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Passengers were asked to push a Tu-134 aircraft down a snow-covered runway. Onliner Belarus / YouTube.
The Moscow Times.
Authorities in Siberia are conducting checks after passengers in Russia’s Arctic were asked on Tuesday to push their own airplane down a frozen runway ahead of departure.
More than 70 people aboard a regionally operated flight to Krasnodar from Igarka — a town in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk region more than 100 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle — were asked to disembark in order to help prepare the plane for takeoff, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.
Other media reports said the passengers had left the plane in order to reduce its load, and had volunteered to push it forward themselves.
In videos posted to YouTube, passengers wrapped up in coats and scarves to protect themselves from the cold can be seen pushing a Tu-134 aircraft down a snow-covered runway.
Temperatures in Igarka plummeted to below minus 50 degrees Celsius this week, media reports said.
Reports that the plane’s chassis or its brakes could have iced up were dismissed by Vladimir Artyomenko, director of the regional airline Katekavia that operated the flight.
“The tow vehicle pulling the aircraft from the parking lot began to skid, and therefore we required the assistance of the passengers,” Artyomenko told Interfax on Wednesday.
According to Vesti.ru news site, the plane took off without any problems and arrived in Krasnodar two hours later, having incurred only a slight delay.
An elderly woman pulls а cart with firewood near the Donetsk airport, in eastern Ukraine on Nov. 3, 2014. © AFP
Kyiv Post+, Kyiv Post.
An unidentified fighter in Donetsk released a short video clip on Nov. 24, showing what the local airport looks like after months of constant shelling.
The airport, located on the outskirts of Donetsk, between the Ukrainian and separatist held territories, has been one of the central focal points of the war in the east in the past few months. The airport has been shelled daily despite a cease-fire agreement signed on Sept. 5.
The airport itself was renovated just two years ago before Euro 2012 football championship, at the cost of $750 million from taxpayers alone. But recent footage of the airport shows that it has come to look like a pile of rubbish as a result of constant fighting.
The fighter in the video starts off by explaining the view out of the window on the fourth floor, where the video is shot.
“You see in front of you a tower, it’s ours. To the right, there is a fire building. It’s controlled by the terroristsk,” he says.
“Here, you see one of the offices on the fourth floor. This is our office now. You can see that the Russian artillery has made us great ventilation,” the fighter jokes, pointing the camera to holes in the roof.
“Everything is broken, you need to look where you step. There could be mines there, or just sharp objects,” he says, before moving to show the central part of the airport.
“Further we see a hall, the central hall of the airport. A vast, trashed hall. Further out there you see Metro and other buildings. So, if you feel it’s difficult to work in the office- we’re coming to you,” he concludes.
Intercepted phone calls between alleged #terrorist recruiter Hamdi #Alqudsi and #ISIS chief Mohammad Ali #Baryalei revealed in court
Alleged Syrian recruiter: Hamdi Alqudsi (pictured on Tuesday outside a court in central Sydney) is charged with seven counts of recruiting the men to enter ‘into a foreign state, namely Syria, with intent to engage in hostile activity in Syria, in particular, engaging in armed hostilities in Syria’
Candace Sutton, Daily Mail Australia
The intercepted phone calls of an alleged Australian terrorist recruiter, who is charged with helping young people join jihadist networks in Syria, have been heard in court.
Sydney man Hamdi Alqudsi allegedly acted as the liaison man and advisor between Australia’s most senior Islamic State leader, Mohammad Ali Baryalei, and the would-be terrorists and organised travel, hotel accommodation, different overseas currencies, security, a Syrian contact and ‘general encouragement and support’, according to the police facts in the case.
In alleged phone calls between the two men heard in court on Friday, Baryalei – who is thought to now be dead – told Alqudsi of his experiences on the front line and claimed he was almost hit by a bullet.
Lined up and shot: Beautiful Gold Coast private schoolgirl, Amira Karroum (pictured) secretly flew to Syria last December after her husband, Tyler Casey, was allegedly recruited by Hamdi Alqudsi. Ms Karroum and Casey were shot dead in mid-January in the northern Syrian town of Aleppo.
The federal prosecutors in the committal hearing against Alqudsi, who faces seven charges of conscripting Australians to join ISIS or other groups in Syria’s civil war, say they have ‘overwhelming’ evidence of Alqudsi recruiting and instructing young Australian men to go and fight in Syria.
The prosecutor tendered more than 100 pages of phone tap records as part of a case against him, at Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney.
The prosecutor said Alqudsi had organised for the men to go to ‘a particular part of Turkey which was known as the place where the fighters go to’.
In one text message, Alqudsi and one of the recruits wrote about ‘getting the green light’ for the trip into Syria.
Despite a statement by Mr Alqudsi’s lawyer, Zali Burrows, that the 39-year-old could not be identified as the speaker or texter recruiting the would-be fighters, the prosecution had declared in one text and a telephone call his own name.
‘He says “I am Hamdi Alqudsi” and in one message ‘write my name, Alqudsi”.’
