Tag Archives: Russia

Two More Mysterious Giant Holes Emerge In Siberia (Pictures)

About two weeks ago, I reported on a giant crater that appeared on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia.

Well, while scientists are still trying to figure out what caused this first crater, two more have been discovered in Siberia.

Crater of Antipayuta

Click to enlarge

This crater was alo discovered on the Yamal peninsula, near the village of Antipayuta (a few hundred miles from the first crater). It measures 50 feet in diameter.

Mikhail Lapsui is a deputy of the regional parliament in the area. He visited this second crater and talked to locals from Antipayuta.

Lapsui reported that locals claimed this crater was formed in September of last year. When he asked about what caused it, he got a number of different stories:

“According to the first, initially at the place was smoking, and then there was a bright flash. In the second version, a celestial body fell there.”

Crater of Nosok

Click to enlarge

The second crater is a bit smaller, measuring just 15 feet across. However, it has an estimated depth of about 200-330 feet and observers say the crater is perfectly cone-shaped. It is located near the village of Nosok, in the Krasnoyarsk region.

One expert in the region had this to say about the strange, cone-shaped crater:

“It is not like this is the work of men, but also doesn’t look like natural formation.”

While no official explanations have been given by scientists studying the craters yet, most theories center around the melting of permafrost in the Siberian tundra. This melting releases gas that was trapped in the ice underground.

As more permafrost melts, the pressure of this gas builds up. Hypothetically, this build-up could cause the ground above it to be ejected if the pressure gets high enough.

Since we reported on the first crater, video has been released showing it in more detail. Check it out below:

Read the original story from the Siberian Times here.

NASA’s Opportunity Rover Just Set the Off-World Driving Distance Record

NASA’s Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. As of Sunday (July 26), the Opportunity rover had driven a total distance of 25 miles (40 kilometers).

Opportunity took the top spot in total off-world distance traveled by surpassing Russia’s Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, which traveled a total distance of 39 kilometers across the surface of the moon between January and May of 1973.

The Russian rover helped to bring about a golden age of space exploration in the 70s. As a sign of respect, the Opportunity rover’s operators decided to commemorate the Russian rover by naming one of the first craters they encountered after it.

Tracing the path that Opportunity has taken since it landed on Mars in 2004. On the left rim of the large Endeavor Crater, you can see the Lunokhod 2 crater. Click to enlarge (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

The craziest part of this record is that the Opportunity rover was only expected to travel a short distance when it was first sent to Mars in 2004. Here’s John Callas, who manages the Mars Exploration Project at NASA’s Jet-Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California:

“This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

The Opportunity rover is collecting data on Mars as part of a long-term plan for a manned mission to the planet around the year 2030.

The infographic below compares the distances driven by different rovers throughout the years. Click to enlarge (courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech):

Read the original story from NASA here.

Intercepted Phone Calls Show Russia Directing Separatists to Seize MH17’s Black Boxes

The Ukrainian government has released recordings of alleged phone calls between pro-Russian separatists discussing the fate of Malaysian Flight MH17’s black boxes.

Ukrainian security officials released the tapes on Sunday, claiming that they proved Russia had directed the separatists to find and hide the black boxes.

The call is between Alexander Khodakovsky, leader of the Vostok (East) battalion of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and one of his men (“Oleksiy”) at the crash site. You can listen to the conversations below:

In the first of the recordings, Khodakovsky urges Oleksiy to find MH17’s black boxes, saying,

“Do it really quick, urgently. Moscow is asking where the boxes are… [they] must be under our control”.

In a second call less than an hour later, Khodakovsky talks to another man at the crash site (“Andriy”), telling him,

“I have a request for you. It is not my request. Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow.”

He also tells Andriy to,

“Try to take everything that you find so that it doesn’t get into somebody else’s hands.”

Around the time that the recordings were released, Reuters released footage of what appears to be the black boxes being removed from the crash site by the separatists:

Earlier this morning, the news service Interfax reported that rebel Russian separatists in Ukraine had handed over the black boxes to Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee.

Andrei Purgin is the self-proclaimed deputy prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist government in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Purgin told Interfax:

“Of course, we most likely will give them [the black boxes] to the Interstate Aviation Committee, to Moscow. High-level experts, who will be able to determine exactly the reason of the catastrophe, work there.”

