Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Russian Airways Now Servicing Fewer than 400 Domestic Routes, Down from 3168 at Start of Pandemic


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 6 – Since the start of the pandemic, Russian air carriers have reduced the number of domestic routes from 3168 to “fewer than 400” and cut the number of international flights from 899 to just seven, according to data assembled by the Tutu.ru travel site and reported by the Kasparov.ru portal (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5E8C9FB5DA945).

            Moscow’s cancellation of international flights has attracted enormous attention especially because Russians abroad have been left stranded abroad and migrant workers in Russia have not been able to return home. But its domestic cutbacks may be even more significant, leaving many parts of the country, which has few roads and rail lines, cut off (jamestown.org/program/with-ever-more-flights-canceled-many-parts-of-russia-isolated/).

            As of today, there are no flights in and out of such major cities as Voronezh and Tomsk; and the remaining flights are likely between the capitals of the federal subjects rather than between them, restoring the subject of black humor in Soviet times when people complained that to go from one oblast capital in Siberia to another next door, one had to fly via Moscow.

            Tutu.ru says that the cutbacks do not appear to be at an end and that even more scheduled routes are likely to be cancelled for lack of passengers as a result of stay-at-home orders and the absence of business. It seems likely that some of the smaller carriers may go bankrupt given that they use leashed planes. Consequently, there is unlikely to be any quick rebound in the future.

By Delaying Rather than Canceling Spring Draft, Moscow Risks Provoking ‘Second Wave of Epidemic,’ Golts Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 6 – By delaying the spring draft from April to May rather than cancelling it altogether, Moscow risks “provoking a second wave of the epidemic when 135 newly drafted men are sent to the barracks” where any who are infected with the coronavirus are likely to infect others and provoke “a second wave of the epidemic,” Aleksandr Golts says.

            In an analysis for The New Times, the independent military observer says that it might have seemed that cancelling the spring draft would have been a no brainer considering the much tougher steps that the Russian authorities have taken. “But no,” the generals got there way and the draft will go forward with only a slight delay (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/192817?fcc).

            For these senior commanders, it is clear, Golts argues, “the prospect of leaving the force without 135,000 new draftees was more horrible than the very high probability that the military commissariats and assembly points will be transformed into breeding grounds of infection.”

            The generals overseeing the draft have tried to cover themselves by suggesting that the commissariats will take the temperature of soldiers who seem ill, but there is no indication that the Russian military is in any way ready to test such a number of draftees for infection with the coronavirus.

            However, “even if one assumes the impossible” and the military’s taking of temperatures ensures that “only healthy draftees pass through the draft commission, where is the guarantee that after several days or even a few weeks, they will come to the assembly point and not be infectious?” Golts asks. 

            The reason the Russian generals have been pushing so hard for the draft to go forward is two-fold. On the one hand, they don’t want their past lies about the number of professional soldiers in the military to be exposed. If there were no draft this cycle, their claims would be seen for the falsehoods that they are.

            And on the other, the defense ministry now that Russia is entering a new cold war with NATO has gone back to the Soviet model of mass mobilization, one in which it will maintain skeleton divisions that will be fully manned by those who have served as draftees but are now in civilian life.

            That model allows the high command to justify a large number of senior officers to oversee divisions that are little more than hollow shells even though the assumption that those who have served a year or two in the ranks will be ready, willing and able to return in the event of a crisis in far-fetched.

            Nonetheless, that is what the Russian generals care about; and they have convinced Putin to back them on this risky venture of having a draft which may turn into a fiasco for the health of the country.

Lawyers for Five Ingush Protesters Appeal Illegal Extension of Their Detention


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 6 – Lawyers for Akhmed Barakhoyev, Barakh Chmurziyev, Malsag Uzhakov, Musa Malsago and Bagaudin Khautiyev are appealing is the illegal extension of their detention by a Stavropol court beyond the legal limit of a year. Not expecting Russian appellate courts to overrule this, the lawyers say they are already planning to appeal to Strasbourg.

            Russian law limits detentions before trial to 12 months, but the government often violates that by insisting that it does not have to count from the date of the original detention but from the time of the last charge. If that rule were allowed, anyone could be detained indefinitely if the authorities chose to keep bringing new charges.

            The lawyers for the five say that the Russian judge not only ignored that law but also their arguments at the April 4 hearing about mitigating circumstances that would make home detention more appropriate (fortanga.org/2020/04/advokaty-liderov-protesta-obzhalovali-reshenie-suda-o-prodlenii-sroka-soderzhaniya-pod-strazhej-pyaterym-figurantam/).

            In one case, lawyers for Akhmed Barakhoyev say, the judge accepted prosecutor’s charges their client had concealed the fact that he had dual citizenship despite the fact that officials knew that it has been annulled (fortanga.org/2020/04/advokat-sledstvie-znaya-chto-u-ahmeda-barahoeva-net-vtorogo-grazhdanstva-obvinilo-ego-v-sokrytii-fakta-ego-nalichiya/).

            Meanwhile, a documentary film entitled “Repression” about the lives of three Ingush victims of repressive actions by Moscow and Magas including Akhmed Pogorov, a former official and present activist who has outraged officials by his ability to escape arrest and issuing statements critical of them (fortanga.org/2020/04/repressii-otets-i-syn-pogorovy/).