder of Yulia and the officer, Nick Bailey.
Dean Haydon, the UK’s senior national coordinator for counter terrorism policing, said prosecutors had now authorised them to charge a third man, Sergey Fedotov, who was aged about 50, with the same offences.
Mr Haydon also said Petrov and Boshirov were really named Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, and that Fedotov’s true identity was Denis Sergeev.
“We can’t go into the detail of how, but we have the evidence that links them to the GRU,” Mr Haydon told reporters, describing them as highly trained.
“All three of them are dangerous individuals.”
As with the other two Russians, British police had obtained an arrest warrant for Fedotov and they were applying for Interpol notices against him, he said.
All three men were now believed to be in Russia, with whom Britain has no extradition treaty and the Russian authorities had so far offered no co-operation.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.20: Students and teachers barricaded themselves inside the university building; others were seen jumping from windows.
#AceDailyNewssays that a gunman has killed several people at Perm University today assailant walked on to the campus on Monday morning and started shooting according to BBC News
Police wounded and detained the attacker, who is reported to be a student.
The incident occurred at 11:00 (06:00 GMT) at Perm State University, located around 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) east of the capital, Moscow, in the Urals.
Videos circulating on social media shows students throwing belongings out of windows from buildings on campus before jumping to flee the shooter.
This piece of footage of students jumping out of windows was broadcast on Russian TV:
Some reports say the gunman had written on social media that he was acting alone and had no political or religious motives. One of the university’s professors, Ivan Pechishchev, told the BBC he saw students running from a building, and people jumping out of the second floor as he went to class. “They jumped out in some horror, screaming,” he said. “One of the students told me that it was a shooting. I heard pops, everyone began to scatter in different directions. I went to my students in the second building and continued to hear the pops.”
“According to Prof Pechishchev, there are about 10 buildings on the Perm University campus, and the security service immediately blocked all buildings and passages.Perm University posted a message on social networks urging students who were in the building to stay in the classrooms.”
“ There were about 60 people in the classroom. We closed the door and barricaded it with chairs,” one student, Semyon Karyakin, told Reuters news agency.Earlier this year, a 19-year-old gunman opened fire in his old school in the central Russian city of Kazan, killing nine people.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.31: All servicemen involved in the exercise come from the Russian military base in Tajikistan, the Interfax news agency quoted the Central Military District command as saying.
#AceDailyNews says around 500 Russian troops in drills near Afghanistan and the current set of drills is the third one carried out by Russia close to the Afghan border this month. Next month, a Russia-led security bloc will hold another exercise in Kyrgyzstan which hosts a Russian military airbase according to a report by Reuters Aug.30, 20218:50 AM BST:
RFE/RL Russia says about 500 of its troops are taking part in military drills in Tajikistan amid fears of instability across its Central Asian allies after the Taliban gained control of much of Afghanistan, including its northern areas.
“Tactical maneuvers with weapons training exercises have started with the participation of motorized rifle troops from the Russian Federation’s military base No. 201 located in Tajikistan,” the Central Military District’s press service said on August 30 in a statement, adding that the exercises were taking place in the mountainous Sambuli military training field.
All of the servicemen involved in the exercise come from the Russian military base in Tajikistan, it added.
The statement comes three days after spokesman of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) said the alliance plans to hold military exercises in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan due to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan.
CSTO members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.
Central Asians states bordering Afghanistan are concerned about security threats emanating from the war-torn country and the potential for tens of thousands of refugees to pour over the border.
The group has said several thousand troops will be involved in another set of exercises, the Rubezh (Frontier) exercises, in Kyrgyzstan, which will be conducted on September 7-9.
Three more sets of military maneuvers will be held close to the Tajik-Afghan border in October, with a fourth scheduled for November.
On August 10, Russia completed joint military exercises with Tajik and Uzbek troops near the border with Afghanistan, which followed smaller Russian-Uzbek maneuvers along the Uzbek-Afghan border.
The Taliban has sought to reassure neighboring countries and Russia that it poses no threat since gaining control over much of Afghanistan’s territory in recent weeks, including Kabul, the capital.
Russia, which has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, has vowed to defend Moscow’s allies in Central Asia against any security threat from Afghanistan.
RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.
Reuters: Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams
Each of the nuclear boats will carry 16 Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles.Putin says that over the next 6 years, ships should build 70% / REUTERS
In Russia , a ceremony was held to lay down warships, including two corvettes, two nuclear and two diesel submarines.
The ceremony took place at factories in St. Petersburg and Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
“Such responsible and large-scale tasks are conditioned by the geopolitical situation of our country, its role in world affairs. The construction of a high-tech combat-ready Navy places increasing demands on Russian ships and shipbuilding,” the Russian leader said in a video conference.
According to Vedomosti , the initial launch of the nuclear cruisers “Dmitry Donskoy” and “Prince Potemkin” was to take place in May. Each of the boats will carry 16 Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Diesel submarines are due to join the Pacific Fleet in 2024. Both boats will be armed with the Caliber-PL missile system. Finally, the corvettes “Grozny” and “Buyny” plan to transfer to the fleet by 2028 with missiles “Caliber-NK” or “Uranus”.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.17: A 57-year-old British citizen David Smith was detained on Tuesday, August 10, following a joint investigation by British and German police. He is not a diplomat, but a private person hired as a security guard at the British Embassy in Berlin…..