So it seems that the black boxes are on their way to Moscow, if they’re not there already. This will definitely raise a lot more suspicion about Russia’s involvement in the MH17 tragedy.

But, for the sake of objectivity, it is definitely worth noting that these tapes have not been independently verified yet, and are being released by the Ukrainian government, who has every reason in the world to want Russia to be responsible for the tragedy.

That doesn’t mean I believe the tapes are fabricated- it’s just a reminder to tread carefully when trying to make sense of such a complex issue.

The Russian Government Just Edited the Wikipedia Page for the Plane Shot Down In Ukraine

On Thursday, Malaysian flight MH17,  headed to Amsterdam from Kuala Lampur, was shot down by a surface to air missile over Ukraine. All 298 of the passengers were killed.

As information started to come out, it became apparent that the missile that took the plane down came from an area controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine.

People walk through the debris of MH17 near the village of Grabovo (Photo: AP)

These pro-Russian groups refused to recognize the new government in Kiev after the Ukrainian revolution and have established strongholds in a number of cities on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.

Although the separatists have denied responsibility, much of the evidence points to them. Also, the fact that they are denying investigators access to the crash site while looters steal cash, credit cards and jewelry from the victims doesn’t seem to support their cries of innocence.

It is no secret that the separatist groups have the support of Russia, and many people think Russia holds some of the responsibility for the disaster. The main reason for this is that the missile used, an SA-11, requires a very complex weapons system operated by highly-trained personnel.

Some info about the missile system most likely responsible for taking down MH17. Click to enlarge

Yesterday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby weighed in:

“It strains credulity to think that they could do this without some measure of Russian support and assistance. It is a sophisticated system.”

Then, yesterday evening, a Twitter bot added another piece to the story.

The bot, @RuGovEdits is basically a Russian version of @CongressEdits- it informs people any time a Wikipedia page has been edited by a Russian government IP address.

The Russian Twitter bot announced yesterday that the Wikipedia page for flight MH17 had been edited by the Russian government. What was changed?

Well, the original submission stated the plane was shot down by,

“…by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

The new edited version says that,

“…the plane [flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia has maintained that they were not involved in the tragedy and that the flight was brought down by Ukrainian forces, but this new revelation definitely raises questions about the truth of that statement.

(h/t Gizmodo)

A Mysterious Giant Crater Just Opened Up At the “End of the World” (Video)

Yamal is a peninsula in northern Siberia. In the language of the peninsula’s indigenous inhabitants, the Nenets, Yamal means “end of the world”.

This past week, aerial images of the peninsula posted to YouTube showed a giant, 80m wide crater. Check out the footage below:

Authorities from Yamal have organized a team of scientists from Russia’s Center for the Study of the Arctic, the Cryosphere Institute of the Academy of Sciences and Russia’s Emergencies Ministry to investigate.

At first glance, it just looks like a sinkhole. But experts who have examined the images say the debris around the edge of the hole isn’t consistent with a sinkhole, and the blackened rim of the crater indicates “sever burning”.

This has led to speculation that the hole was the result of an explosion, a space laser, or even the burn-hole left behind by an alien spaceship.

One of the best theories I’ve heard so far comes from an expert at the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center in Canada. He theorized that warming temperatures in Siberia could be melting the thick layers of ice and permafrost on Yamal Peninsula.

When that ancient ice is melted, it releases gases that have been trapped within it. The theory is that these gases mixed with water and salt closer to the surface, creating an explosive chemical reaction (think vinegar and baking soda, but MUCH bigger) which pushed the earth up out of the crater, kind of like the cork popping off a champaign bottle.

It’s also possible that simply the pressure of the released gas alone could have caused this same cork-pop effect.

Those are still just theories though. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this investigation as more information becomes available.

(h/t 9News)

Fatal Drug Overdoses Have Tripled In Russia Since 2012, Reaching 100,000 Per Year

Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service announced some chilling statistics on Russian drug use this past Monday.

The most frightening data was on the number of fatal drug overdoses per year in the country. Last year, that number climbed over 100,000, making it nearly three times higher than it was in 2012.

The Service also announced that of the 108,700 people convicted of drug-related crimes last year, 66% were between the ages of 19-29, and another 2% were minors.

Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service

Russia has the highest population of injecting drug users (IDUs) in the world at 1.8 million. A third of these IDUs are HIV positive and a whopping 90% have Hepatitis C.

