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Putin Just Doesn’t Care

Published: July 23, 2014 (Issue # 1821)




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In a twist of morbid irony, the village of Hrabove, or Grabovo, in eastern Ukraine, is only one letter away from having the word “coffin” in its name — grob in Russian. Today it is the scene of devastation and loss not seen in Europe since the Lockerbie disaster.

Debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is scattered over the rolling fields. Shocked residents describe bodies falling from the sky, a woman’s shed roof perforated by one of the victims. Two days after the crash, his body had still not been removed.

Predictably, the Russian and Ukrainian governments both point the finger toward the other in assigning responsibility for bringing down the civilian aircraft. There are widely circulated rumors, apparently spread by the Russian Federal Aviation Agency, that President Vladimir Putin’s flight from Latin America was the original target. There are outright bonkers conspiracies on the Russian Internet involving the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, U.S. special forces, fake passports and the “strange” Facebook profiles of victims.

And the most credible version of them all: that the tragedy was a result of a mistake by the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine who thought they had brought down a Ukrainian military plane and bragged about it on the Internet with the phrase, “We told them not to fly over our skies.” But this is not about who operated the Buk missile launcher that likely caused the disaster.

This is about the cynicism, the disregard for human life and suffering that has been the staple approach of President Vladimir Putin since his ascent to power.

It is difficult to forget the tension and horror that the people of Russia — or at least the people of Russia that I know — felt as we watched the Kremlin abandon the 118 crew members of the nuclear submarine Kursk, the sailors left to suffocate at the bottom of the Barents Sea.

It took Putin five days to interrupt his summer vacation, as the country held its breath in hope that the sailors who were still alive might be rescued. His impossible-to-forget response to Larry King’s question of what happened to the submarine was a smirking, “It sank.”

Putin’s jailhouse slang in reference to Chechen fighters, whom he famously ordered “wasted in the outhouse,” is one thing, but the senseless waste of life during the siege of the school in Beslan, or the taking of the Dubrovka theater in Moscow during a counter-terrorist operation that killed more than 300, nearly 200 of them children, and more than 130 hostages respectively is something entirely different.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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