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The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

Ulyanovskaya Mine Explosion

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The deaths at the Ulyanovskaya mine explosion in Kemerovo region continue to mount as time passes. As of publication, Kommersant reported a tally of 75 deaths with 33 miners missing. The most recent report from Interfax says that the toll is now up to 106 according to the Emergency Situations’ Ministry. Putin has delcared March 21 a national day of mourning for the 106 miners, the nursing home fire that killed 62 people in the Krasnodar region, and the airliner that killed seven in Samara on Saturday.

As for the events and possible cause of the mine blast, Kommersant reports,

According to the deputy head of the division, the tragedy was precipitated by the collapse of the roof over the coal face in the 11th tunnel: “Over the spot of the collapse there was obviously an underground cavity, a so-called pocket, that accumulated methane. After the roof collapsed, the methane instantaneously spread throughout the mine and exploded.”

When asked whether there is any hope that any of the miners who were at the coal face will be found alive, Alexander Gennadyevich replied, “a methane explosion in a mine is like a massive cannon shot. Imagine that there were people in the cannon’s barrel at the time. How would you rate their chances for survival?”

The explosion took place at a depth of 270 meters, yet the resulting shockwave was powerful enough to blast coal dust several meters into the air out of all of the mine’s entrances.

The same version of events was repeated that evening by Governor Tuleev, who confirmed that a methane explosion in the mine had destroyed the underground infrastructure and that the resulting debris will seriously hinder rescue efforts. “Our task is to find as many people as possible and to prevent a fire,” he added. Fortunately, no fires broke out, but in order to prevent the possibility of a spark igniting any remaining gas, the mine’s ventilation system had to be turned off. According to the miners at the scene, the situation is a double-edged sword: their fellow miners trapped underground will not burn to death, but they may suffocate.

Anyone at the coal face at the time of the blast was likely killed instantly, however, and even the few who were near the exits from the mine when the explosion took place suffered severe trauma.