War Heroes Met a Sad Future

Russia celebrates her war heroes from the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) every year – but a group of them were hidden away, their rights abused, and their future bleak.

A number of the disabled veterans, who turned to begging for their survival, were driven from the streets and placed in nursing homes for the disabled and elderly. These institutions were then converted into secure, specialized facilities ensuring that their disabled residents would not be able to escape.

According to the security forces’ accounts, in the second half of 1951, they detained 107,766 beggars, in 1952 the number reached 156,817, and by 1953 the number had risen to 182,342. Among those arrested, 70 percent were disabled from injuries sustained at work or in the war.

One of the institutions were on Valaam Island in Karelia. Reporter Svetlana Tsygankova went looking for the paper trail and the destinies of people sent to the island.

Read the original story in Politika Karelia and Rossiskaya Gazeta.

Read the English translation

 

The barking money

Government and inhabitants of St. Petersburg are ready to invest significant sums in keeping and caring stray dogs and cats. Unfortunately, these noble longings can be used by swindlers and corrupted officials as well.

The story of a dog named Bonus, who was severely crippled, is only a particular example showing how complicated the financial relations in the stray animals’ treatment sphere are. People were sending money for his all of his treatment, but when the dog died, the animal clinic had spent the entire raised sum. The state sector is also non-transparent: since 2004 the budget of the city’s veterinary department has grown more than 300 times up to €24 million (1 billion rubles). City intends to allocate huge funds for construction of kennels and activity of animal control service ‘Spetstrans”. However, the inefficiency of expenditures raises loud questions in the community, concludes the well-known St. Petersburg journalist Denis Terentyev in his investigation.

The investigation was published in St. Petersburg Internet-newspaper “Fontanka.ru”.

You can read the story here and the English version of it here.

 

A Nenets in Prison

Leonid Latyshev killed a man, while he was drunk, and ended up in prison in Arkhangelsk. Latyshev is a Nenets – a nomadic people in northwest Russia, traditionally living of reindeer herding. In today’s Russia, the Nenets live in villages and face increasing problems with alcohol and crime.

Reporter Svetlana Sinitsyna’s investigation of the Nenets problem was broadcast on TV Pomorie in Arkhangelsk and received her colleagues’ recognition in the award of The  Arkhangelsk Journalists Union “Zolotoe pero Severa”.

Read the TV manuscript in Russian (video will be added later)

Read the English translation of the manuscript

(Photo: The Norwegian Barents Secretariat)

Six Feet Under – but a Grave is not for Everybody

Unidentified corpses of drunkards, homeless people and aborted children are being buried on Vyborg’s cemetery in the paupers’ graves in violation of government rules. A decent burial is not available for everybody in the town, located in the Leningrad region.  The cemetery urges for expansion, but local authorities don’t have money for it.

From 2005, the management of Vesta funeral home, which is in charge of town’s cemetery, violates the law systematically. It uses lands in the nearby forest for graves. Nobody renounces this: the organization should bury people anyway. Both the chief forest officer and the head of local branch of Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights are perfectly aware on the issue.

Lack of funding is the question: it costs 4 million rubles (around €100 thousand) to get one hectare of land out of forestry while Russian Pension Foundation assigns 1000 times less money for one funeral of “the rootless one”. Construction of a crematorium could simplify the situation. However, such a facility is unfavorable for the funeral home management and for the corrupt grave-diggers who are being bribed to “hold” grave places for living people.

On the prospects of “collective graves” muses in his investigation Vyborg journalist Alexey Sokolov. The investigation was published at Independent Vyborg Portal.

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The Never-Ending Story of Letters and Parcels

The Russian post service has been scrutinized in journalism experiments and examinations since Soviet times – proving the delivery of letters and parcels to be too slow and of low quality. Up to 2013 Russian government plans to finance the modernization of the “Russian Post” service by significant amount of money – more than €2 billion. But journalist Anna Rudaya cannot not see any effect so far.

Every citizen of Russia, who has ever been in contact with the state post organization, can tell of at least one odd situation connected with its unsatisfactory operational process. Parcels from abroad going toPetrozavodsk instead of St. Petersburg; express post coming simultaneously with the regular one, sent on the same day; and even pension money (post offices are in charge for them as well) given in fake bank notes for practical jokes!

It looks as if the federal government understands the problems in the system and invests a lot in its renewal. But most of the changes are about style, not about the quality of service. Instead, high-ranked post officers prefer to hold beauty contests among their employees and travel abroad on taxpayers’ money which fact invokes natural interest of Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office.

The investigation was published in St. Petersburg online newspaper Fontanka.ru 07.11.2011. (Photo: Freedigitalphotos)

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When Volkhov roars

Every year in the spring time, the river of Volkhov in Russia’s Novgorod region overflows. This causes significant property losses for the state and inhabitants of surrounding towns and villages.

The nature could and should be tamed, but it requires constant renewal of the hydraulic structure on the territory of region and its neighbors. Existing allocation of funds is insufficient for this purpose. The flood in 1999 – one of the worst on the Volkhov river – caused damage of more than €1 million (42 million rubles). Every year losses reach millions of rubles – residential houses, kitchen gardens, roads, whole villages end up in disaster area.

One of the causes is unwillingness of the Volkhov hydropower plant’s (situated in the nearby Leningrad region) management to lower to minimum water lever upstream of the dam in spring, because in that case there will be no water resource for HPP’s work in summer. The renewal of hydraulic components at HPP and Volkhov’s river channel could solve the problem, however, their modernization progresses extremely slow.

Journalist Yury Krasavin gets the impression that it is easier for local government to dispense food and blankets to the victims of disaster than to invest in regional hydro system properly. The investigation was published at the Newsland portal. (Photo: Freedigitalphotos)

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Adopt Me the Fast Way

In Russia there are somewhere between 1 and 4 million orphans. The legal code defends the right of the child and it’s right to a family – but potential adoptive parents say that it is practically impossible to adopt  or obtain guardianships of a child. The internet news portal Fontanka in St. Peterburg conducted its own investigation to see how difficult these procedures are and who is benefitting from the process. Anna Filatova reports.

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Divorce Tajik-Style

Every year, many men from Tajikistqan go to Russia to find work. Often they also find a new love. A text message to the wife at home with the words “talaq, talaq, talaq” is enough to initiate the divorce procedure.  Some experts have claimed that, unless this practice of quick divorces is stopped, then Tajikistan could become a country losing its men. Mohammad Ehamzod has investigated the practice.

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