#AceDailyNews says volunteers have noticed a shoulder patch of ‘Somali Terrorist Formation’ at the house of the detained Briton who was spying for Russia: We will certainly draw the attention of our law enforcement officers to this fact. If they see any clue in this, I am convinced that an appropriate investigation will be carried out” Dmytro Kuleba said at an online briefing on Friday, August 13……
In addition, photographs of the detainee’s apartment were published in several media outlets. Many of those who studied these photographs noticed only the shoulder patch of the disbanded Ukrainian riot police unit Berkut which earned infamy for brutal crackdown on the EuroMaidan protesters in 2013 and 2014.
First reaction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to the investigation and certain things of David Smith
According to media reports, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba intends to draw the attention of the Ukrainian law enforcement authorities to the souvenir shoulder patch of the Berkut unit found in the apartment of the Briton detained in Germany.
The minister also noted that the discovered Berkut patch is apparently a souvenir, and he sees “no compelling reason to conduct any special investigation into the presence of a Berkut shoulder patch”.
Signs of contact between the detained Briton and Russian terrorists
However, the most interesting item on the shelf in David Smith’s apartment was overlooked by diplomats and journalists. InformNapalm volunteers spotted the shoulder patch of the 1st Separate Battalion Tactical Group Somali, which is part of the hybrid Russian forces in Donbas. This unit is also used by the Russian military command to rotate snipers from regular units of the Russian Army to the combat zone in Ukraine.
Complementing the data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, volunteers of InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community, in turn, believe that the presence of the Somali battalion shoulder patch is a much more significant sign of a possible contact of the detained British citizen with Russian terrorists and intelligence services than all other memorabilia, including a mug with the flag of Novorossiya, which is also visible on the left on the shelf of the closet in his apartment.
We also recommend the British and German law enforcement officers and other interested parties to look through archived OSINT study of InformNapalm, which is available in 7 languages, including English and German:
#AceNewsReport – Aug.14: An explosion on a city bus in southwestern Russia on Thursday injured more than a dozen people, officials said: Police and investigators work at a side of an explosion on a city bus in Voronezh, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.
#AceDailyNews says that two people were killed and 22-injured after a bus explosion in Russia on Thurs.Aug.12: The Investigative Committee, Russia’s top criminal investigation agency, has opened a probe for possible charges of unsafe consumer services acording to Associated Press report …..
An explosion on a city bus in southwestern Russia on Thursday injured more than a dozen people, officials said.
But the company that operated the bus said the vehicle had a diesel engine and no gas equipment, and insisted it was in good technical condition.
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said all options were being considered and experts continued to analyze fragments from the bus.
Health authorities in Voronezh, a city of 1 million residents about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Moscow, said two people died in a hospital from injuries they sustained in the explosion. Another 15 people remained hospitalized Friday and five were undergoing treatment at home.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.09: A state of emergency has been declared in the city of Yakutsk, where freezing winter temperatures have given it the reputation of being the coldest constantly inhabited city on the planet. …..
#AceDailyNews says State of Emergency declared as one of the coldest places on earth is on fire as residents have been told to stay indoors while volunteers and firefighters brave temperatures surpassing 100 degrees Fahrenheit …..
In all, the wildfires have devoured over 10 million acres of land in the Yakutia region this summer, with 175 fires still burning, according to government data. Scientists fear the amount of carbon dioxide released from the Russian blazes could surpass last year’s record.
Similar scenes are playing out across several parts of the globe as emergency teams battle wildfires in Turkey, Southern Europe and the U.S., including California and Hawaii, where brush fires have exploded to encompass some 40,000 acres. Scientists say extreme heat in some areas and drought have contributed to sparking the fires.
More than 2,400 firefighters have been deployed to battle the Russian wildfires, supported by troops and military aircraft, while volunteers such as Ayil Dyulurkha have pitched in, desperate to stop the wildfires spreading to towns where they could destroy homes and businesses.
It is a world away from managing the courier company he founded six months ago in Yakutsk, Mr. Dyulurkha said. “When you come back from the fire, you cough and black soot shoots from your nose,” he said.
#AceHealthReport – Aug.08: June saw a surge in nationwide fatalities as Moscow introduced mandatory vaccinations.
#CoronavirusNewsDesk says Russia’s Excess Death Toll Passes 530,000 As #Delta Variant rises and they have recorded more than half a million excess deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, official figures published Friday show.
Russia’s healthcare system has been put under renewed pressure by a surge in coronavirus cases.EPA / TASS
Nationwide fatalities surged during June — the latest month for which such data is available — as the Delta variant of the coronavirus tore across the capital Moscow and spread out into the regions, sending mortality rates back to levels not seen since winter.
That marks a reversal from earlier trends, as deaths had fallen back close to pre-pandemic levels during May. But the rapid spread of the Delta variant, surge in hospitalizations and deaths during June triggered regional authorities across the country to reintroduce some restrictions and roll out mandatory vaccination rules in a bid to kickstart Russia’s sluggish jab drive.
More than 185,000 people died from all causes in June 2021 — 26% more than during the same month in 2019 — figures published by the Rosstat federal statistics service Friday showed. It was the sharpest increase in monthly deaths across the country since January.
