SPECIAL EXTRA: Russia, Sinking

The Russian Volga cruise ship Bulgaria


Russia, Sinking

At 8:19 am EST on Sunday, July 10, 2011, the Washington Post published a wire story on its website from the Associated Press  about the sinking of the Bulgaria (shown above in happier times), a fifty-year-old tourist vessel plying the Volga River in Russia more than a mile off shore and near the village of Syukeyevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district of the Republic of Tatarstan.  Two minutes later the New York Times published a wire story from Reuters about the same event.  The reports followed the event by about three hours. Since then, the two papers have altered the reports substantially because the information they reported was totally false.

The AP story, relying on a male spokesperson for the Russian Emergencies Ministry, said that 61 of the 173 people who were on the vessel (140 passengers and 33 crew) were missing.  The Reuters story, relying on a female spokesperson for the same ministry, said the number missing was 96 of 173.

Various Kremlin spokespeople then began claiming that the vast majority of the passengers had been rescued.  Acting as if the Russian government were a responsible, intelligent organization that could be trusted, innumerable Western news outlets began reporting these claims.

Then all hell broke loose.

The Kremlin’s own newswire service, RIA Novosti, got into the game.   First it reported that “at least two” passengers had died, and acknowledged that the Kremlin’s first statement had indicated only 22 people were on the ship and was totally false.  Then it changed the story to only one killed, but claimed that there had been 188 people on board, not 173.  Later, the number rose above 200. Then it said an “overcharge” was responsible for the sinking, gibberish that implied it had been caused by high prices but perhaps implying that too many passengers had been on the vessel. Then, in bizarre fashion even by Russian standards, it said “salvage divers” would “work at night to save people from the sunken ship.” Later, we saw that it was their work to pull out corpses. Then it said a criminal case had been opened against the cruise line, a sure sign that the number of fatalities was far higher than one or two.

Soon it was being widely reported that more than 100 people were still missing and feared dead despite rescue efforts.  Russian families were consumed with grief.  By the next morning, it was clear that the sunken boat was full of corpses and had left port listing badly with one engine out of service, and at least 128 people, one third more than the highest estimate given by the ministry as merely missing, were known dead – nearly half of the fatalities being children.

Russians seem to think they don’t need quality, reliable journalism, that it’s OK for the state to dominate news reporting. Maybe now, at last, they will begin to think differently.

Of course, one can’t entirely blame Russian journalists for this fiasco, since one can only do so much to report the facts when one’s own government is a pathological liar and engaged in virulent neo-Soviet repression (days ago, a prominent orchestra conductor was fired for criticizing Putin and a former first deputy prime minster was banned from international travel).

In this truly pathetic and outrageous story, we see Russia in microcosm.

Victims reported that not one but two ships passed by the drowning victims, who were rescued only by a third.  Passengers on the first two ships filmed the drowning victims on cell phones but offered no assistance. The government lied shamelessly about the number of potential victims and the possible extent of the disaster, and the boat was an ancient, creaking unlicensed relic of the Soviet past with insufficiently trained crew and inadequate safety measures and far too many passengers on board.  The risk was well known to the Kremlin, yet nothing was done despite an allegedly recovering Russian economy.  In the wake of the disaster, there will be no real inquiry and no genuine reform, because Russians have vested a clan of KGB spies with power, spies who have no more respect or concern for individual Russian lives than they do for the basic values of democracy.

And the government could not even get its lie straight. Instead, it babbled a stream of gibberish for hours that made Russia look like exactly what it is:  A backwards, corrupt third-world nation incapable of behaving in a civilized manner.

And most of all, the people of Russia at best stood mute. At worst, they snapped photos of their fellow countrymen as they slid beneath the waves, then went off drinking and partying.  None rose up to demand justice, just as none step forward to challenge the outrageous, barbaric rule by the KGB over Russia so soon after the organization brought Russia to her knees. Just as in the time of Stalin, Russians watched as their fellow citizens met their doom, and waited for their own turn like brainless chickens before the slaughterhouse.

