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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chernobyl’s Silent Neighbor, the Steel Yard

Not far from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, one can locate two cage-like walls of wires, 150 m high (492 ft) and 800 m long (2,625 ft).

Meet the Duga-3, aka the Steel Yard, the now-defunct over-the-horizon early warning radar system.

The Duga family, part of the Soviet ABM early warning network, caused a nasty "rat-tat-tat" sound on shortwave radio frequencies worldwide from 1976 to 1989, thus earning it the nickname “Russian Woodpecker.”

Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Click here and here for GoogleMaps.

The Duga-3, completed in 1985, was deactivated soon after the Chernobyl disaster. As of today, Ukraine operates two other ABM early warning radars in Sevastopol and Mukachevo.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Zhirinovsky Hunts Crows From Train Window

“Could this man really become Russia’s president?” For the BBC, this might be a legitimate question to ask before they bump into another “must-have” Hitler toy in Ukraine.

For Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the enfant terrible of Russian politics, riding on a train can be a unique opportunity of hunting.

Recently the Vice Speaker of the Duma embarked on what looks like a shoot-a-crow safari through the Russian countryside, amplified by a spectacular stream of consciousness that both entertains and horrifies.

The Duma Communists, whom Zhirinovsky managed to plug into the video, have demanded that the Vice Speaker be censured for his innovative technique.

Zhirinovsky: Yes, yes, there it is, there it is! Just perfect! Give me the gun quick, come on! That’s it. It’s like a shooting range. I mean, if you walk, you won’t find anything. But if you ride, you’ll spot all kinds of wildlife everywhere. It can be killed. There it flies again, looking good. They’re flying real good. There it goes again. There it lands. That’d be a great shot. Here’s another one. Here’s another one sitting. Here! Didn’t I ask you to bring me a loaded gun? I will load it myself. Just let them bring the gun.

Travel companion: They say you’re a sharp shooter.
Zhirinovsky: They…they’re big. They just don’t know any better [mumbles smth incoherent to himself]. Normally, I used to hit 96 out of a hundred, with a small-bore gun. With a pistol, I could hit, albeit rarely, 27 out of 30, out of 3 [incoherent speech]. My eyes are not what they used to be. Time goes by. When you’re young, your eyes are good, until you’re about 30. When I was about 30, I started losing my sight. Give it to me. Yep, bring it over here, over here. It’s not loaded? Wow, wow, wow! That’s my favorite gun. Ready? That’s bad. You don’t love me. Just five cartridges, and all of them kind of foreign. Are these used to hunt bears? That’s my favorite gun. It’s 30 years old, ИЖ-16. I don’t take care of it. I don’t grease it. I don’t do anything. I don’t do anything. Now we have to open the window and once a crow appears, we’ll do her. That’s a great way to hunt. It’s luxury hunting: You sit in a luxury car and wait for the target to appear.

But where’s the target, damn it? You’re freezing. It’s the March wind. We should have someone look ahead. Babakov (?), get on the footboard and look ahead. Once you see those crows, you let me know. Where? Where? Where? I haven’t seen anything. Don’t fool me. The speed is high. The speed’s increased. The train…why is it moving so fast? When I didn’t have the gun, there were lots of crows. Now that they’ve brought the gun, it’s over. There’s nothing out there! It’s Murphy’s law. Find anything, Babakov? Don’t pity yourself! Get on the footboard and look. Why are you pitying yourself? You’ll freeze, you’ll get sick. What do we do?

You see, as we move further out of town, there’s nothing. Them smart birds! We should’ve hunted at [town name unintelligible] as we moved across town — we had plenty of them there. And here we have nothing. What? Where is it? Where is it? You’re not seeing the right thing. Talk about flying. Oh! Wooow! It’s too far, too far, but there were two of them. Where? That’s too far, can’t you see? Here they come! Boom! (fires gun) That’s too far, and the speed is too fast. But that was fun. Where? Is it sitting? Is it sitting or not? Who says it’s sitting? Boom! (fires gun) It’s too…far away. Hahaha! Birds, birds. See how good it gets. There’s hunting by helicopter, and now there’s hunting by train. What? Right on target. They’ve got their nests over there. That means they’re gone…they’ve flown away looking for food. Where? Ugh, it got away, it got away. It feels things, it feels things. It got away! Boom! (fires gun)

Under the communists, they used to fly in flocks, in communes, and now they don’t. They’re individuals. Where are you, birds? Where are those Godly creatures? What? There are lots of nests. What? Where? There it is, there it is, there it is! Boom! (fires gun). This was closer, but I was after the furthest one. Ugh…the powder is foreign. Our cartridges smell better. The powder. That’s the last we’ve got. Ugh…that was a nice bird, shit! In an orange outfit, shit! What? Hahaha! Laborers! (waves his hand out the window) Should I blow away some chicken, huh? Or a dog, perhaps? Here they are, the chickens. Chickens, chickens, chickens… Boom! (fires gun) Bwahaha! Didn’t I make them a nice holiday? The cartridges. Babakov, give me some more cartridges. No cartridges left, hahaha! Those were fat chickens, black and yellow. No cartridges, huh? What? None left?