The sharp rise took Russia’s excess fatality toll since the start of the pandemic to above 531,000, according to The Moscow Times analysis. That is one of the highest figures in the world, both in absolute terms and adjusted for population.https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/upB0g/8/
Excess fatalities — the difference between all registered deaths during a period of time compared with what should be expected given recent mortality trends — is seen by demographers and statisticians as the most reliable indicator of the number of likely Covid-19 fatalities, as it removes possible discrepancies and flaws in national accounting and attribution standards.
Russia’s excess death tally is significantly higher than the number of deaths which have been officially attributed to Covid-19. Rosstat said 23,372 people died from Covid-19 during June, with a further 3,746 patients dying with Covid-19, but where the infection was not deemed the main cause.
Rosstat has recorded 220,000 official Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic — accounting for 41% of Russia’s excess fatalities during the same period. In a number of European countries, official coronavirus deaths account for 90% or more of increased deaths.
The imposition of mandatory vaccination rules across many parts of the country, including the capital Moscow, sparked an uptick in people coming forward to be inoculated. But despite vaccines having been widely available since the start of the year, only one in four Russians have had at least a first dose of one of the country’s homemade vaccines.
#AceHealthReport – Aug.05: The increase was driven by foreign sales of Russia’s flagship Sputnik V anti-coronavirus vaccine, with millions of doses shipped overseas to customers including Argentina, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Hungary and Serbia.
#CoronavirusNewsDesk says Russia Has Earned $300-Million on Vaccine Exports So Far, with Sputnik V to Argentina, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Hungary & Serbia …….
Aug. 04, 2021Russian Sputnik-V vaccines arrived at Aurora International Airport in Guatemala CityJohan ORDONEZ / AFP
The figure also includes sales of non-coronavirus vaccines — mainly shots against yellow fever and flu. But the Trade Ministry told the RBC business site that the large jump in sales was mainly due to Sputnik V exports.
Russia has not revealed specific details on how much money it has made, or expects to make, from selling Sputnik V around the world.
In the whole of 2019, Russia exported $60 million of vaccines — a figure which grew in 2020 to $70 million.
In the first five months of 2021, Moscow’s vaccine exports surged to a total of $304 million, according to customs data analyzed by RBC. That compares to just $10 million during the same period of 2020.
But amid production delays and numerous delivery issues among key Sputnik V customers, Russia’s growth in vaccine exports significantly lags the increases in sales registered by other countries exporting coronavirus shots: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/1d4UU/1/
China increased its vaccine exports almost 100-fold during the first five months of 2021 — selling $1.8 billion worth compared to just $19 million in the same period last year. While the European Union has sold $6.4 billion in vaccines outside the bloc, up from $4.3 billion, and the U.S. also exported more than $1.5 billion.
Russia is hoping a successful Sputnik V export drive could help the country break into the lucrative medical exports market, providing both a new income stream for coronavirus vaccines, and also opening the door for Russia to sell other pharmaceutical products around the world.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.04: According to the agency, the German authorities will focus on the European Union imposing sanctions on Russia…
#AceDailyNews says that Germany will not block Nord Stream 2 if Russia tries to use the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline as a geopolitical weapon, Germany will not block it and will rely on European Union to impose sanctions …..
Veth: Published: Aug.03, 2021
UNIAN: The Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline is already 99% built.German authorities will focus on EU sanctions against Russia / Illustration REUTERS
Sanctions may be imposed in response to the Kremlin’s aggressive actions, but the authors say the pipeline is unlikely to be restricted.
According to the agency, Berlin’s unwillingness to take action against Russia at the national level may further exacerbate criticism of the pipeline agreement in the US Congress.
#AceNewsReport – Aug.01: The Secretary of State stressed that the United States “regrets the actions of the Russian government,” but will try to “maintain a predictable and stable relationship.”
#AceDailyNews State Dept of The United States will dismiss more than 180 employees of diplomatic missions in Russia Anthony Blinken stated ……
As Blinken explained, the layoffs will affect branches in Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.
The Russian government in May recognized the United States as a country committing “unfriendly actions” towards Russia. Such countries are prohibited from hiring Russian employees to work in their diplomatic missions. In addition to the United States, the Czech Republic was also named an “unfriendly” country.
US Ambassador to Russia Joe Sullivan said that from August 1, when the ban on Russians working in consulates begins to operate, the United States will completely stop providing consular services in the Russian Federation due to the reduction in the number of employees.
#AceNewsReport – July.31: Looking on from the outside, such figures appear to be a largish run-of-the-mill loan that one country grants another and for which interest is collected. But the situation with Belarus and Russia is different. According to observers: interest is mounting and debts carry on growing year in and year out, yet Minsk continues to receive new loans from Moscow…..
#AceDailyNews says here’s how Russian money keeps Belarus afloat Russia has supported its western neighbor Belarus for decades — long before the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Minsk and President Alexander Lukashenko. Earlier this summer, Moscow loaned its ally $500 million (€423 million) — six months prior, it had issued Lukashenko’s regime a similar sum.
Russia has been subsidizing its neighbor for years. Between 2005 and 2015, Moscow pumped $106 billion into the Belarus economy, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Discounted oil and gas
Experts divide Russia’s monetary contributions to Minsk into two categories: one legal and one covert. Neither is driven by economics and both have put a strain on Russia’s state budget.
The most obvious subsidy, analysts say, occurs within Belarus’ energy sector — which receives cheap Russian gas and has tariffs waived on oil destined for Belarusian refineries.
