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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: November 6, 2015

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Do Metrojet Black Boxes Contain Sound Of A Bomb?

French2 TV Channel is reporting that the cockpit audio recordings captured by the Metrojet's black boxes contain sound of a possible explosion right before the jet crashed.

A source, described as "an investigator who has had access" to the black box recordings from the flight, told France2 television that they were able to hear the distinct sound of an explosion. According to the source, the blast could not have been caused by an engine failure.

Meanwhile AFP reports that a source close to the investigation confirmed that the black boxes record a "brutal, sudden" end to the flight.

"Everything is normal, absolutely normal, during the flight, and abruptly nothing more."

Meanwhile, western intelligence sources have reportedly spoken to multiple news agencies and have suggested that "chatter" intercepted indicates that the plane was brought down by a bomb which was reportedly planted by ISIS.

Here's Nicola Clark of The New York Times:

Russia, on the other hand, is less committed to the bomb theory, despite having taken the expensive and controversial step of banning flights to and from Egypt in the midst of Russia's busy fall vacation period:
-- James Miller, Pierre Vaux
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Widespread Russian Anger Over Charlie Hebdo Cartoons Satirizing Metrojet Crash; Editors Respond
Russian social media has been roiling today with anger over the latest cartoon by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo in the November 4 edition depicting the crash of Metrojet, which Russians have found offensive.

Translation: The creeps from Charlie Hebdo are mocking the air disaster. "Russian aviation bombs ISIS."

On the one side the caption says "Daesh: Russian Aviation Intensifies Its Bombings," using one of the names for ISIS, and shows a bearded militant with a gun clutching his hands to his head, and the parts of a plane breaking up with a civilian man falling through the air.

The reference is to Russia's bombing campaign begun in Syria on September 30, ostensibly against ISIS, and the crash of the Metrojet airliner on October 31, killing all 224 people on board. The implication is that Russia hasn't hit ISIS, as 85% of its strikes have hit anti-government rebel areas, but now Russia's own plane has been hit by ISIS.

Translation:  The monsters of Charlie Hebdo.

Translation: ...But Charlie Hebdo is typical intellectual coprofagia. We must not prohibit this, we must avoid it. Well, and wash our hands.

The reference here is to a statement that accompanied some of the postings of the cartoon to the effect that ISIS got themselves 224 free meals by supposedly shooting down the plane.

Both US and UK intelligence has indicated that the crash may have been caused by a bomb brought on board by a terrorist. The caption on the other panel says "The Dangers of Budget Russia" and shows a skull in the foreground saying "I should have taken Air Cocaine."

This is a reference to a recent scandal in which former president Nicolas Sarkozy accused French magistrates of violating the law by tracking his phone usage in connection with an investigation into a drug-smuggling operation.

Sarkozy said he had flown on the airline used by two French pilots to smuggle cocaine from the Dominican Republic but that was his only connection. Sarkozy is running for president against in 2017, and also met with President Vladimir Putin on October 29.

The cartoons were not published on the online edition of Charlie Hebdo but in the print edition and were signed by known cartoonists at the magazine.

The Russian state media didn't publish the cartoons but expressed outrage at what was seen as insensitivity to the victims' families. Russia's TV 1, the main state TV channel, said that the Russian Union of Journalists said the sketches were "offensive" and to publish them after the crash was "unethical,"
and said they would discuss the cartoons with their colleagues in international journalists organizations under the auspices of the OSCE.

The topic trended on Russian-language Twitter in Moscow with the hashtag "CharlieHebdo" and "IamNOTCharlie" in Russian. Maria Zakharova, spokeperson for the Foreign Ministry, wrote on her Facebook, "Is anybody else still Charlie?" a reference to a tag line of solidarity with the slain journalists, "Je Suis Charlie."

The State Duma issued an appeal to the French public to condemn the cartoons, saying they were "not satire, but mockery." Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Council for Human Rights said the cartoons "could be called nothing
other than blasphemy." There are things one should not joke about, he said.

According to Newsweek, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov branded the cartoons as "sacrilege," TASS reported:

"This has no relation to democracy, nor to the right of freedom of expression. This is sacrilege. We could not find [the cartoons] ourselves, but if they have been published, it is sacrilege. At least, that is how it is considered in our country. I do not presume to judge the morals of the French—that is probably their concern—but in our country this is sacrilege."

