What I want to share with you today is a promo movie by Zvezda TV, the semi-official TV channel of the Russian Ministry of Defense, at the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the Russian Airborne Forces. So don’t expect a hard-hitting documentary asking the tough questions and making critical comments.
However, this is nonetheless a very interesting video and when I saw it, I begged Alena Scarecrow and Tatzhit to translate and subtitle it, which they very kindly did. Before letting you watch the video, I would like to share with you a few thoughts about the Russian Airborne Forces (called ‘VDV’ in Russian) and about their military, social, political and even spiritual role in modern Russia.
The Russian Airborne Forces
The Russian VDV are truly an absolutely unique phenomenon and they should not be confused with any other airborne force.
For one thing, the VDV are fully mechanized. So while they are ‘paratroopers’, these paratroopers are not just light infantry (like, say, the US 82nd AB), but a very mobile force, fully mechanized and with a *lot* of firepower. In the movie you are about to watch, you will see some of their armored vehicles and artillery pieces which, uniquely, can also be delivered by parachute. What the movie does not show is the artillery of the VDV which includes such systems as the 2S9 Nona, the D-30 howitzer or the 2S25 self-propelled tank destroyer.
Second, the VDV are a numerically huge force which currently totals 50’000 men and includes 5 Airborne Divisions and 6 Airborne Brigades (including the 45th Special Forces of the VDV Brigade). All of them air-deployable and on a top-level or readiness.
Thirdly, the VDV truly are the embodiment of military valor and tactical skills and they have played an absolutely crucial role in many Soviet and Russian battles, but probably never more so than during the worst tragedy in their long history: the battle for Ulus-Kert in which the entire 6th Airborne company perished.
I don’t have the space and time to recount in detail what happened on that day of early 2000 but to those interested by this amazing event I would recommend the article “ULUS-KERT: An Airborne Company’s Last Stand” by Sergeant Michael D. Wilmoth, US Army Reserve, and Lieutenant Colonel Peter G. Tsouras, US Army Reserve, Retired, in the Military Review of July-August 1991, pp 91-96 (click here for this article reposted on this blog). Keep in mind that this article was not written by the promotions department of Zvezda TV, but by two US military experts who are very critical of many aspects of what took place that day (and rightly so).
What is absolutely crucial for the understanding of the importance of this battle for Hill 776 in Ulus-Kert is that the year 2000 marked the absolute rock-bottom of the “democratic experiment” (aka the American colonization) of Russia. Yes, Putin has just come to power, but the country was absolutely devastated by a decade of Soviet stagnation followed by another decade of “democratic reforms” and Putin was just making his very first steps as a new head of state.
What the 6th company achieved on Hill 776 was an immense wake-up call to the entire Russian nation saying “enough is enough” and “not one single step back”. The article by Wilmoth and Tsouras accurately describes all the failures in command and execution which resulted in the tragedy of the 6th company, but it is precisely these failures which made the sacrifice of these men so amazing: the country had essentially abandoned its own military, but the young men of the VDV did not hesitate to die, all of them, to resist the face of evil (and, in those days, nothing embodied absolute evil as much as the Chechen Wahabis and their reign of terror and medieval atrocities).
It is hard to over-estimate the contribution which the Russian Airborne Forces have made to the rebirth of Russia. But this goes even further.
I strongly believe that it is not a coincidence that the Russian Airborne Forces have even produced an Orthodox martyr and saint: Evgenii Aleksandrovich Rodionov. You can read a short summary of the life and death of Rodionov in the Wikipedia article under his name.
Evgenii Rodionov, photo and icon
What is so important about the case of Rodionov is that died as a martyr because he refused to abandon his Orthodox faith and that his podvig (spiritual feat) happened away from everybody at a time when, as the sad expression went, “every boy wanted to become a criminal thug and every girl a prostitute” as people used to say in 1996, in the midst of the “democratic hell” Russia had become.
Though I cannot prove it, I am personally deeply convinced that the fact that Rodionov was a solider of the Airborne Forces is not a coincidence. I have met enough Airborne officers and soldiers myself and I know that their level of patriotism and spiritual awareness is exceptionally high because they live by an honor code, an ideal, which has it roots in the most ancient Russian military traditions which have always been immersed in spiritual and moral values far beyond just winning a battle.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that all the soldiers of the VDV are some kind of invincible saints or anything like that. Far from it. It is enough to see the footage of the kind of silly drunken nonsense these guys display each August 2nd (the day of the Holy Prophet Elijah, Patron of the Russian Airborne Forces) to lose any such illusions:
But on the same day, this also takes place:
And one reality should not overshadow the other one: they are both equally Russian and equally typical of the VDV.
What I am trying to illustrate by all of the above is that the Russian Airborne Forces are an absolutely unique, and uniquely Russian, phenomenon and that they are a truly formidable force by any measure. Now for a more US-style promo movie, with lot’s of high-tech hardware and “cool” shots, please see the following video.
It will show you that the Russian VDV are also very modern and forward looking military forces with over 85 years of development behind their back. And, having watched that video, ask yourself this simple question: how impressed to you think these guys are with the new multi-national NATO “spearhead” and “rapid reaction” forces?
