Kevin Rothrock is RuNet Echo project editor at Global Voices, a news site that reports on civil society around the world, and web editor at The Moscow Times, Russia’s longest-running English-language independent newspaper. He previously worked as an editor and translator at Meduza and, long before that, a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.
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Here’s what we know so far:
A meteor disintegrated outside of the Ural city of Chelyabinsk. The space rock was 17 meters wide, weighed an estimated 10 kilotons, traveled at 30 to 50 kilometers per second, and, according to NASA, had an explosive force of half a megaton. That’s about thirty times the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The meteor’s shockwave injured over a thousand with 48 hospitalized, destroyed about 200,000 square meters of glass, damaged t3724 residences, 671 schools, 11 monuments, 69 cultural objects, and 6 sports complexes. The Twitter hashtag #метеорит shot up to number one in Russia. Fragments of the meteor have been found. And to top of all off, no one died.
Just so you don’t think the Russian government has been asleep at the wheel, the Emergency Management Agency has been mobilized into action. Today, dead Prime Minister walking Dmitry Medvedev named Dmitry Rogozin to head a task force to find ways to “predict and prevent disasters from space.” And the asteroid panic has even reached the US, where the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has announced that it will hold hearings to come up with ways to better identify asteroids and mitigate their threat. I just hope, I sincerely hope that the latest asteroid craze doesn’t spark the production of Armageddon II. Please spare us . . .
Yet despite all this, there are some in Russia, and by some I mean supposedly well-respected opposition journalists, politicians, and cultural figures who don’t think it was a meteor at all. For a selected few, the fireball that reigned terror on the citizens of Chelyabinsk signified something far more sinister.
I’ve already blogged about Yulia Latynina’s crazy rocket theory. It turns out, the critic of all things Putin was forced to comment about her deleted column on radio show Kod Dostupa. Here’s how she explained herself:
Unfortunately, rather than keep this idea [that the meteor was a rocket] to myself, I quickly informed Novaya gazeta readers. Well, of course, it’s nonsense because as soon as it became clear that they were talking about a kiloton explosion, I understood that this wasn’t a rocket at all, but that it was really a meteor.
This is all well and good. A coincidence, indeed. A meteorite flew to Chebarkul region. Well? It happens. But incidentally, for me personally,what happened to me is interesting. When paranoia emerges in a person, he immediately begins to have accept any logical confirmation of this paranoia. The fact that the [meteor] was flying on a straight trajectory and so on. And it is absolutely amazing that paranoia only emerges horribly logical. What separates life from paranoia is that it’s not logical. So given the fact that NASA didn’t detect the meteor, then [the fact that] GLONASS didn’t is forgivable.
I’ll let the reader come up with their own conclusions in regard to this. However, I just want to emphasize that Latynina has admitted that she is paranoid. I’m sure that in her mind this gives her unmatched clairvoyance into Russian political life like some medieval holy fool. Nevertheless, I appreciate the candor. However, I’m sure if pressed, she’d blame her paranoia on Putin too.
But at least Latynina admitted that her theory was bunk. We can’t say the same for some others. Upon hearing news about the meteor on the radio, Russian rock icon Andrey Makarevich charged that the ball of fire was some kind of Kremlin PR magic to lull the masses.
And there it is a meteor! How timely! They’ll talk about it for three days minimum. Or else a week.
By the way, is it expensive to launch a meteor? For it to fall where needed, beautifully, and where it won’t maim very many people. Still it can [cost] a lot. Why not? It’s a good time. I think it’s considerable cheaper than the Olympics. And it works!
Then there was Alfred Kokh ranting on his Novaya gazeta blog about how Russian satellites’ failure to detect the meteor’s rapid descent is indicative of a corrupt and decrepit system. This is more proof of what I call the omnipotent Putin syndrome. Namely, that even the opposition buys into the Putin myth to some extent. And when the super vozhd and all he represents slips, they are the first to scream, “Ah ha, you see!” as if they’re privy to some sacred knowledge unbeknown to the rest of us.
But at least Latynina, Makarevich, and Kokh can say their ejaculations were premature. Boris Nemtsov, on the other hand, has no excuse. He had all the confirming facts that this was indeed a meteor. Yet, he wrote this on his Facebook page:
Alfred Kokh is surprised why the search ended for the Chelyabinsk unidentified flying object, the explosive force of which was 20-30 atomic bombs [like those dropped on Hiroshima]. And why was Latynina’s version that it wasn’t a meteor, but our rocket that someone accidentally launched was ridiculed even in independent media.
It suggests to me that the discussion around a UFO is extremely dangerous and disadvantageous for the government. If this was a meteor, then why didn’t the satellites detect it? This large object with enormous destructive potential and silence . . . We don’t have a satellite detection system?? Where is it?? We waste a colossal sum on the army–more than two trillion rubles and by 2020 it will be 20 trillion. Where did this money go??? Was it stolen, embezzled? For who is such a discussion needed in light of the Oboronservice and Serdyukov affair. They definitely don’t need it. Latynina’s version is really bad for Putin and Shoigu. There is disorder in the army, rockets fly uncontrolled and what do Putin and his valiant Minister of Defense offer.
That it’s better to stop the search and quietly forget what they decide in the Kremlin. We await the increase the satellite budget and new embezzlers.
And this is one of the darlings of the United States Congress and the Western press?? A potential shining star of a Putin-less Russia??Post Views: 1,894