Alleged mastermind: Hamdi Alqudsi (pictured on Tuesday after appearing briefly in the Downing Centre Local Court in central Sydney) is, police claim, the chief recruiter in Australia of young men who want to go and fight in Syria against government forces with groups such as the extremists in ISIS
ISIS leader Baryalei left Australia on April 10 last year on a flight to Tokyo.
At 1am on June 22 last year federal police intercepted a call between Baryalei and Alqudsi, in which Baryalei explains he ‘just got back yesterday after fighting a battle where five brothers were killed and a lot of brothers were injured’.
‘They were trying to take a large stronghold, however they encountered difficulties due to a sniper wiping everyone out’
Baryalei was himself nearly killed ‘as a bullet came so close to him that his ears were ringing from the noise of the bullet’.
Baryalei said he had watched a ‘commander die right in front of his eyes’ and described his fighters taking out two to three tanks.
On June 25 last year at 9.05pm, police intercepted another call in which Alqudsi in Sydney told Baryalei in Syria, ‘four brothers coming this week, they are leaving Australia, going to try and get them by the weekend’.
Alqudsi named them as Abu Qaqa, ‘the tall one’ (Tyler Casey), Abu Moussa (Caner Temel) and Biber’s ‘best friend’, Abu Abdul Malik (Mehmet Biber) and Abu Islam ‘ the Sudanese brother’.
‘They are ready,’ Alqudsi told Baryalei. ‘They are going to all meet in Istanbul then they are going to come all the way to Hatay [the southern province of Turkey which borders Syria] so you need to let me know if you want to pick them up from Hatay airport or do you want them to go to a particular hotel.’
Death in Syria: Hamdi Alqudsi is accused of recruiting Tyler Casey (above, left), originally from Redcliffe, Queensland and former Australian infantry soldier, 22-year-old Caner Temel (right) to Syria where they were both killed in January, Temel shot in the head by a sniper, and Casey and his wife, Amira Karroum were reportedly lined up, shot, and their bodies dismembered.
Alqudsi said ‘the brothers’ were ‘crying, affected, none of them wanted to stay in this country one second. They are ready.’
Alqudsi said the men would pay cash for the trip, with one of them giving $4000 and $2000.
On June 29, 2013 police intercepted a call at 5.59pm from Baryalei in Syria in which he told Alqudsi he had no intention of returning to Australia and he wanted to be a ‘Shaheed’ – an honor for Muslims who lay down their life for their religion or die fighting defending their faith.
He said if he did this, he would leave his wife in Turkey as he did not wish to take her into Syria.
Alqudsi said he was sending over another Australian recruit to Syria, Muhammed Abdul-Karim Musleh.
At 7.17pm on the same evening, Alqudsi called Baryalei’s phone and spoke to a man called Khatab, from the Al Nusra front and they promised to Skype each other.
Soccer nut: Mehmet Biber, a 21-year-old Turkish-Australian from Merrylands, Sydney, who loved poetry and soccer, became radicalised and was then recruited allegedly by Hamdi Alqudsi and crossed the Turkish border into Syria, from where he has posted photographs of bloodied aid workers injured in fighting.
The next morning at 6.32am, Alqudsi called a different phone of Baryalei’s, in which the latter said the extremist group he was associated with had split into two groups, Jabhat al Nusra and Dawla Islamieh who were ‘mujahadeens as well man’ and he wanted to join the second group.
Australian Federal Police say the second group is a branch of Al Qaida.
At 5.25pm on July 2 last year, Tyler Casey and Caner Temel called Alqudsi from Turkey saying the ‘boys’ had just arrived, the trip was good and they would soon fly south to Hatay.
Alqudsi told them what hotel to stay in, instructed them to stay out of sight, buy a new SIM card and change their money into Turkish, Syrian and American currency.
Alqudsi told the young men Baryalei would be waiting for them and to keep him updated.
At 3.39pm on July 3, Alqudsi spoke with Muhammed Musleh who said they were about to board a plane for Hatay. Aqudsi said Baryalei had already left the international border crossing between Syria and Turkey at Bab al-Hawa to pick them up.
Alqudsi has now been ordered to stand trial on seven charges of recruiting young men to fight with terrorist forces in Syria.
Dawn raid: Hamdi Alqudsi was arrested last December at this four bedroom house (pictured) at St Helens Park in far south-western Sydney where he had been living quietly with his family. Police allege he was helping young Australians to go and fight in Syria.
Mikhail Gorbachev, first and last president of the Soviet Union, is defiant at 83 over his role in the breakup of the Soviet Union and its ongoing fallout. Pascal Dumont / MT
Ivan Nechepurenko, The Moscow Times.
Many people who send letters to the first and last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, still write on the envelope: “To the Secretary General of the Communist Party, Kremlin.” The Russian postal service is used to this and redirects the mail to the Gorbachev Foundation, headquartered in a modern building about seven kilometers north of the Kremlin.
Some of those letters are harshly critical of Gorbachev, who is regarded as a traitor by many Russians who regret the demise of the Soviet Union and the shocking economic transformation that followed. Some of the more vitriolic missives even encourage him to commit suicide. But at 83, Gorbachev is defiant and determined.
“I live and will continue to live according to my conscience and principles. Everyone else can go crazy,” he told The Moscow Times in an extensive interview this week.