To make the problem worse, Russia’s drug treatment programs are woefully inadequate. Many people open businesses masquerading as treatment center while using arcane “treatments” like flogging, starvation, and electric shock among others.

Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service has also admitted that more than 90% of Russians who check into a treatment center are using drugs again within a year.

A large portion of the intravenous drug users are addicted to heroin or other opioids. These drugs are derived from the poppy plant.

One factor that has contributed to the increasing use of these drugs is an increase in poppy production in Afghanistan.

Poppy production in Afghanistan. Click to enlarge

Cultivating poppies that can be processed into opium or heroin has been a lucrative business in Afghanistan since the 90s. But when the Taliban took power in 2001, the militant group outlawed the growing of poppies, reducing production to almost zero.

Since the U.S. invasion however, there has been a rapid resurgence of opium production in Afghanistan. Last year saw the highest poppy production in Afghanistan in the past 20 years. The level of production was nearly 3 times higher than the average levels before the Taliban’s time in power.

This flood of poppies means cheaper prices for opium and heroin manufacturers and consequently cheaper prices for users, not to speak of the increase in availability.

About a quarter of the heroin manufactured in Afghanistan in 2010 ended up in Russia, and that percentage has only been rising in the past 3 years.

Click to enlarge

Though many people, like Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Drug Control Service, like to blame U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for Russia’s drug problems, this simply isn’t the full story.

Heroin use has actually been on the rise in Russia since the early 90s, when the fall of the Soviet Union left high levels of unemployment and poverty across the country.

In the decade between 1994 and 2004, the total number of drug users in Russia rose an astounding 900%. The war in Afghanistan and the subsequent boom in the poppy supply has only poured gasoline on a problem that was already burning out of control.

Read the original story from RBTH here. Read more about drug abuse in Russia from DrugWarFacts.org here.

Did You Know… That the U.S. Almost Dropped A Nuke on the Moon During the Cold War?

After the end of World War II and the fall of Nazi Germany, two major global powers emerged: Russia in the east, and the United States (along with its NATO allies) in the west.

More than anything, the Cold War was an arms race. Both sides had built up their nuclear arsenals during the war, and both were fearful of having less firepower than the other. Many people thought that an all-out nuclear war was imminent.

During this period, the U.S. military came up with the idea of dropping a nuclear bomb on the moon as a show of force.

Leonard Reiffel was the physicist who headed the project at the U.S. military-backed Armour Research Foundation in the late 1950s.

Leonard Reiffel, who is now 86 years old

In 2000, he sat down for an interview with The Observer to tell the story:

“It was clear the main aim of the proposed detonation was a PR exercise and a show of one-upmanship. The Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large it would be visible on earth…

The explosion would obviously be best on the dark side of the moon and the theory was that if the bomb exploded on the edge of the moon, the mushroom cloud would be illuminated by the sun.”

Reiffel also pointed out that a big influence on the idea was the fact that we were lagging behind in the “Space Race”.

In July of 1955, during the height of the Cold War, the United States announced that it would be launching satellites into space. Not to be outdone, Russia announced their own satellite project four days later. The U.S. lost that leg of the race when Russia launched Sputnik in October of 1957.

The front page of The New York Times on the day Sputnik was launched (October 4, 1957)

Reiffel voiced his concerns as a scientist about the idea of nuking the moon, but they seemed to fall upon deaf ears:

“I made it clear at the time there would be a huge cost to science of destroying a pristine lunar environment, but the US Air Force were mainly concerned about how the nuclear explosion would play on earth.”

In 1958, officers from the Air Force had asked Reiffel to ‘fast-track’ a project to investigate what a nuclear explosion on the moon would look like, and what it’s effects would be.

So he hired none other than a young Carl Sagan to do the calculation of how a nuclear mushroom cloud would expand in the low gravity environment on the moon.

Carl Sagan

Sagan, who pioneered for the study of potential life on other planets, would later become famous for popularizing science in mainstream culture with his show “The Cosmos”.

Despite the highly classified nature of the project, it was later revealed to his biographer that Sagan actually discussed parts of the project in his application for the prestigious Miller Institute graduate fellowship at Berkley (he got in, of course).

Either way, top-secret project A119: ‘A Study of Lunar Research Flights’, never came to fruition. Reiffel ended his story by saying,

“Thankfully, the thinking changed. I am horrified that such a gesture to sway public opinion was ever considered.”

