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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Incidents highlight Russia's Soviet hangover
Vladimir Putin
Putin wants to end sloppy workplace practices

Just hours after a Russian space rocket exploded and crashed to earth, killing one man and injuring eight others, there was a series of explosions and a fire in a naval arsenal in the far eastern port of Vladivostok.

The two incidents are seemingly unconnected. Two explosions, thousands of miles apart, within hours of each other.

No-one is talking about sabotage. No-one is talking about terrorism.

These are just two everyday incidents in Russia. But that's the point.

Ostankino tower on fire
The Ostankino television tower went up in flames in 2000

Worryingly for Russia, incidents such as the explosion of the Soyuz space rocket within seconds of its launch, and a series of explosions leading to a serious fire while naval personnel were destroying outdated ammunition, are every day occurrences.

Mr Putin is well aware of this, and wants his countrymen to deal with the underlying problem which leads to such incidents.

The Russian leader experienced the blackest month of his presidency in August 2000.

A bomb ripped through an underground shopping area in Moscow. The Kursk submarine was sunk by an explosion of one of its own torpedoes, with the loss of all 118 crew.

Social conscience

The Ostankino television tower went up in flames, because too many cables were shoved into too small a space, and nobody bothered about proper maintenance.

Mr Putin acknowledged that these incidents highlighted the sloppy way in which many Russians did their jobs - a hangover from the Soviet period when institutionalised bureaucracy and shortages meant that few people developed a social conscience.

Over two years later, these explosions at opposite ends of his vast country will give Mr Putin a sense of deja vu.

And they will show him also that real change remains a long way off.

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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