Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the start of the Russian apartment bombings, when Vladimir Putin orchestrated a series of attacks that killed hundreds of citizens across Russia in order to boost his popularity and win the presidency.
Before the first apartment bombing, a shopping mall in Moscow was attacked on the 31st of August.
The first apartment attack occurred in Buynaksk, where sixty-four people were killed and 133 were injured. The two bombings in Moscow that followed killed over 200, and an attack in Volgodonsk killed 17.
In total 293 were killed and over a thousand were injured.
Putin blamed the attacks on a group from Dagestan, and used it as an excuse for a second war in Chechnya, boosting his approval ratings and helping him to power.
Three key people trying to reveal the truth about what happened were assassinated in the years that followed: Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Alexander Litvinenko – who defected to Britain and was infamously poisoned by Russian agents in a London restaurant in 2006.
Additionally, Mikhail Trepashkin spent years in a Russian prison for his role in the investigation.
These tactics were also used by the Soviets, such as when they blew up their own people at a border post as an excuse to start the Winter War with Finland in 1939. The result of this was that Finland fought with the Nazis in the Second World War.
In the past few years, with Kremlin manipulation of internet search results, factual reports of the apartment bombing incidents are harder to come by. Just like with news about anything else (e.g. Ukraine), these days top English-language (and Spanish and French etc.) Google results usually link to sites like RT (Russia Today), Tass, and Sputnik – all of them Kremlin-backed propaganda agencies.
Human settlement on the Caribbean island and British Overseas Territory of Montserrat was changed forever on the 25th of June, 1997. Following a couple of years of volcanic activity, on this day a series of pyroclastic flows and lahars (mudslides or debris flows) devastated the capital, Plymouth.
Residents of Plymouth and other settlements had been evacuated some time earlier, but had moved back when the disaster occurred. Nineteen people died before residents were evacuated again – this time permanently.
Today Plymouth is a ghost town. Following the disaster more than two-thirds of the island’s population left. Most did not return.
Divorce had been specifically forbidden in the 1937 Irish constitution. A heavily Catholic country, there was very strong opposition to the legal breakup of a marriage, just as there was when it came to the legalisation of contraception, which was only made available in the 1980s.
The success of the 1995 referendum was a close thing; the results were just over 50% in favour and 49.79% opposed.
The 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona were held from late July to early August. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union the year before, athletes from the former USSR competed under their own flags and national anthems in individual events, and for the Unified Team in group events.
Ukrainian rhythmic gymnasts Alexandra Timochenko and Oksana Skaldina came home with the gold and bronze medals. They are the two fair-haired first place-getters pictured below at the 1991 World Championships.
Under their own flag for the first time, Ukraine’s 1992 female artistic gymnasts also outshone their teammates, with the women winning a further two gold, a silver, and two bronze medals individually, as well as a share in the team gold with their Belarusian, Uzbek and Russian teammates.
Ukrainian stamp from 1992, featuring Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics. X
Despite almost no funding and an ongoing war with Russia, Ukrainian gymnasts continue to win Olympic medals, most recently gold and silver in the men’s competition in 2016. Many gymnasts from the country have moved to compete for other nations in order to access proper training facilities. Following the 2016 Rio Games, the equipment used in the competition was donated to Ukraine’s gymnastics federation.
After spending sixty-five hours trapped in freezing conditions in the rubble of the Thredbo landslide, Stuart Diver was pulled alive from his collapsed ski lodge on the evening of the 2nd of August, 1997.
Eighteen people, including Diver’s wife, were killed when the land at the New South Wales, Australia ski resort collapsed, sending over 1000 tonnes of earth and debris down on top of the village.
Despite his discovery providing hope more survivors might be found, Diver was the last person found alive in the rubble.
At 11:35pm on the 30th of July, 1997, a landslide hit the ski village of Thredbo in New South Wales, Australia.
Eighteen people were killed as two ski lodges were destroyed by over 1000 tonnes of earth and debris.
Famously, ski instructor Stuart Diver survived in the freezing conditions of a collapsed building until his rescue on the evening of the 2nd of August. His wife Sally was beside him in the wreckage but drowned when she became trapped in a depression that filled with water.