Russians have allowed their government ignore boat after boat sinking, plane after plane dropping from the sky as it focused instead on rebuilding the Soviet dictatorship and empire. They’ve watched it brutally murder journalists like Anna Politkovskaya who try to tell the truth about this outrageous misconduct, watched it wipe out political dissent that might have challenged it.  Now, they see the consequences of this reckless behavior once again.

How many rooms full of dead children must be found before Russians will demand that their government stop wasting their precious income on insane folly like the Sochi Olympics and the invasion of Georgia and begin investing in things that really matter to Russian people and their children and their future?

If Russians do not demand better, they do not deserve better.  They will not receive it, and Russia once again will collapse into rubble.

22 responses to “SPECIAL EXTRA: Russia, Sinking

  1. “It sunk.”
    – Lt. Colonel Putin (about Kursk)

  2. Russian nationalist

    It’s a logical and inevitable consequence of the Putin’s junta’s parasitic colonial policy. The Soviet technological basis is crumbling down. If the main instinct of the state officials (and associated with them businesses) is to make money at any cost and take it to the off shores no wonder that the planes are falling down, power stations are collapsing, and ships are sinking. Russia desperately needs national-orientated democratic government.

    • Russian nationalist; Would the ‘national-orientated democratic government of Russia’, that is, according to you, ‘so desperately needed’ let go off the parts of the old russian/soviet ’empire’ that DON’T consider themselves the part of Russia??; Look carefully and you will see the picture ignored by the Russian government; Siberia slowly but inevitably being re-taken by China, Karelia has nothing to do with Russia, except that this integral part of Finland was stolen from Finland during the last war, as was the Konigsberg region of East Prussia, [sorry Kalinininingrad, who on earth was Kalininin???], Tatarstan is, de facto, an independent prosperous state run by the moderate muslim majority with minorities including russian orthodox, catholics, buddists, etc. The countries of Northern Caucasus keep fighting for their independence,[ as much as Palestine, with the small difference; Russia ‘passionately ‘fights’ for Palestinian independence and at the same time, slaughters the numerous nations of the Northern Caucasus] and eventually those nations will be independent. Or, your ‘national-orientated democratic government of Russia will simply reopen the gulags to rebuild the 18th century russian ’empire’??

      • Russian nationalist

        1)You are Polish, aren’t you? Aren’t you afraid that when we start negotiating with Germany on Kaliningrad (Konigsberg) it will mean revision of all Polish territorial acquisitions made at the expense of Eastern Prussia after the WWII ? You remember that it was Russians who gave you after the WWII: Silesia (German Schlesian); Ziemia lubuska (that is, German Land Lebus); Pomorze (German Pommern) with Gdańsk (German Danzig), Lębork and Bytów etc.
        2)I don’t know who told you that Siberia is being “taken” by China. Zbigniew Bzezinski? LOL Any facts in support of this interesting idea?
        3)Of course some of non-Russian regions must go out of Russia. The North Caucasus is the first in the list. It’s a parasitic appendix to Russia.
        4)Sure, some non-Russian areas (like Tatarstan where Russian population is about 40%) should have a referendum on whether they want to stay with Russia.
        5)As a Russian nationalist I definitely support Israel and Israelites in their struggle for the national survival. I believe Israel is one of a few really inspiring examples for the Russian nationalists.

        • LOL, considering Russians in general, and Russian nationalists in particular, are well known for anti-semitism thats a laugh.

          Russia is the main arms supplier to Islamic terrorists that want to destroy Israel, and most Russians are proud of the fact.

          • Russian nationalist

            Andrew, what is your secret? How did you manage to become a pro on Russians staying in New Zealand?
            “Well known” by whom? “Most proud” according to whom? Reality is more complicated than clichés you see in your pulp fiction.

          • Manfred Steifschwanz

            To the extent that it contributes to the undoing of the Zionazi colony, Russia deserves no less than outright eulogizing. Western simpleton Andrew merely tosses around catchwords learned by rote.