Russia has subsidized the energy sector by selling cheap gas
“Over the past 20 years, gas prices in Belarus only rose twice to European levels; each time, Belarus halted payments [to Russia], demanding a discount,” said Sergey Kondratiev of Moscow’s Institute for Energy and Finance Foundation. The research institute estimates Russia has subsidized oil to Belarus to the tune of $35 billion, and gas to the equivalent of $19 billion between 2011 and 2020.
Cheap loans, preferential market access
Cheap — and legal — loans are another means by which Russia has been able to prop up Belarus. Moscow continues to extend payment deadlines and is constantly revising the terms and conditions of the loans. Russia, for example, lent Belarus $10 billion to build a nuclear power plant in 2011.
“Belarus received both a very long grace period when it came to repaying the money, as well as the possibility to repay the loan at a discounted rate,” said Kondratiev. “Belarus would not have received such favorable conditions on the open market.”
It remains unclear how Minsk spends loans not earmarked for specific projects. Bogdan Bespalko, a member of Russia’s Council for Interethnic Relations — a body linked to President Vladimir Putin’s office — suspects they are used to pay off old debts. “A large portion of the latest $500 million loan was taken to repay money owed to Russian corporations,” Bespalko pointed out.
Certain sectors of Belarus’ economy enjoy preferential treatment in the Russian market
Russia has also granted Belarus special access to its market. Not even other members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) enjoy such favorable terms as companies from Belarus do. Observers argue this preferential treatment guarantees the survival of entire business sectors within Belarus, especially within the food and engineering industries.
In addition to low-interest loans, such favorable preferences allowed the Belarusian economy to generate some $11 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to Moscow’s Institute for Energy and Finance Foundation.
Shady sources of income
Cross-border smuggling has also played its part in supporting the country’s economy. Without border checks between Belarus and Russia, and thanks to preferential market access, illicit trade has thrived. While the financial scale of this smuggling pales in comparison to that of official Russian loans, it is still considerable. As such, it also hurts Russian coffers.
The illicit trade in Belarus sees certain EU goods relabeled, and falsified customs documents issued. These mislabeled goods are then smuggled into Russia to evade EU sanctions. Such business practices also mean excise payments on products are being circumvented.
“Only Belarus earns money doing this,” said Kondratiev. “Belarusian cigarettes are a case in point: Batches containing up to 1 million packs are smuggled into Russia without any excise duty being paid. A popular way to hide cigarettes is within shipments of mineral fertilizers.”
From 2011 to 2020, illegal tobacco imports cost Russia some $2.6 billion. Between 2014 and 2020, Russia incurred an estimated $4.2 billion in financial damages from the smuggling of EU-sanctioned goods.
Another source of income for Minsk lies in seizing the property of Russian companies in Belarus. The 2020 Belgazprombank case is a prominent example.
“After a provisional administration was established, deposits and financial assets were siphoned off, seriously hurting Russian shareholders,” said Kondratiev. Such conduct is common, he added. “We know of cases where goods sent by Russians transiting through Belarus have been seized.”
No country in the world receives the level of support from Russia as that which is afforded to Belarus, Kondratiev said. However, Moscow’s assistance has put a strain on finances. This is all the more troublesome, as the help rendered is neither spurring economic growth in Belarus, nor promoting the efficient use of money.
“On the contrary, we are seeing steady stagnation,” said the Russian Council for Interethnic Relations member Bogdan Bespalko.
#AceNewsReport – July.15: The firm is linked to a Russian company, Intertech Instruments, sanctioned by the Biden administration for its alleged role in allegedly supplying Russia’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
Warrants unsealed in federal court allege that officials at Intertech Corporation, a firm founded by Matthew Grodowski in 1990, “intentionally falsified shipping documents, avoided and circumvented export compliance regulations, and obfuscated end-users” as they sent scientific instruments to recipients in Russia. Moscow’s domestic intelligence and security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), was reportedly among the recipients of Intertech’s shipments, according to a search warrant application The Daily Beast…..
Prosecutors have not charged Intertech Corporation, Intertech Instruments, or company employees and officials with a crime. But in a search warrant application, federal agents claim that Intertech used a front company to disguise shipments to its Moscow-based subsidiary, Intertech Instruments. (Intertech did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast. Federal prosecutors in New Hampshire declined to comment, citing a policy not to comment on investigations.)
It’s unclear what specific goods federal agents believe Intertech shipped to Russia but previous export restrictions placed on an alleged Russian subsidiary point to concerns over diversion to the Russian government’s chemical and biological weapons programs.
In March 2021, the Commerce Department added Intertech Instruments to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s entity list, which restricts exports from companies at risk of supplying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, alongside nine Russian, three German, and one Swiss firm, because of their “proliferation activities in support of Russia’s weapons of mass destruction programs.” The department also included the 27th Scientific Center of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which the U.S. has alleged is “involved with Russian chemical weapons research and testing activities,” in its enforcement action.
The move came two days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Treasury Department announced sanctions on “senior Russian government officials and a Russian state research institute for their involvement in the poisoning of [Alexei] Navalny,” a Russian dissident and anti-corruption activist currently imprisoned in Russia for what are widely criticized as politically motivated charges.
