Russia: Mugged By The Internet



August 17, 2010:  The recent (and still ongoing) wildfires in western Russia have exposed a lot of incompetence in emergency services and planning for disasters. The government tried to suppress reports of these problems, and especially keep quiet the shortcomings of individual senior officials. But efforts to control content on the Internet have not been successful, as was seen with the painfully (for politicians) detailed reporting on the damage the wildfires were doing to property and people. The Internet buzz about the fires has led to more street demonstrations (which the government generally forbids and breaks up with police.) The unhealthy clouds of smog doubled the death rate in urban areas, meaning that the ultimate cost of the fires will be tens of thousands dead. Property damage costs are in the billions of dollars.

In the Caucasus (North Ossetia) a suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint, killing a policeman, himself and wounding three others. North Ossetia is largely Christian, and was taken from Georgia two years and made a part of Russia.

The nuclear research center of Sarov, 350 kilometers east of Moscow, is still threatened by wildfires. Sarov is actually a town, whose main enterprise is government nuclear research. Sarov has been a "closed city" (only authorized personnel allowed) since the nuclear facilities were established in 1946. Until the end of the Cold War, the place was known as Arzamas-16. For centuries earlier, it was a town that grew up around a major monastery (which was shut down by the communists in the 1920s.) Over two thousand firefighters (including troops) and security personnel have been trying to hold the fires back from Sarov. Overall, about half the fires have been put out, or died on their own by now. But about 500 fires remain, covering about a quarter of the area (200,000 hectares, or (495,000 acres) that were burning when the fires were at their height a week ago.

August 16, 2010: A Romanian diplomat was arrested while engaging in espionage with a Russian citizen, and ordered to leave the country within 48 hours.

August 12, 2010:  Police in Ingushetia prevented a Islamic terror bombing by arresting two known terrorists, and seizing explosives and weapons.

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