How did a Russian transport plane crash over Belgorod? The Kremlin remains silent and blames Ukraine.
A good week after a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane crashed with 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war on board, mysteries still surround the bodies. In response to Kiev's calls to return the dead to Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that this was a matter for Russian investigators. „The investigation is ongoing, and during the investigation all decisions will be made only by the investigative bodies,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted Peskov as saying. Officials in Ukraine have doubts about whether the prisoners were actually on the plane.
Moscow accuses Ukrainian forces of shooting down an Ilyushin plane in the Belgorod region on January 24, using missiles from the American Patriot anti-aircraft system. In addition to the nine Russian crew members, Ukrainian soldiers who intended to exchange prisoners were also killed. Ukrainian coordination officials recently confirmed that prisoners would be exchanged on that day.
The Kremlin blames Ukraine
Russian investigators released an unverifiable video containing Ukrainian documents, body parts and a body bag. They also talked about the 670 members that were seized.
Immediately after the incident occurred, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an international investigation. This week, Kremlin President Vladimir Putin also spoke in favor of an international investigation. Peskov said now that there may be no interest in the West to clarify, so as not to „stumble” in the investigation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had earlier made similar statements during a meeting with foreign diplomats.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu accused the Ukrainian armed forces of repeatedly wanting to demonstrate their effectiveness to their supporters in the West. As in the case of the Il-76, Ukrainian citizens will also be killed. “This shows the cynical nature of Kiev’s actions, which is ready to commit any crimes to achieve its selfish goals,” Shoigu said.
According to Russian investigators, the plane was shot down in the Belgorod Russian border region of the Ukrainian Kharkiv region. In its nearly two-year war, Russia repeatedly attacks Ukraine from the Belgorod region, which defends itself with return fire.
nAfter nine months in prison with the Taliban in Afghanistan, a right-wing Austrian extremist has been released. The Federal Chancellery and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced, on Sunday, in Vienna, that Herbert Fritz, 84 years old, arrived in the Qatari capital, Doha. It has been under the control of the Islamic Taliban since May 2023.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) thanked the Qatari government on platform X for its mediation in this matter.
The Foreign Office confirmed that the 84-year-old had received „the best possible consular support” in recent months via the Foreign Office, the responsible embassy in Pakistan and the European Union Representation in Kabul. This meant he was given the medication and hearing aid he so desperately needed.
The man is considered a well-known figure in the far-right scene in Austria. In 1967 he was one of the founding members of the National Democratic Party, which was banned in 1988. He traveled to Afghanistan despite a decades-old travel warning, where he was accused of espionage. According to what was reported by Austrian media Fritz wanted to use his trip to show that Afghanistan was safe again. Shortly before his kidnapping, he had published an article entitled “Vacation with the Taliban” in a right-wing extremist magazine.
Russia and North Korea are getting closer to each other. This is not only evident through missile launches from Pyongyang. The first tourists allowed to visit North Korea after the pandemic also came from Russia. But the publicity trip leaves a bitter taste among vacationers.
Relations between Moscow and Pyongyang are better than they have been for a long time. The reason is the war in Ukraine. Russia needs ammunition for invasion, which it cannot sufficiently produce itself. In addition, components are missing due to Western sanctions. North Korea can supply it with ammunition, including missiles. A heavily isolated country that is also under sanctions could look to political support and assistance for its nuclear and satellite programmes, for example.
To strengthen the new friendship, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the far east of his country last September, where he received North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. As icing on the cake, Kim received a luxury car from Putin. Meanwhile, Ukrainian cities are being bombed by missiles from Pyongyang (including Western components).
However, it is clear that Putin's comfortable path should not be limited to military and technological cooperation. An example of this is the trip of Russian tourists to the neighboring country. Since the attack on Ukraine means that most Russians are no longer able to travel to many Western places, North Korea wants to step in and present itself as a tourist dream country.
Nearly 100 Russians who flew from Vladivostok to Pyongyang on February 9 were the first tourists North Korea has allowed into the country since the pandemic, during which it closed its borders. Before 2020, there were several thousand tourists each year, including from Western countries, who visited North Korea mainly out of curiosity. The Russian travel group was not just looking for relaxation: among the participants were journalists and representatives of the travel industry as well as bloggers and influencers, whose aim was primarily to publish beautiful photos of the dictatorship and drum up advertising. But that didn't really work.
According to the Vostok Intour travel agency that organized it, the trip took four days. According to the British Radio Sky News Tickets cost the equivalent of about 690 euros. „The weather is great right now. It's the best time for winter vacation,” The Russian embassy wrote in Pyongyang to welcome them on Facebook and wish them “good mood and unforgettable impressions.” Vacationers have already had it – some reported from Air Koryo, North Korea's only airline. Sky News quoted one of the tourists as saying: “The plane is old and smells like mothballs.” Others reported technical defects in the 41-year-old machine. “Everything is falling apart,” he says.
Once in Pyongyang, tourists visited not only the statues of the country's founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il – a must-see for visitors – but also the monument to Juche ideology and a student event with accordion music.
They were accommodated at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, but were not allowed to leave the building on their own. The reason: “You don't speak Korean and may have problems,” says travel blogger Ilya Voskresensky. Radio Free Asia saida US government-funded broadcaster.
Voskresensky, On Instagram He documented his trip, and spoke of further restrictions: On the plane, while they were still in Russia, one tourist deleted unpleasant photos from his cell phone. In the country, it was not allowed to photograph construction sites and dilapidated buildings, only scenic and beautiful views. In addition, you were not allowed to move freely. He added: „We did not have the opportunity to talk to ordinary people in North Korea.”
However, there were only a few people and cars on the streets even at rush hour, which shocked him. “Sometimes you see people, and it's surprising that they all look the same,” he said, referring to their clothing. He told CNN, felt „like a trip back in time”. The empty streets and lack of advertisements reminded him of his grandparents' stories from the Soviet Union. “It's surreal.”
A separate section is planned for Russians
Masikryong Ski Resort, which the group visited after a night in the capital, appeared to have received a better reception. The resort, which opened in 2014 near the city of Wonsan, east of the peninsula, is the only one of its kind in the country and was built on Kim Jong Un's instructions to attract tourists from China in particular. Western technology, which appears to have been smuggled in after sanctions, was also used.
The tour group was largely on their own because other tourists do not come to the country and a visit would be unaffordable for most North Koreans. But their guards were on their heels: Voskresensky shows a man skiing behind him in a video and writes: “This is our personal accompaniment, not paranoia.” After all, according to him, there were no restrictions on photography and filming here.
This may also be North Korea's plan: under no circumstances should Russian tourists explore the country or meet the locals. It would be much better if they kept to themselves in an enclosed area. Investigative portal Insiders Reports, citing a Russian regional authority on the border with North Korea, said its own holiday resort for Russian tourists was already being planned. Pyongyang wants to build 17 hotels, 37 guesthouses, shops and a four-kilometre-long beach on an area of 2.8 square kilometers on the east coast. This fits what the head of the Russian Tourism Agency says euronews “Some people dream of visiting North Korea,” he said. “North Korea is a wonderful country.” Russian state television also spoke enthusiastically about the travel destination. It is clear that a holiday there is in the interest of both governments.
On the other hand, the results for some of the travel group participants were more than mixed. For example, Voskresensky was not only shocked by the deserted streets, but also frustrated by the ubiquitous propaganda. “It is shocking how the cult of personality has crossed all limits,” he said. He also criticized the lack of Korean culture and cuisine. “I have never seen Korean cuisine in North Korea,” he said. “I feel like they lost that culture because of years of poverty and 'communist egalitarianism.'