A spokesman from the Pentagon would neither confirm nor deny the reports. Read the full story from the Guardian here.

Thought We Were Just “Helping” Ukraine? Their New President Has Been On U.S. Payroll Since 2006

Petro Poroshenko is Ukraine’s new president, elected after a popular uprising that overthrew the former president Viktor Yanukovych and his regime.

The uprising was a reaction to Yanukovych’s decision to turn down offers to join the EU in favor of closer economic ties with Russia. The United States, close allies with the EU, enthusiastically supported the overthrow of Yanukovych and the election of Poroshenko, a pro-EU candidate.

Ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych at a news conference in Russia (Photo: AP)

But the more time goes on, the more it seems that the U.S. government may have played a bigger role in the Ukrainian uprising and aftermath than they would have us think.

Classified cables posted to the website wikileaks.org reveal that Poroshenko was on the payroll of the U.S. State Department as early as April of 2006. Poroshenko was one of the leaders of Our Ukraine or OU, a major political party in the country- the wikileaks cables refer to him as the U.S.’s “Our Ukraine insider”.

Another cable, from May 2006, reveals that the U.S. government knew Poroshenko to be corrupt:

“Poroshenko was tainted by credible corruption allegations, but wielded significant influence within OU; Poroshenko’s price had to be paid.”

Some of the most interesting communications between the U.S. and Poroshenko came in 2009, when Poroshenko told then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that he was very in favor of,

“the opening of a U.S. diplomatic presence in Crimea… He emphasized the importance of Crimea, and said that having U.S. representation there would be useful for Ukraine.”

New Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a press confernce with Hillary Clinton last month (Photo: Reuters)

Crimea, as you know, is the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea which Russia occupied early on during the Ukrainian revolution.

These revelations, though not damning, are certainly suspicious at the very least. It’s very hard to imagine that Poroshenko won the Ukrainian presidency without any help from the U.S. after seeing that he has been providing the U.S. with insider information on Ukraine since 2006.

Some argue that Poroshenko’s work for the U.S. was an act of treason, since it’s extremely likely that some of the information provided by him was used to help oust Yanukovych back in February.

Combine these revelations with that the fact that Hunter Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s son, was selected to the board of Burisma Holdings (Ukraine’s largest private gas producer) in May, just a month before Poroshenko was inaugurated into office, and things start to get really fishy.

Joe Biden and his son Hunter

Ukraine has Europe’s third-largest natural gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, and the country’s pipelines are a major gas route between eastern and western Europe. It makes sense that the U.S. and the EU would do everything they could to hold onto it.

Click to enlarge

Read the original story from SGC News here.

This Day in History… June 6, 1944: D-Day Invasion at Normandy Beach

By the summer of 1944, Hitler was beginning to look unstoppable. After occupying France early on in the war, the Nazi army put in heavy fortifications (2,400 miles of bunkers, landmines and beach and water obstacles) along the shores of France’s coastal Normandy region, which is separated from Britain by only about 25 miles across the English Channel.

So the allied forces decided on a bold and risky strategy to change the tide of the war: invading five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of Normandy. Operation Overlord, as it was known amongst the allies, was orchestrated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower (who would eventually become president after the war).

The Allied invasion routes for D-Day. Click to enlarge
The Allied invasion routes for D-Day. Click to enlarge

Nazi intel had informed Hitler of an impending invasion in France, but he did not know where it would come from. To take advantage of this, the allied forces disseminated false military intel to make Hitler think that the attack would come at Pas-de-Calais (which had the shortest distance to France from Britain).

The allied deception included fraudulent radio transmissions, double agents, and even a phantom army, supposedly commanded by the famous General George Patton, that Hitler believed was stationed just across the water from Pas-de-Calais.

General Eisenhower addressing the troops. Click to enlarge

The day before the invasion, Eisenhower gave a rousing speech to his troops, telling them,

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

Allied troops landing on the beaches of Normandy. Click to enlarge

Despite all of the deception and preparations, the Allied forces were still met with heavy resistance when they landed on the morning of June 6, 1944.

The beaches were honeycombed with bunkers full of machine guns and artillery, and the sand was full of mines, as well as being covered with a grisly assortment of obstacles (seen below) which made moving inland an extremely arduous task.