Navalny, a long time anti-corruption activist and critic of Vladimir Putin’s government, fell gravely ill after he was poisoned with Novichok, a top secret nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union and used in assassination attempts against enemies of the Kremlin.
Russian businessregistration records reviewed by The Daily Beast show the Moscow-based Intertech Instruments added to the Commerce Department’s entity list shares the same website and employee email addresses as the New Hampshire-based Intertech Corporation accused of violating export laws in a search warrant application.
Intertech allegedly enjoyed a long and prosperous business relationship with Russia’s FSB. One of Intertech’s Moscow employees, Tatiana Kimstach, had even “worked in an FSB lab many years ago, maintains some of those connections, and works closely with the FSB for her current sales,” according to court documents.
Federal agents claim that Intertech officials allegedly failed to accurately identify the FSB as the ultimate end user in five shipments sent between March 2015 and September 2016. Among the alleged recipients of the company’s shipments was the FSB’s Criminalistics Institute, which provides the FSB criminal investigative arm with forensic and scientific support.
But the open source research outlet Bellingcat has also identifiedCriminalistics Institute as the cover for an altogether more sinister activity: poisoning Kremlin enemies with chemical weapons. A December 2020 Bellingcat investigation labeled the Institute as the “center of operations for the current FSB poisoning program” which has targeted dissidents like Navalny and state enemies like Sergei Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer recruited by British intelligence and poisoned by Russian operatives in 2018. Bellingcat reporters used mobile device location data to trace a dozen operatives working as part of the “clandestine sub-unit of the FSB Criminalistics Institute” to the poisoning of Navalny.
In September 2018, FBI and Commerce Department officials sent Intertech a letter informing the company that it would need a license to ship laboratory equipment to Intertech Instruments in Moscow because of the risk that scientific equipment sent there could be diverted “to chemical or biological end uses.”
After the 2018 letter, federal agents allege that Intertech “changed its business practices to circumvent and evade” the new licensing and export requirements. Transcripts of phone conversations and emails between Intertech employees detailed in court documents appear to show the company setting up a separate company, Laboratory Systems & Technology, as a cutout for continued shipments to Intertech Instruments “for the purposes of circumventing the licensing requirements,” according to federal law enforcement.
The search warrants were originally filed in January 2020. The Department of Justice requested, and received two extensions to keep the court records sealed, which expired on Tuesday.
#AceHealthReport – June.30: At least 652 people infected with coronavirus have died in Russia within the latest 24-hour recording period, government officials announced Tuesday morning. It marks the country’s single most deadly day since the pandemic began.
#CoronavirusNewsDesk – Russia records highest official death toll since start of #pandemic, as nation fights sharp rise in cases of Delta variant and the #COVID19 operational headquarters reported the grim milestone amid a steep rise in the number of positive tests for the infection over the past fortnight. More than 134,500 people are confirmed to have died with the virus overall since last March.
Low levels of vaccine uptake compared to a number of other European countries have been repeatedly cited as a challenge in Russia, with polls showing many people are skeptical of the jab. However, in the past few days, queues for appointments have been reported and at least two cities have run short of doses after tough new measures were put in place to control the spread of Covid-19 and boost the numbers of those being immunized.
As of Monday, the Russian capital is also requiring residents to scan a QR code when entering bars, cafes, pubs, food courts and other public spaces. Only those who have proof of vaccination or were officially recorded as a coronavirus case within the past six months will be eligible for unrestricted access, while others seeking admission indoors will have to provide a negative PCR test from within the previous three days.
Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova has objected to the move, labelling it “a dishonest game.” She said that “the mechanisms by which it is being implemented are giving rise to mass psychosis and making people fear coercion.”
However, two new polls released last week found that almost half of Russians surveyed back the new measures in Moscow, while 61% of those asked by researchers now plan to get vaccinated in the near future.
#AceNewsReport – June.16: As the United States’ relationship with Russia and China deteriorated, the two countries grew closer. Russia and China have denied that there are any current plans for a military alliance, although both have kept the door open to the possibility of one, raising concerns that a pact between Moscow and Beijing could disrupt the world order.
MOSCOW: Russian Official Warns Conflict Between China, U.S. Would ‘Exterminate All Mankind’………..Denisov told the Global Times, a Chinese state-run outlet, that he wouldn’t answer the hypothetical question as to whether Russia would back China in a war with the U.S.
“I am convinced that there will be no armed conflict between China and the U.S., just as there will be no armed conflict between Russia and the U.S. because such a conflict would exterminate all mankind, and then there would be no point in taking sides,” Denisov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in October 2020 that it was “quite possible to imagine” a military alliance between Russian and China, but that it was unnecessary at the time. The two countries have participated in war games and Russia has shared sensitive military technologies with China.
Chinese officials are also potentially open to forming a military alliance with Russia and in January, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said there is “no limit” to “how far this cooperation can go.”
Denisov noted that in light of the current “international situation and major issues,” Russia’s position is “clearly much closer to China’s.” The U.S. imposed sanctions on both countries with the alleged “goal” of “crushing the competitor,” he added.
“We clearly cannot accept such an attitude from the U.S. We hope that the Russia-China-U.S. ‘tripod’ will keep balance,” Denisov said.
The Biden administration has expelled diplomats and imposed a number of sanctions on Russia for its alleged hacking of federal agencies and interference in the presidential election. The consequences are meant to deter future attacks, and Russia has pushed back on the sanctions with diplomatic consequences of its own.