In January, terrorists killed 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo editorial officers including Stephane Charbonnier, the former editor.

Many Russian media outlets refrained from publishing any Charlie Hebdo cartoons for fear of angering Russia's large Muslim population. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov turned out a million Muslims in Grozny to protest what he saw as the
cartoonists' blasphemy.  Aleksei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy expressed solidarity with the slain cartoonists and published a number of their works which could be seen as insulting Catholics and Jews as well as Muslims.

As Newsweek reported, citing her interview with RIA Novosti, Zakharov asked:

"Do you know why I am not Charlie? Because in my opinion they lie to us and to themselves. They say that no topic is off limits for their sense of humor. If that were the case, then even their cartoon of the dead Syrian boy would have been understandable. Not acceptable, but understandable. However [this would only be true] under one condition—if, on the day after the attack on the Charlie headquarters, they had released a new issue with caricatures of their dead colleagues in it."

Anger over the cartoon led some Russians to make outrageous statements themselves:

Translation: On the whole I'm in solidarity with those idiots who shot the Charlie Hebdo journalists in France.

Charlie Hebdo responded to the Russian anger with a statement, Radio France International's Russian-language service reported.

Editor-in-chief Gerard Biar said that the concept of "blasphemy" does not exist for the editors of Charlie Hebdo. In an interview with RFI, he said (translation by The Interpreter):

"I don't understand this. We are a secular, democratic and atheistic newspaper. The concept of blasphemy has no meaning for us. We comment on the news, like all other publications. The Kremlin is trying to distract attention in this manner from other problems, offering Russian citizens this outlet."
He said the cartoons didn't mock the victims of the air crash or the fact of the tragedy itself.

"There are no caricatures of persons in these drawings. We are just commenting on the event and showing our view of it. And we do this every week."

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Suspends All Flights To Egypt After Crash of Metrojet Airliner
Some breaking news...

The announcement is a bit confusing since Russia and Egypt have recently denied that there is conclusive proof that terrorism brought down the Metrojet airliner last weekend and since the latest news (see below) suggests that the black boxes have not yet yielded enough information to determine the cause of the Metrojet crash.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Black Boxes on Metrojet Fail to Establish Reason for Crash, Kommersant Reports

Sources close to the investigation of the crash of the Metrojet airliner in the Sinai peninsula say the black boxes have not helped to establish the reason for the flight's sudden plunge, Kommersant reports.

The flight data recorder ceased operating a moment before the tail broke off where the instrument is located. The disaster on board unfolded so rapidly that the pilots likely had no time to react, says the source. Therefore the pilot speech recorder may be "useless" as well, as it was severely damaged.

Yesterday November 5, Aleksandr Neradko of Rosaviatsiya, the Russian aviation agent, told journalists that the flight recorder aboard the Airbus A321, leased to the company Kogalymavia (known as Metrojet) had been decoded, says Kommersant. A formal report on the findings has not yet been released.

But Kommersant's sources say the results of the decoding "will not help the investigation much." The recorder does show that during the flight of a little over 20 minutes before the crash, all the systems were working properly. The plane reached the necessary altitude to follow on its assigned route.

But then something happened that made all the recording systems instantly cut off. The source compared it to a cardiogram recording only a person's sudden death after his heart stops; only further investigation can establish the reasons for his death.

Experts believe that possibly after an explosion broke the hermetic seal of the cabin, the tail in which the flight recorder is located broke off from the fuselage, severing all the cables to the black box. While it is possible to find more information from another recording device in the cabin, but it did not have  fireproof armored casing and broke up upon crashing. 

Kommersant believes that the reason Neradko said "months" would be required to find the answer to the crash was because the pilot's conversation would have to be analyzed, and the pieces of the crash would have to be collected and fit together to analyze whether a structural deformation or a bomb in the baggae department was responsible.

The US has said a terrorist bomb may have been possible, citing intercepts of ISIS militants but Egyptian authorities deny this claim, CNN reports.

Pilots have a way of quickly signalling trouble on board the aircraft: code 7500 for a terrorist attack or a hijacking; 7600 for loss of communication of 7700 for other emergency, says Kommersant. But they didn't even have time to press these buttons.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick