Streetwise Professor

October 12, 2012

Railroaded, or Official Dedovshchina

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:45 pm

The Russians have identified the culprit behind the Orenberg ammo premature detonation: some schlub private, Alexander Kasatkin:

The Main Military Investigative Department has filed charges against a private, Alexander Kasatkin, for violating a ban on smoking while handling explosives, officials said Thursday. A discarded cigarette butt apparently ignited a fire that caused 4,000 tons of ammunition to detonate Tuesday morning outside Orenburg, in southern Russia. Private Kasatkin, who survived, admitting to smoking while unloading ammunition from a train, Russian news media reported.

I get the sneaking suspicion this guy is a scapegoat.  The speed with which Kasatkin was identified makes me suspicious, for one thing.  Russian investigations usually take forever, allowing incidents to fade away without anyone being held accountable.  (For instance: What is the status of the investigation of the Sukhoi Superjet crash?  The investigation into the submarine Yekaterinburg fire?)

And one cigarette butt?  How did that start a fire that could burn long enough to ignite 4 freaking kilotons of ammunition?  What was the butt thrown into?  It would be totally negligent to have other flammable materials (e.g., paper trash) near ammunition.  So did Sad Sack Kasatkin throw a smoldering cigarette on powder bags?

I dunno.  It seems like this guy is being railroaded for causing an ammo explosion on a train.  I think a poor conscript is being made to wear this, in an act of official dedovshchina. The official story seems about as plausible as Peg Leg Sullivan or Mrs. O’Leary’s cow causing the Great Chicago Fire (which occurred, ironically, almost exactly 141 years to the day before the Orenburg explosion).

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  1. I’m with you almost all the way SWP. It definitely looks like a scapegoat situation. My only hesitation is that I really believe there are guys in the Russian army who would check the inside of a gas can with their lighter. That this happened above doesn’t seem beyond credulity. That’s always the trick about Russia, isn’t it? You never know if it’s corruption or just good old-fashioned gross incompetence.

    Comment by Howard Roark — October 12, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

  2. My understanding is that ammunition was being transported into some location where it had to be stored. I assume, before being stored, it was going to be accounted for.

    Ammunition was being transported they said in the intercepted by Turkey civil flight of Syrian airlines from Moscow to Syria.

    When such things happen in Russia, and with some frequency, you cannot help but think if this was a way of hiding missing ammunition.

    The above theory of course might be totally baseless. But when it comes to Russia, just because I am not paranoid, it doesn’t mean that there is no conspiracy here, right? 🙂

    Comment by MJ — October 14, 2012 @ 12:57 am

  3. @MJ-not baseless at all. I’ve made a similar conjecture to explain the previous explosions. Maybe not connected to Syria-this time-but I strongly suspect that these explosions are indeed intended to cover up the sale of ammunition by corrupt officers.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 14, 2012 @ 6:30 am

  4. Professor, interestingly enough, Russian people are more cynical about their government then any of us can be, perhaps. Then I wonder what audience this scapegoating is counted on…

    Comment by MJ — October 14, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  5. BTW, today I read Turkey blocks Syrian civilian flights…

    See Surely, it would’ve not been done without serious evidence…

    Comment by MJ — October 14, 2012 @ 11:00 am

  6. How exactly do you start a fire by chucking a cigarette butt int a pile of ammo, but still have time to get far enough away from the blast to survive so you can be fitted u—er, I mean charged with causing it?

    4 kilotons is what, about a third of Hiroshima?

    Comment by Green as Grass — October 15, 2012 @ 7:26 am

  7. @Green as Grass. I was thinking the same thing. Having a very difficult time figuring out exactly how a single cigarette butt could have caused this.

    Hiroshima was about 20KT, so this blast was about 25 pct of Hiroshima. Still, a lot of conventional boom.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 15, 2012 @ 8:27 am

  8. The only way that would really work is if he tossed his cigarette butt into something near the ammunition, such as a pile of oil soaked flammable materials, or a Russian-made car (which amounts to much the same thing, now I think of it).

    This then smouldered gently for just long enough for the patsy to walk to a safe distance of a mile or two. There, he told others, also at a safe distance, about how – quite contrary to popular belief – it’s entirely safe to smoke around ammo.

    This seems unlikely, though I guess we can’t rule it out as this is Russia we are talking out. That said, Occam’s Razor does point to 10 tons of ammunition exploding shortly after 3,990 tons had previously disappeared in a Syrian direction. This would leave all 4,000 tons accounted for.

    Does this guy even definitely exist? If they made him up using a library photo, who would know?

    Comment by Green as Grass — October 15, 2012 @ 11:25 am

  9. @Green. Absolutely. That’s what I was referring to here: “What was the butt thrown into? It would be totally negligent to have other flammable materials (e.g., paper trash) near ammunition.” Of course, total negligence can never be ruled out in Russia, especially in the Russian military. But I’m going with the coverup story.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 15, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

  10. Other than the butt being thrown into something, I think the interesting observation is that everything had enough time to leave the area within, what, two minutes? The culprit survived, or did he? And it was possible to determine that it was that butt smoken by that man which had caused the fire.

    Would an insurance company buy this story?

    Comment by MJ — October 16, 2012 @ 12:26 am

  11. I meant to say “everyone had enough time.”

    Comment by MJ — October 16, 2012 @ 12:28 am

  12. @MJ-knew what you meant 🙂 I was thinking the same thing. 4KT explosion and nobody killed? How does that happen? How many personnel on the train, guards, ammunition handlers were involved? It doesn’t add up at all.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 16, 2012 @ 6:59 am

  13. Professor, this is one thing I find Russia share with the university once we shared with you 😉

    The Russian government pretends to tell the truth, and the Russian people pretends it believes what it is being told…

    Comment by MJ — October 16, 2012 @ 7:29 am

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