The upcoming meeting between Putin and U.S. President Joe Bidenmarks a potential turn for the better and both countries are looking to improve their relationship. However, that’s easier said than done.
Biden, who once agreed that Putin was a “killer,” is expected to raise concerns about Alexey Navalny, a jailed chief political rival to Putin, as well as other dissidents. It’s also possible that Putin and Biden could get into the topic of Russians engaging in cyberattacks in the United States. Recent attacks believed to be the work of Russian hackers disrupted America’s gasoline distribution and meat production.
During an interview with NBC News, Putin denied his government had anything to do with the cyber attacks and accused the U.S. of engaging in “unfounded accusations” that aren’t backed by evidence.
Denisov said the meeting is likely to “resolve important issues” between the two countries, but the goal is to set conditions for resolving future problems. Despite tension-reducing measures being welcomed by the Russians, Denisov denied it would have an impact on its relationship with China.
“This view is too short-sighted. It can’t happen. I think we’re smarter than what the Americans think,” Denisov said when asked if easing tensions between the U.S. and Russia would “alienate” Russia from China.
#AceNewsReport – June.01: This story repeats itself every year,” said one source in the oil industry in Khanty-Mansi, a western Siberian region that is home to some of Russia’s biggest oil fields. The source spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fears of retribution from officials for discussing the matter:
RFE/RL Investigation: How Russian Oil Companies Illegally Dump Massive Amounts Of Toxic Waste: The investigation by RFE/RL’s Russian Service found that regulations overseeing the disposal of drilling waste are routinely flouted, with bribes being paid to inspectors, data being omitted from required paperwork, and major oil companies pressuring regulators to effectively look the other way.
Even when government inspectors uncover violations, they regularly issue toothless orders for the companies to adhere to the law — but don’t compel them to clean up the sites.
“Inspectors come from Moscow, leave with suitcases of money, and issue orders like this: They don’t demand that you eliminate violations, remove the waste, or reclaim the polluted tundra. They say, ‘Write that you buried your shit, and continue to bury it in the same way,'” the oil-industry source told RFE/RL’s Russian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda.
Illegal waste dumps on state oil giant Rosneft’s fields in the Khanty-Mansi region alone could do more than $8 billion in environmental damage, according to one of three reports commissioned by the Russian Health Ministry and obtained by Radio Svoboda, which is releasing them to the public in their entirety for the first time.
Drillers use specialized fluids that include oil, water, and other chemicaladditives, depending on the soil type. The average well depth is 3,100 meters, though many are 5 kilometers or deeper.
On average, drilling produces around 560 tons of waste per 1,000 meters, according to oil-industry sources. According to data from Russia’s Energy Ministry, 28.5 million meters were drilled in Russia in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available.
That would translate into almost 16 million tons of waste, according to the estimated average given by oil-industry sources. But according to Russia’s environmental regulator, Rosprirodnadzor, only 5 million tons of this waste was generated in 2019 — a discrepancy that suggests more than 10 million tons may have been disposed of illegally.
Environmental regulations require toxic drilling waste to be either processed or disposed of at special landfills that are designed to keep the toxins from leaching into the groundwater.
At many wells across Russia, the waste is stored nearby in temporary trenches known as holding ponds or “sludge barns.”Sludge residue in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District in 2012 (Source: Regional branch of Rosprirodnadzor in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District)
In southern regions, the sludge barns are usually 4 to 5 meters in depth. In the north, however, where oil fields are located in swampy tundra and in permafrost zones, above-ground sludge barns are built and surrounded by earthen berms that can be up to 4 meters in height.
Depending on the size and depth of a well, multiple holding ponds for a single installation can occupy a combined area of up to 2,500 square meters.
According to regulations, the walls and the bottom of the sludge pits are supposed to be insulated to prevent toxic substances from leaching into groundwater and soil. But no regulatory agency, either on the regional or the federal level, inspects the integrity of the ponds or the insulation materials.
“There is very little data on the study of drilling waste,” said Ivan Blokov, director of the Department for Programs, Research, and Expertise at Greenpeace Russia. ”But there is clear data on how the oil is poured out. Salinization of soils, oppression of plants, changes in the species composition of flora and fauna.”
“If it were one sludge barn, there would be nothing terrible about it. The trouble is that there are a lot of them,” Blokov told RFE/RL. “And we can see how much oil the northern rivers carry into the Arctic Ocean.”
Soviet oil drillers tried to incorporate Western technologies in the 1980s, but they were expensive, said Oleg Mitvol, a former deputy chief of Rosprirodnadzor. Instead, sludge was buried next to the wells.
In 1998, Russia adopted a law requiring waste to be processed and neutralized, or stored at special landfills.
According to Yevgenia Kiselyova, who worked in the Khanty-Mansi regional division of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, some oil companies, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Yukos, built properly designed holding ponds in the late 1990s; some of them are still functioning.
However, she said, “the rest of the landfills were just imitations, provided there were operating permits.”
As of 2015, Kiselyova said, there were an estimated 10,000 holding ponds in the Khanty-Mansi region and 300 new ones appeared every year.
One official in the region’s oil sector, who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, said oil companies frequently undercount their drilling sites and sludge barns. That assertion is supported by a 2017 inspection of Rosneft by Rosprirodnadzor, which found that on just one of the state oil giant’s fields, it operated 34 well pads without the necessary permissions.