Click to enlarge

156,000 American, Canadian and British forces attempted to land on the beach. More than 4,000 lost their lives on that first day, including more than 2,000 Americans. The allies were, however, able to successfully secure the beaches by June 11, less than a week later.

Allied troops rush onto the beaches. Click to enlarge

Normandy quickly became a hub for troops and supplies, allowing Allied forces to move quickly through France. By the end of August these forces had liberated Paris and were preparing to enter Germany.

The invasion was also key because it kept Hitler from being able to move troops from France to stop the advancing Russian army in the east.

Sandwiched by the allied forces in the west and Russia in the east, Hitler’s army could only hold out for so long. On May 8, 1945, less than a year after D-Day (and just nine days after Hitler committed suicide), the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.

Read more about D-Day from the History Channel here.

Russia Has A Troll Army That Is Trying to Mold Public Opinion On Internet News Sites

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the country has an image problem. Since the events surrounding Ukraine’s revolution and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea, public sentiment on Russia has been becoming increasingly more negative across the globe.

Apparently, the Putin administration believes that a big part of this is the way in which media outlets in America have portrayed the situation. So he decided to deploy a million-dollar army of internet trolls to help mold public opinion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with troops in Crimea (Photo: Maxim Shemetov / Reuters)

Svetlana Boiko, one of the team members for the project, said this:

“Foreign media are currently actively forming a negative image of the Russian Federation in the eyes of the global community. Additionally, the discussions formed by comments to those articles are also negative in tone.”

Boiko continued by elaborating on the importance of maintaining the Russian “brand”:

“Like any brand formed by popular opinion, Russia has its supporters (‘brand advocates’) and its opponents. The main problem is that in the foreign internet community, the ratio of supporters and opponents of Russia is about 20/80 respectively.”

The project specifically targeted  Fox News, Huffington Post, The Blaze, Politico, and WorldNetDaily. E-mails obtained by the enigmatic Russian hacking collective Anonymous Internet detailed exactly how these blogger-trolls would carry out their job.

The trolls were expected to make around 50 comments on news articles every day. In addition, they were expected to maintain 6 Facebook pages,  posting 3 times daily about the news and discussing new developments in groups on Facebook twice daily.

On top of that, the bloggers were expected to have 500 subscribers by the end of the first month. On Twitter, they were expected to maintain 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers each, tweeting at least 50 times daily.

E-mails hacked from the project’s leader, Igor Osadchy, reveal that the program is run by the firm Internet Research Agency. Starting in April, the firm began paying people to disseminate pro-Putin and pro-Russian content all across the web.

The Internet Research Agency leak is the first time that specific comments have been traced back to the campaign. These comments were made by Katarina Aistova, a 21-year-old former hotel receptionist on a WorldNetDaily article:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Though the Kremlin is denying the accusations and Internet Research Agency is refusing to comment, many feel that the evidence is overwhelming.

“What, you think crazy Russians all learned English en masse and went off to comment on articles?”,

said media executive  and Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky, who also added rather hilariously that,

“If it looks like Kremlin shit, smells like Kremlin shit, and tastes like Kremlin shit too — then it’s Kremlin shit.”

Internet Research Agency is on pace to spend $10 million dollars this year, and half of that budget has been earmarked to be paid out in cash.

The reports have also been substantiated by two local Russian media outlets. Last week, the business paper Vedomosti claimed that the campaign was directly orchestrated by the government, citing sources close to Putin’s administration.

Then earlier this week, the Novaya Gazeta claimed that the project is being orchestrated by restauranteur Yevgeny Prigozhin, who catered Putin’s re-inauguration in 2012 and has reportedly helped run several other similar campaigns for the Kremlin over the years.

Putin dining at Le Chaval Blanc, a famous restaurant located just outside Moscow and owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s company (Photo: AP)

The hacked e-mails also include numerous exchanges with an accountant at the Internet Research Agency approving payments to Concord, the holding company for Mr. Prigozhin’s catering business.

The hacking group Anonymous Internet is not affiliated with the well-known American hacking group Anonymous. In an e-mail exchange with BuzzFeed, who broke the story, the hacking collective distanced themselves from your every day code-breaker:

“[We are] not hackers in the classical sense. We are trying to change reality. Reality has indeed begun to change as a result of the appearance of our information in public.”

To date, none of their leaks have been proven false.

Read the full story from BuzzFeed here.