Russian mining deaths: families denounce management safety cheats

February 29, 2016

Relatives of Russian mineworkers killed in a series of explosions at the Severnaya mine in Vorkuta, north of the Arctic circle, are demanding legal action against managers who repeatedly violated safety procedures.

Four miners died on Thursday 25 February as a result of two underground explosions of methane gas. Twenty-six more men were trapped underground: on Sunday 28 February,

Rescue teams arriving at Severnaya mine on Thursday 25 February. Photo by Vladimir Yurlov/ TASS

Rescue teams arriving at Severnaya mine on Thursday 25 February. Photo by Vladimir Yurlov/ TASS

media reported that hope of finding them alive had faded. Also on Sunday, five rescue workers and a miner were killed in a further explosion.

By midday Sunday 300 people had signed a petition launched by the victims’ relatives to Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of Russia’s state investigation committee, demanding that mine managers be prosecuted.

“The [first] explosion came as no surprise: the detectors had for a long time shown an excess of methane”, the petition states. “Work should not have continued at the time. This is a crude breach of safety procedures. Management knew this, but continued to allow people underground.”

On Thursday, workers on the surface believed there had been a movement of rock strata underground. On Friday the press service of the Vorkutaugol company, which owns the mine Read the rest of this entry »

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Russia: punishment psychiatry back in vogue

February 17, 2016

The Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky has been sent to the notorious Serbsky Institute of psychiatry, and his family and lawyers are worried about him. [Update, 23 February. Pavlensky has been returned from the institute to prison, Novaya Gazeta is reporting (Russian only).]

On 9 November Pavlensky poured petrol over the doors of the infamous federal security services (FSB) building at Lubyanka square in central Moscow and set fire to them. He named the action Threat [Ugroza]: friends photographed and filmed him as the flames took hold. (Damage was done, but no-one was hurt.) Pavlensky was arrested soon afterwards.

The FSB’s building was inherited directly from the Soviet KGB. Thousands of the regime’s political opponents were tortured and killed behind its austere façade.

Pavlensky has been charged with “vandalism motivated by ideological hatred”, whatever that means, and appeared at the Tagansky district court several times. At his first appearance he compared his case to those of Crimean activists jailed on false “terrorism” charges – including Oleksandr Kolchenko and Oleg Sentsov – and said he would not address the court further.

Oleksei Chirniy, who was charged along with Kolchenko and Sentsov, was also detained at the Serbsky institute prior to his trial. His supporters alleged he had been mistreated with psychotropic drugs.

Pavlensky is also awaiting trial for charges arising from an earlier performance, “Freedom” (“Svoboda”). In February 2014, days after the removal  of Ukrainian president Viktor

Separation (Otdelenie). Pavel Pavlensky protesting against punishment psychiatry, October 2014. Photo from the Calvert journal site

Separation (Otdelenie). Pavel Pavlensky protesting against punishment psychiatry, October 2014. Photo from the Calvert journal site

Yanukovich, he went with collaborators he went to Malyi Koniushennyi bridge in St Petersburg, setting light to car tyres and banging dustbin lids, to recreate the atmosphere of the Maidan demonstrations in Kyiv.

Pavlensky was sent to the Serbsky State Scientific Centre for Social and Forensic Psychiatry Read the rest of this entry »