  3. Hmmm interesting. I was watching Russian TV news the afternoon it happened and funnily enough they published accurate figures, especially concerning the number of children on board. No mention of salvage divers, in fact all hope of getting anyone out alive was gone. I’m not saying the news services are f***ed up, but then hey we in the west (UK and USA) can’t speak when we have Murdoch news…

  4. Hey Bob,
    You can easily fix that! stop buying any Murdoch new’s, etc… publications. I have and flatly refuse to buy any of his sh*t newspapers or periodicals.

    Here in Australia he is quoted as saying that the truth does not interest him. All that interests him is that it be interesting to the reader – (i.e.sells his twisted junk, and hence creates more profit to his publication’s global empire).

    • it’s not so simple about Murdoch, he also has control of very old, quite serious and distinguished papers in the U.S. such as the Wall Street Journal which nobody will think of us a tabloid

  5. The flying coffins e.g., Tupolev and Antonov air planes are dropping from the Rusia’s ‘friendly’ skies almost on daily basis, [a perfect advertisement for the Sochi Olympics’ official carrier – Aeroflot], the 60-year old ship [a junk discarded by the Czechoslovakia almost sixty years ago and bought by Russia..] sunk in front of two passing by ships watching and filming this horror but NOBODY helps the victims – this is Russia; truly beyond barbarity and obscenity. THAT THE WAY TO GO RUSSIA, AFTER ALL THERE IS A POETIC JUSTICFE – GREETINGS FROM FREE, DEMOCRATIC AND PROSPEROUS POLAND!!!!!!

  6. Bob, This is the typical Russian response…”Well you aren’t perfect in the West…” No we are not, but “TWO wrongs don’t make a right” as my grandmother used to say. No one in the US or the EU would think of sailing such a vessel because they would be sued to kingdom come. We have a rule of law in our countries. Enough already of Medvedev bleating about Legal Nihilism, he should get his ass into gear. And by the way, has anyone notice that there is not a peep out of the inferiority complexed Prime Minister of Russia about this disaster? Why is he not down on the shores of the Volga with his shirt sleeves rolled up or diving in to recover bodies? No, he is at home playing pool, as he was when the Kursk sailors were desperately knocking for help. Inferiority complexed individuals can not cope with crisises. Putin is the head of government. Where is he at the moment of the “Volga Titanic”? Planning his next macho summer stunt?
    Shame. Shame. Shame. Obama’s team should do a major course in the psychi of the inferior complexed. This is the key to understanding and getting rid of Putin. Without this, Russia is doomed. Doomed.

  7. Russia’s official investigation of the murder of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova is being carried out in a dishonest fashion, according to Presidential Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights member Svetlana Gannushkina, RIA Novosti reports.

    Gannushkina said that Russian law enforcement agencies are no longer considering the possibility that federal security forces had a hand in Estemirova’s killing.

    “We have the feeling that investigators have stopped [investigating] the version that was originally being looked into, about the connection between high-ranking law enforcement representatives and the Chechen government and the murder, and the connection with Natasha’s professional work – that she exposed [Abusubyan] Albekov’s public [and extrajudicial – ed.] execution,” she explained.


    Natalya Estemirova, a member of the Chechen branch of the Memorial human rights center and expert counsel on Chechnya to Russia’s human rights ombudsmen, was kidnapped on the morning of July 15 near her home in Grozny. Her body, riddled with gunshot wounds to the chest and head, was discovered later that same day in an Ingush forest.

    Colleagues and friends of the activist blame the Chechen government and President Ramzan Kadyrov personally for her death.

    In 2009, Kadyrov sued Memorial head Oleg Orlov for slander in a civil case after the latter claimed the president was responsible for the killing. The court found him guilty in October 2009. However, a criminal case on the same charges filed by Kadyrov in July 2010 was turned down by a court just last month.

  8. Stanislav Mishin

    How pathetic your obsession with all things Russian….what a silly and pathetic human being.

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