Travel companion: Just a moment.

Zhirinovsky: That’s the best…what? Where? Who’s there? Who’s sitting there? Wow! Did you see them? I would definitely get those…I would definitely hit this flock. Here they are. Damn it, where are the cartridges? Ugh…damn it! Oh, those are the ones for me! Here they are all sitting, here they are!

As long as the Russian countryside laborers refrain from the Soviet partisan practice of train derailment, Zhirinovsky has a chance to join After all, the person who garnered 9.35 percent of the vote in Russia’s 2008 presidential election could bring fresh blood into the crow-busting cause.

Video uploaded from:

Don’t miss Zhirinovsky classics:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ukrainian helicopter crashes in Black Sea, killing 19

KYIV, Ukraine: A helicopter belonging to Ukraine's state gas company crashed into the Black Sea, leaving 19 people dead, a [Naftogaz] company official said Monday.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ukraine Celebrates Easter

Today, Ukraine, along with other Orthodox countries, celebrates Easter. Known as Velykden, Easter starts with an all-night vigil, preceded by weeks of rigorous fasting required by the Church.

The traditional Ukrainian Easter table
showcases pysankas or krashankas (Easter eggs) and paskas (Easter bread), as pictured above. People greet each other by saying "Khrystos voskres!" (Christ is risen) and replying "voistynu voskres!" (He is truly risen).

Learn more about Ukrainian Easter:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chernobyl Is 22

Academician Valeri Legasov: What we see is the tower of the second leg. To the left is the block…the central hall of Block 4. Turn it on! Hither, higher! That’s it! Keep it right on that spot! Keep it! Keep it where the smoke is, where the smoke is. Keep it just like that, just like that.

Narrator: You’re watching a rare footage. Those are spots of red-hot graphite rods. Their high temperature created a strong upward stream, which lifted radioactive particles off the reactor’s shaft.

On Saturday, April 26, 1986 at 01:23:40 a.m, I was a 6-year old asleep in Kyiv, a mere 80 miles away from the scene of the world’s worst environmental disaster.

I remember those days quite vividly. It was sunny. It was summer-hot. My friends and I would play soccer. As rumors began to spread, my parents would ground me. I remember staring out the firmly sealed window, consumed with jealously, watching my buddies playing out in the field. I stayed in Kyiv until May 8.

When I grew up, I learned that in Prypyat they had five or six weddings on April 26, 1986, with radiation already reaching lethal levels. Evacuation began 30 hours after the accident. The first Soviet news report came a week after the event, in a newspaper article the size of a classified ad in a contact magazine.

Chernobyl exploded the myth of the Soviet system’s humanity and reliability, a revelation that, amid perestroika, accelerated its demise.

According to one report, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, the communist leader of Soviet Ukraine, pleaded with Mikhail Gorbachev to keep May 1 celebrations to a minimum. Gorby said no, sending thousands of people to bake on the streets of Kyiv.

The UN’s new policy puts Chernobyl as fine for human habitation, despite the fact that most of the radioactive elements there still haven’t reached their half-life. No wonder the UN Secretariat have not rushed to spend their summer vacations in the Chernobyl zone, in what was, prior to the disaster, one of the most popular recreation zones for Kyivites.

YouTube offers a variety of Chernobyl videos, some of them with creepy dance soundtracks. There’s a Greenpeace video with animation that belongs on MTV, as opposed to a documentary on the world's worst technological disaster.

Still, one can find a few decent videos.

Click here for a wealth of photo reports from the ghost town of Prypyat, and here for Russian-language documentaries on Chernobyl. You can also visit an entire site devoted to Prypyat.

By the way, Chernobyl (Чернобыль) is the Russian name. Chornobyl (Чорнобиль) is the Ukrainian one. This is perhaps the only case when I adhere to a Russian-based transliteration of a Ukrainian geographic name. Chernobyl signifies a historical event rather than a mere geographic name. It is a product of the Soviet system, and one of the top Soviet "brands" at that.

May we never forget the sacrifice of people who gave their lives in cleaning up the mess of Chernobyl. May we never forget the suffering of children who died because of Chernobyl.