Nineteen Years

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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.

Bombing at Guryanova Street in Moscow, where 94 were killed.

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.

On this day: a Disaster in Montserrat

Montserrat_Plymouth_Street_LampAsh piled streetlamp high on the Streets of Plymouth (1999). Photo by Gary Mark Smith. Volcanic Eruption.

The aftermath of the disaster, photographed in 1999.

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.

On this day: the end of the Battle of Grozny

The Battle of Grozny, the Russian siege of the capital of Chechnya that began in 1999, ended on the 6th of February, 2000.

In 2003, the United Nations named Grozny the “most destroyed city on Earth”.

Destruction after the Russian siege.

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On this day: the Columbine High School Massacre

The 20th of April is the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, which took place in Colorado, USA in 1999. Two high school seniors killed thirteen people, and then killed themselves.

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Coach Sanders caught on security camera immediately before he was killed.

This was the gun massacre that introduced an entire generation worldwide to US gun culture. Though not the deadliest school shooting in US history, it is one of the best known.

Columbine_Shooting_Security_CameraThe security camera of Columbine High School during the shooting.