An oil-industry source who works in the Khanty-Mansi region told Radio Svoboda on condition of anonymity that there was no regulation whatsoever of illegally constructed well pads.
WATCH: A drilling-waste processing facility around 50 kilometers from the city of Nizhnevartovsk in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District. (Source: Radio Svoboda)
Other oil-producing countries try to minimize environmental damage from drilling waste by separating the soil from the hazardous liquids. A common technique is to burn off the flammable components of the drilling waste. But that is energy intensive and releases polluting emissions into the atmosphere.
Sludge is burned in Russia as well, but mostly that happens with waste collected from oil spills.
Other technologies in use include a German-designed process that uses low pressures to evaporate liquids, and results in relatively harmless output. Another, developed in Norway, is “thermal decomposition,” in which oil products are separated from the sludge and can even be processed further into fuel oil.
Fictitious Waste Disposal
The massive and systematic burial of drilling waste in Russia is also carried out under the guise of recycling.
Since 2000, Russian drillers have been allowed to use other “mixed technologies” to mitigate the environmental damage from drilling waste.
In theory, the waste is mixed with sand, cement, and a specialized foam product to create a “building material” that supposedly can be used for construction or other industrial purposes. The process involves simply mixing the ingredients together in a trench to “lock up” the toxic materials into an inert form that prevents them from leaching into the environment.
In reality, however, this technique exists largely on paper.
Drillers just cover the waste with soil, costing them a comparative pittance — 2,600 to 3,000 rubles ($35-$40) per cubic meter of sludge.
WATCH: Sludge barns near the shores of the Vakh River in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District in western Siberia. (Source: Radio Svoboda)
Even if drillers were using the “mixed technologies” process instead of just covering drilling waste with dirt, the resulting compound would not meet environmental standards.
In May 2010, recycled building material known by the commercial name “burolit” failed testing standards imposed by another regulator responsible for industrial quality-control, Rostekhnadzor.
The tests determined that oil products were found in the material at concentrations 12 times higher than permissible for the general environment, and some of the ingredients used turned out to be carcinogens.
Rostekhnadzor experts also concluded in 2010 that “burolit” was unusable for road construction, and that it was not even suitable to help construct new sludge barns.
Despite that fact, Rostekhnadzor later gave a one-year approval for the substance; in 2015, that approval was granted a second time.
In the early 2000s, there were attempts — on paper, at least — to recycle drilling waste into bricks for use in construction. In the Khanty-Mansi region, about 2,800 kilometers northeast of Moscow, Radio Svoboda visited one of the largest oil fields in the western Siberian region, where a facility supposedly producing these bricks was to have been installed.
Instead, however, the toxic waste was simply buried at the site.
Legal documents obtained by RFE/RL showed ownership of the plot, which dated back to a 2005 lease, was hidden behind a series of shell companies.WATCH: Sludge barns on the territory of Rosneft-controlled Priobskoye oil field, where a facility recycling drilling waste into bricks was supposedly to be built.
After several inspections, Rosprirodnadzor won a series of court cases ordering the companies to remove the buried waste. However, the murky ownership of the land allowed the owners to drag out the legal process for nearly a decade. Last year, an arbitration court ordered one of the companies to pay a 3.6 billion ruble ($49 million) fine.
However, that company and the two others affiliated with it have all declared bankruptcy.
The sludge dumps at issue in those cases are located on Rosneft’s 5,400-square-kilometer Priobskoye oil field. A court ruled that only the bankrupt companies — not Rosneft — were liable for the pollution.Sludge barns on the territory of Rosneft-controlled Priobskoye oil field, where a facility recycling drilling waste into bricks was supposedly to be built.
Meanwhile, the buried waste remains in the ground, approximately 3.5 kilometers from the Ob, one of the world’s longest rivers, which drains into the Arctic Ocean.
In northern Russia, nearly all oil production takes place in protected watersheds, which are set up to keep pollutants out of waterways.
A 2019 report by the national meteorological monitoring agency, Rosgidromet, found that as much as 17,500 tons of petroleum products flowed from the Ob into the Kara Sea, an extension of the Arctic Ocean, that year. One federally commissioned report found that as many as 90 percent of fish in the Ob Basin have deformations and chronic dysfunctions of the body, which lead to mutation and extinction of species.
In Russia, the process for mitigating environmental damage from toxic drilling waste also includes a system for reclaiming land that has been used temporarily, and then theoretically cleaned up and returned to its natural state. Drillers are obliged by law to carry out reclamation.
In Khanty-Mansi, however, a commission appointed by local authorities oversees the approval process for accepting and then redistributing the reclaimed land to, for example, timber farmers; in Yamalo-Nenets, further north, reindeer herders are frequently given such land.
Beginning in 2010, these commissions were required to involve the participation of Rosprirodnadzor, a nod to rising concerns about the growth of unregulated sludge barns and improper drilling-waste disposal. Kiselyova’s department stopped signing land permits, and an increased number of fines and administrative violations were handed out for environmental violations.
In 2011, the regional natural resources agency appealed to the region’s governor, as well as federal agencies, saying the situation with drilling waste in the region was catastrophic and asking for support in developing better legal and regulatory measures.
