16 July 2020, Thursday, 19:27
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The Military Men Were The Only to Salvo

The Military Men Were The Only to Salvo

There have been no home-made explosives or terrorist attacks this year.

July 3 is a state holiday in Belarus. However, it used to be just the day of the liberation of Minsk from the German troops. Everybody remembered about it and there were no parades and fireworks. In 1996, Aliaksandr Lukashenka declared July 3 Independence Day. Since then it's the day off with parades and fireworks. This year there have been victims.

However, first explosions on July 3 were heard back in 2008. Then a home-made explosive device (a package with nuts) left under a tree near the concert venue detonated. There were no casualties that day, although 54 people were injured. Another explosive device was found nearby the same night. However, no perpetrators were found. Three years later, Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou, arrested in the case of another explosion (in Minsk subway), were accused of organizing that explosion. In March 2012, they were executed.

This year, there have been no home-made explosives and terrorist attacks. The military men were the only to salvo. Fireworks coloured the peaceful sky. But that day is now known as "the day of bloody fireworks". After all, fireworks exploded in three out of six places they were launched. Ten people were injured, while 64-year-old Minsk resident Natallia Maksimchuk died.

She came there to see her daughter and grandchildren and to stand together by the river under the multicoloured sky. She died as if she was at war.

A large fragment of the firing installation cut the carotid and other trunk vessels. Natallia was not rescued. Representatives of the Ministry of Defence brought a wreath to her funeral. The country's leadership pretended that nothing had happened. They were at the next fireworks in Aliaksandr Lukashenka's homeland. In general, investigators say that the country is not to blame. It's all the fault of casual pyrotechnics from Russia.

Photo Nikolay Petrov / vk.com

The day after the tragedy, the Ministry of Defence published an official statement on its website:

"It is established that during the festive firework show five calibres (105 mm, 125 mm, 150 mm, 195 mm, 310 mm) were used. The charges of one calibre (195 mm) exploded at three out of six fireworks locations. After the first explosions, the firework shows were stopped. The alleged cause of the explosions was the poor quality of products.

The Investigative Committee develops other possible versions. It is established that all the safety measures stipulated by the normative documents were observed. The servicemen who launched fireworks passed special training and were allowed to launch fireworks. To exclude the "human factor" (improper use of installations and charges), video shooting of the process was made. Firework show venues were cordoned off following regulations concerning the use of these firework products, which have appropriate certificates of the manufacturer (firing installations and fireworks purchased in the Russian Piro-Ross, the city of Sergiev Posad).

Engineers of Piro-Ross were arrested on the same night - Maxim Sapronov, 25 years old, and Konstantin Denisov, 28 years old. They arrived in Minsk as consultants, were detained at four o'clock in the morning. After a twelve-hour interrogation, they were taken to a pre-trial detention facility. The Investigative Committee of Belarus reported that the detainees had made "a physical impact on charges when loading mortars, not allowed by the rules of treatment." It inflicts punishment under Article 463, para 2 of the Criminal Code of Belarus "Violation of the rules for handling substances and objects which represent an increased danger for nearby persons that entailed the death of a person through negligence" up to five years in prison.

Belarusians have long been distrustful of official versions. This situation is not an exception. Explosions of charges occurred in three different places. There are two detainees.

If they made "a physical impact on charges when loading mortars", it means that they were in three places at the same time and were tramping down the defective charges. Besides, Sapronov and Denisov arrived in Minsk not with pyrotechnics, but as consultants. It happened four days before the firework show.

All the adjustment work was done by the military, as well as loading the mortars. For 11 years the Belarusian Defence Ministry has been buying everything it needs for fireworks from Piro-Ross. And a four-day stay of the company's representatives in Minsk is one of the elements of long-term cooperation between the Belarusian military and Russian manufacturers. The scenario is in the competence of the visiting consultants. That is, "we want the red coloured sky followed by green stars which fall apart." And nobody would let civilians from Russia approach the firing installations. It looks like Denisov and Sapronov have been made scapegoats. It's in the most handy way - there's no need to look for anyone else.

The Investigative Committee develops four versions of explosions: malfunction of fireworks, malfunction of firing installations, improper charging of fireworks, improper operation of firing installations. (It's a good thing they don't develop a terrorist attack, otherwise, Sapronov and Denisov would have been executed.)

The military men immediately assumed that the fireworks of calibre 195 millimetres were defective. Precisely they exploded. July 11, chairman of the Investigative Committee of Belarus Ivan Naskevich confirmed that that version was the most reliable:

"The most obvious version, and it is already being confirmed, is pyrotechnic charges of poor quality. Now the issue is whether they were initially of poor quality or they were damaged."

Photo: Novaya Gazeta

And then there are mismatches - how could two Russian scapegoats be present at three different places? Since 2008, the Ministry of Defence has been buying in fireworks from Piro-Ross. Every year the Ministry concludes contracts worth 20 million rubles. Fireworks are stored in Minsk. Before every state holiday, the Belarusian military men ask representatives of the manufacturer to develop a scenario. Everything goes according to plan, without any failures. And after the explosion, Piro-Ross confirmed to Office Life magazine that fireworks used during the firework show were of their production. But the catalogue on the company's website miss fireworks of calibre 195 mm. There are 125, 60, 45 and 25. But the desired calibre is in the catalogue of the Chinese manufacturer. So it is not clear what kind of fireworks exploded in Minsk and who produced them.

The Ministry of Defence also bought the firing installations from Piro-Ross back in 2008. According to pyrotechnic experts, steel mortars are used only by the military. During "civilian" fireworks, mortars are either aluminium or plastic. And if the fireworks explode inside the installation, the fragments, firstly, will not be fatal, like the one that killed Natallia Maksimchuk, and secondly, they will scatter as far as 100 metres. The deceased was standing 500 meters away. And windows panes were shattered in houses more than a kilometre away from the explosion.

That is, the safety zone when using steel mortars should be greater. And this issue was definitely out of the competence of two engineers.

Three days after the tragedy in Minsk, Aliaksandr Lukashenka and other leaders were having fun at a weird holiday "Alexandria make friends come together" in Mahiliou region. Fireworks rattled, as usual, but they were launched by a private company. Before leaving for Alexandria, Lukashenka expressed condolences to the victims of the flood in Irkutsk voblast. The family of the deceased Natallia Maksimchuk, who was eager to see the fireworks together with her grandchildren on the state holiday, dreamt on condolences.

Iryna Khalip, Novaya Gazeta