The organization of the trip and constant surveillance also left other participants bitter: “The meticulous preparations for our visit seemed like a theatrical performance,” Elena Bychkova told CNN. “Amidst these scenes, I could not shake the feeling that North Korea also has another side, a side that is still hidden.”
Yulia Mashkova books After the trip: “I would never go there again for moral and ethical reasons,” although she speaks highly of the ski resort she visited. In another post, she described North Korea as a „totalitarian dictatorship.” The country has no tourist value. „Of course it's worth the trip. To get your dose of surprises, empathize with frightened Koreans and enjoy the contrast with their southern neighbors,” she wrote. On Instagram. I personally felt unwell, despite the overall pleasant trip.
Those who wanted and could have left Russia after Vladimir Putin's attack on Ukraine. While the Kremlin rejects exiles, these people have a great desire, says Vladimir Kaminer.
I hear Russian everywhere in German cities. It's not just refugees from eastern Ukraine who speak Russian. No, most of them are compatriots who fled Russia. In this regard, Berlin is a particularly desirable destination for these new immigrants. In the last century, many Russians fled to the German capital to escape the October Revolution, and cultural workers in particular settled here.
Most of these poets and thinkers settled in Charlottenburg and Tiergarten at that time. Many famous books by Russian authors were written and printed in Berlin at that time. In the 1920s, more Russian-language books and magazines were printed in Berlin than for local readers. My favorite book from that time is called „The Zoo. Letters Not About Love.”
To a person
Vladimir Kaminer Writer and columnist. He was born in Moscow in 1967 and has lived in Germany for more than 30 years. Among his most famous works isRussian discoHis current book „Breakfast on the brink of the end of the world„ Published August 2023.
Its author lived in Charlottenburg, near the zoo, and could not sleep at night because the elephants in her enclosure snored very loudly and the nocturnal birds screamed like crazy. He wrote: „We are like strange animals in our environment in Berlin. We are stuck in the golden cage outside, but our thoughts are inside.” Soon after, he and several other artists returned to the Soviet Union. Most of them were arrested. They were put in the camp, tortured and killed.
The author of the story „The Zoo” was lucky. He survived Stalin, and almost survived the Soviet Union, as he was old. His book describing the history of immigration at that time is now one hundred years old – and what have we learned from history? This is what the Russians ask themselves. Nothing at all, that's the answer.
Exodus to the West
The story of sudden forced migration repeats itself. Thousands of Russians were forced to leave their homeland quickly, almost overnight, in 2022, because they posed a great danger to the authoritarian state. They fled Putin's regime, from revenge and mobilization. In addition to young students who did not want to be drafted into the army, there are political activists, scholars, artists, and especially my fellow writers.
Almost all best-selling Russian authors are stranded in Europe, and quite a few of them are in Berlin. What do you do? These people continue to write books, publish anthologies and produce magazines, others open libraries, organize countless readings and conferences, but for them Berlin remains a zoo in which they sit in a cage like exotic animals. Your thoughts at home.
Two years of war passed quickly, and every day people were looking for good news from within, and after every small protest the opposition newspapers – which had long been safe from foreign countries – claimed that Putin's regime had reached the end. It actually looked like this: the fascist Kremlin could no longer hold out; Whether under sanctions or through acts of sabotage, the regime will soon be forced to surrender. Migrants can return to their homes.
After all, we know from Hollywood movies that good always triumphs over evil in the end. Sometimes it takes an unbearably long time, but even the longest movie is usually finished after three hours. Our “war movie” has been going on for over two years, and there is still no end in sight. But hope finally dies. For a long time, in this Russian environment in Germany, it was considered bad form to describe oneself as an “immigrant.” People call themselves „Relocant”, and the term „relocation” is understood as a temporary change of place.
Borrowing from the Nazis
Meanwhile, more and more „movers” are unpacking their bags and becoming immigrants. They look around – and try to make a new start, but in their minds they are still back home, and their day begins with news from Russia. They are sad. Last year, 195,500 teachers in Russia resigned and were replaced by new “teachers.”