Despite saying he is “already a part of history,” Gorbachev said he cannot simply observe passively what is happening in Russia today.
“I need to participate, and I will. Nobody will shut my mouth, even though people wanted me to emigrate. I don’t want to leave, let those people leave,” Gorbachev said, banging his hands on the table for emphasis.
Gorbachev, who in recent months underwent treatment at a hospital in Moscow, said he has been reported dead at least 10 times.
“I am called a traitor because I destroyed so many nuclear arms. The second treachery is that we built good relations with the U.S.,” he said.
For those who address their letters to Gorbachev at the Kremlin, time has clearly stood still. And today, when President Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the West find themselves at odds once again, the time when secretary generals in the Kremlin were engaged in an ideological rivalry with the West seems closer than ever.
Seeds of Discord
During the festivities marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this month, Gorbachev warned that the world risks a new Cold War. As someone who worked his way up through the Communist Party at a time when the Soviet Union and the U.S. were ready to destroy each other in a nuclear war and who then worked hard to eliminate divisions in Europe and the world at large, Gorbachev is better qualified than most to offer insight into the strikingly similar issues the world faces now.
Today, Gorbachev argues that the problems in Ukraine and the world at large are in part due to errors made during the collapse of the old system.
“What is happening now in Ukraine is in many ways due to the mistakes of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Once they decided to dissolve the union, they should have agreed on territories and borders,” Gorbachev said.
“Crimea was Russian, and most people in Crimea voted in favor of joining Russia [in the recent referendum]. I supported this move from the beginning, and I am half-Ukrainian. I worry about what is happening in Ukraine. … It might not be a scientific fact, but we are the same people,” he said.
Gorbachev believes that the Soviet Union collapsed mainly due to the political self-interest of local leaders — above all, the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who, Gorbachev said, wanted to “get rid” of him.
Gorbachev has never communicated with Yeltsin since. “There was nothing to talk about with this usurper who went behind my back,” Gorbachev said.
Gorbachev says he supports Putin, despite having criticized previously. Pascal Dumont / MT
The Gift of Hindsight
At the same time, Gorbachev does not believe that the Soviet Union should have been preserved in its old form as a repressive state.
“We could not live like we did before, when people would make a joke and find themselves in jail the next day. There were so many problems, but society did not discuss them,” he said.”
“People had been breaking each other’s bones in lines for Italian shoes in our country,” he said.
Gorbachev said the union should have been preserved “with a new essence that would consist of independent sovereign states.”
The West, according to Gorbachev, used the resulting chaos in Russia to its own advantage.
“The West, especially the Americans, applauded Yeltsin. A half-suffocated Russia was ideal for them. Much of the mess we are in today is due to what happened then,” Gorbachev said.
“The main thing is that trust has now been broken. Everybody was losing because of the Cold War, and everybody won when it ended,” he said, referring to the ongoing rift between Russia and the U.S.
The U.S. felt triumphant and justified to expand NATO into Eastern Europe, Gorbachev said.
“It is true that the spirit of these German unification agreements were broken because we agreed that NATO infrastructure would not expand into East Germany, which creates a certain spirit. When they began to accept new countries into NATO in the 1990s. That violated the spirit of the agreements,” he said.
The question of the promise allegedly made to Russia by the West not to expand NATO eastward is often mentioned by Putin in his foreign policy speeches, with NATO expansion used to justify Russia’s actions on the world stage.
Gorbachev said that when he was in office the issue of expansion was not discussed, as Eastern European countries had not signaled any desire to join NATO.
“The main idea was that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact would gradually transform from military-political into political organizations,” he said.
“We pledged not to aim to seek military superiority over each other. Is this the case now? No. We destroyed so many weapons, tanks and so forth, and now it is all coming back,” he said.
The tense relations between Russia and the U.S. are also created by certain groups in both countries in favor of confrontation, Gorbachev said.
“There is the same type of public both in the U.S. — including the military-industrial complex that cannot imagine its life without weapons and war — and here in Russia too. Every U.S. president feels obliged to wage a war during his term or, even better, two — as the saying goes. I am serious. It’s not a joke. This idea has survived, and that is very bad.”
Putin the Statesman
Gorbachev, who on Thursday presented his new book about his life after leaving the Kremlin, said he supports Putin and ranks him with the political leaders of his own rule, such as then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“He is a statesman. I can say one thing: Despite all the criticism, I strongly supported him, especially during his first term, because Russia was disintegrating. He has done a lot. I said the president is successful. I criticized him too because you have to criticize leaders,” Gorbachev said.
He accused Putin of saying “what suits him” about the Soviet Union’s collapse, which Putin famously described as the 20th century’s greatest geopolitical tragedy.
“Doesn’t he know how it all happened? He knows, but says what suits him,” Gorbachev said, adding that Putin is currently “under attack” by media that are “not free.”
“There are no free media, either in Russia or the West. Everybody is dependent and works for the benefit of their own states. That is beyond doubt. For instance, I was in a hospital, where I had to do everything as prescribed. This reminds me of the press: It is free, but follows orders,” he said.