The following year, however, the CEOs of some of Russia’s most powerful oil and gas companies co-signed a letter to then-Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, complaining that the excessive regulations on sludge and disposal would result in a slowdown in production — and, they asserted, social turmoil.
Later that year, the regional branch of Rosprirodnadzor, the environmental regulator, began to actively impede the work of Kiselyova’s department, she said.
She said her superiors began to close administrative cases her department had opened against oil and drilling companies. They also began to conduct inspections targeting Kiselyova herself and her subordinates for alleged impropriety, she said.
Kiselyova wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin in 2014 stating that the reclamation process was regularly abused or ignored.
“No one has actually seen any results of such forest reclamation, forest restoration, or forest ecosystem in its diversity,” she wrote.
She took one company subsidiary to court to force it to comply with anti-sludge-dumping regulations, after which she said her car was shot up with an air gun and her tires slashed. She was subsequently fired.
Kiselyova fought her firing three times; three times a court upheld her dismissal.
Tatyana Kuznetsova, the head of Rosprirodnadzor’s department overseeing waste disposal, told Radio Svoboda that the agency was no longer involved in the land-reclamation commissions.
Buried Report On Buried Waste
In the spring of 2018, a scandal bubbled up in the Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets regions after the Russian media outlet RBK obtained a letter from a Russian Health Ministry analytical center about the storage and disposal of drilling waste in the two regions.
The letter, addressed to the then-head of Rosprirodnadzor, Artyom Sidorov, discussed illegal dumps of supposedly recycled drilling waste that had been discovered in both regions on fields operated by Rosneft, LUKoil, and other oil companies. It was sent by the then-acting head of the Health Ministry’s Center for Strategic Planning and Management of Biological Risks, which had conducted three separate studies over a two-year period at the ministry’s behest.
On Rosneft oil fields in the Khanty-Mansi region alone these dumps totaled 20 million cubic meters, with estimated ecological damage that could total more than $8 billion, according to the letter.
The head of Rosprirodnadzor’s regional branch in Khanty-Mansi was subsequently fired, as was Sidorov, the agency’s federal chief. But the scandal largely fizzled out.
Rosneft told RBK that the analytical center did not have the authority to conduct inspections and that the company adhered to environmental laws in its disposal of drilling waste. LUKoil told the newspaper that it worked with licensed contractors that dispose of drilling waste in line with government regulations.
And the analytical center’s full studies were never released to the public — until now.
Radio Svoboda has obtained copies of the three reports — totaling 630 pages that are not available online — and is releasing them in their entirety as part of this investigation. Radio Svoboda managed to review the reports on a computer terminal and photograph each individual page, as it was not permitted to print them out or download them.
Below are several key takeaways from the reports, based on this review:
Almost without exception, rivers and other bodies of water in the Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets regions are polluted. In some, the content of petroleum products is between five and 10 times above the maximum allowable limit, while the level of phenolic compounds is between 10 and 18 times the limit.
While the main environmental damage from oil-production is linked to emissions, drilling waste has a damaging effect on the demographic situation and the health of the population in Russia’s oil-producing regions, the authors of one report wrote. “The incidence of neoplasms, congenital malformations, and diseases of the blood and the immune system among the population living in oil-producing regions is 1.5 to five times higher than those in areas where there are no oil-production facilities,” they wrote.
Not a single technology for drilling-sludge processing was given a positive assessment by state environmental experts, one of the reports states. Surgutneftegaz, Russia’s fourth-largest oil producer, had used the “burolit mix” technique in the seven years prior to the report “despite the fact that the method…received a negative assessment” from state environmental experts, it states.
The processing of drilling sludge is conducted not by the oil companies themselves but by subcontractors. “There are so many inconsistencies in the legislation that today it is virtually impossible to bring claims against oil-producing companies,” one report states, referring to the part of the Rosneft field where drilling waste was supposedly to be recycled into bricks.
The recycled drilling-waste product known by the name burolit loses its commercial properties almost immediately, making it essentially waste but in a much larger volume than before the start of the process. “The disposal sites for this waste are becoming unauthorized dumps,” the authors wrote.
The reclamation of sludge barns is a “nominal event,” one report states, suggesting it is something that does not actually take place, and adding that “oil companies are extremely inattentive to this part of their activities.”
Reached by Radio Svoboda for comment, the Russian Health Ministry directed inquiries to the Center for Strategic Planning and Management of Biological Risks, which compiled the reports. The center said it was no longer conducting such studies, while the Health Ministry did not respond to a follow-up inquiry.
Kuznetsova, the head of Rosprirodnadzor’s waste-disposal department, told Radio Svoboda that she was not aware of the Health Ministry studies and therefore could not comment.
Asked about the discrepancy between the official figure of 5 million tons of drilling waste in 2019 and the estimated 16 million tons based on Radio Svoboda’s discussions with oil-industry sources, Kuznetsova suggested the official figure is more accurate.
She confirmed, however, that the responsibility of monitoring and reporting the disposal of drilling waste lies with the oil companies themselves, which should determine the toxicity classification with the help of private laboratories and carry out the disposal based on the results.
Only spot inspections can reveal whether oil companies are following this protocol.
Rosneft, LUKoil, and Surgutneftegaz did not respond to requests for comment.
Adapted and translated from the original Russian by Mike Eckel and Carl Schreck
Sergei Khazov-Cassia is a correspondent in Moscow for RFE/RL’s Russian Service.