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September 8, 2011
Yet another Russian air disaster
On September 7, 2011, a Yak-42 passenger jet crashed on takeoff from the airport in Yaroslavl, Russia (northeast of Moscow). 36 of the 37 passengers on board, all members of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League en route to their season opener, were killed.
The group of players included Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins and Alexander Karpovtsev, all formerly of the Florida Panthers.
In a little more than three years, all of the world's best hockey players are scheduled to be traveling through Russia, in connection with the 2014 Winter Olympiad that Russia will be hosting in the city of Sochi. As a result of the unspeakably reckless decision of the International Olympic Committee, they will all be risking their lives in order to compete for gold.
As will, of course, all the other young international athletes who place their trust in the IOC, unless their governments intervene to protect them.
The Yaroslavl crash was no aberration. Russia's entire aerospace program appears to be collapsing.
In June came the crash of a TU-134 airliner while attempting to land near Petrozavodsk, killing all of its nearly four dozen passengers. The government was forced to order the entire model out of service.
Days later, a MiG-29 fighter jet crashed inexplicably, and the government was left with no choice but to order that model out of service too, even though Russia had just inked a larger sale of the model to India.
Then, in an epic humiliation, when Russia rolled out its version of the F-22 Stealth Raptor during its annual international air show an engine collapsed during takeoff and the plane could not get airborne.
Finally, a swarm of bees attacked a Moscow-bound Boeing 757, from the inside.
Russia's space program is equally plagued by disastrous failures.
First, Russia "lost" the Express AM-4, which would have been Europe's largest communications satellite, just after launching it. Days later, a cargo rocket bound for the international space station failed five minutes after blasting off and crashed into a forest in Siberia where locals were collecting pine nuts.
One lost spaceship may be an accident. Two seems like carelessness.
Russia's air safety record is a stunning thirteen times higher than the world average, and it's been that way forever, dating back to Soviet times. After all, Russia is presided over by a proud KGB spy. The whole world understands that it is simply not a good idea to get on a Russian plane.
The whole world, that is, with the exception of the membership of the IOC.
The IOC chose to disregard air safety in Russia, just as it chose to disregard rampant domestic terrorism and the fact that Russia had absolutely no infrastructure in place to stage the games at the time it was awarded them.
The IOC chose to ignore Russia's aggression in Georgia, its relentless repression of democracy (including the murder of journalists and the arrest of opposition politicians) and its shamelessly rigged "elections."
It chose to help Russia conceal its anti-democratic crackdown by getting the prestige of hosting the games while placing the lives of international athletes directly at risk. Why would it do such a thing?
There was widespread speculation at the time the games were awarded that financial corruption was involved. After all, Russia has been repeatedly adjudged by international experts to be the single most corrupt major nation on the planet.
Whatever the reason, American athletes are now dependant on leadership from American political leaders to protect them from the risks posed by the Sochi games. But Barack Obama prefers to munch cheeseburgers and talk nuclear weapons with Russia's rulers rather than to raise inconvenient truths like Russian authoritarianism and the hazards of the Sochi games.
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