A teenager who killed a dog by kicking it so hard it went above the head of its owner has been jailed for six months.
Josh Henney (19) twice kicked the dog in its underbelly while its owner was speaking with his mother.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the dog, who was a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Yorkshire Terrier, was named Sam and was approximately 10 months old at the time.
Henney of North William Street, Dublin City centre, pleaded guilty to killing a protected animal at his address on March 23rd, 2020. He has 36 previous convictions and is currently serving a sentence of two years with the final six months suspended for an offence of violent disorder.
Garda Adam McGrane told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question, the injured party was on North William Street with her dog and was speaking with Henney’s mother.
Gda McGrane said Henney was having an argument with his mother and was shouting from a window. Henney then came out of the flat and told the injured party to “f**k off out of here and mind your own business”.
The garda said Henney told the woman that he would “f**king kill your dog”. Henney then took a run up of around two metres and kicked the dog in their underbelly. The dog was kicked so hard it went above the head their owner.
Henney walked away, then took a second run at the dog and kicked the dog again in their underbelly. The dog’s breathing was laboured following the second kick and saliva with blood was coming from their mouth.
The dog, which could not walk or drink, was carried by their owner to a veterinary practice and was still alive upon arrival. The dog was put under anaesthetic, but died while undergoing treatment.
Multiple fractures and fissures
The court heard that Dr Alan Wolfe, who performed the autopsy on the dog, found multiple fractures and fissures to the dog’s liver. Dr Wolfe found all of the injuries were consistent with the dog dying of blood loss due to acute trauma.
Mr Hayes told the court that the injured party in the case has no children and told gardaí that the dog was like family to her and went with her wherever she went.
Gda McGrane agreed with Cathal McGreal BL, defending, that his client told gardaí he had lost his temper and did not really remember what happened. He agreed the accused told gardaí he had not been able to sleep remembering the dog screaming and wished to apologise for what he did.
Mr McGreal said his client very much regrets what he did. He said his client claims he never told the victim that he would kill the dog.
Counsel said his client’s father was shot in Malaga in front of Henney when he was aged 14. He said that his client told a psychologist that the offence was a “horrible thing to do” and that he wants to get help so he does not do anything like that again.
Mr McGreal said his client’s mother smoked heroin and his client caught her doing so as a child. He said the presence of the injured party was a “triggering factor” and that there was “a heroin taking relationship going on”.
Counsel said there is no gainsaying that what his client did but he is sorry for it and it haunts him.
On Tuesday Judge Melanie Greally Judge Greally imposed a one year prison sentence with the final six months suspended on strict conditions including that Henney engage with the Probation Service for 12 months upon his release from prison. This sentence is to be consecutive to the term he is currently serving for violent disorder.
She said the anger and aggression was carried out on the dog, when it was the dog’s owner that was “the subject of his anger”.
Judge Greally accepted that Henney was “extremely ashamed and remorseful for his actions” and has now expressed himself as young man who wants to live a normal life. “He has a stable relationship and is applying himself well in prison,” she noted.
She acknowledged that the report prepared by the Probation Service concluded that Henney was a vulnerable young man who would benefit from probation supervision upon his release from prison.
Alec Baldwin once borrowed the words of one of the acting colleagues he admires the most – “the incredibly intelligent and wise Warren Beatty” – to explain his ongoing image problems. “Your problem is a very basic one, and it’s very common to actors. And that’s when we step in front of a camera, we feel the need to make it into a moment. This instinct, even unconsciously, is to make the exchange in front of the camera a dramatic one,” Beatty said.
Last Thursday, on the set of the movie Rust, of which Baldwin is the star and a producer, that moment could not have been more dramatic. It was Baldwin who pulled the trigger on a prop firearm that killed the Ukrainian director of photography, 43-year-old Halyna Hutchins, and wounded the movie’s director, 48-year-old Joel Souza. The tragic incident left Baldwin speechless for several hours until he expressed his “shock and sadness,” offering his help and support to Hutchins’ family and stating that he was “fully cooperating” with the police investigation into the accident. A social media post from a few days earlier in which he was kitted out in his cowboy gear and covered in blood in character for Rust was removed from his accounts.
Scandal seems to follow Alec Baldwin around, whether or not he is looking for that drama to which Beatty alluded. The eldest of six siblings of a middle-class Catholic family of Irish descent, the four Baldwin brothers are all involved in show business, although they couldn’t be much different from one another. Daniel has had problems with drugs. Stephen is currently involved with an Evangelical church and his political views are inclined toward conservatism. The second-youngest, William described his brother as someone who always has something “to fucking whine about,” according toThe New Yorker. Alec is the eldest and the most disciplined, but also the one who protected the other brothers from bullies as he was the most combative. He went to school with the notion of becoming the president of the United States, but on recognizing he had little chance of achieving that goal he enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York, graduating many years later.
His career could have panned out like Al Pacino’s or Jack Nicholson’s, actors who he looked up to, but Baldwin’s generation was not the same. Perhaps neither was his talent, and certainly, the world of movies had changed. In 1992, Baldwin ensured that he would be associated with his idols when he starred with Jessica Lange in a Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, which three years later would be turned into a television movie with Baldwin and Lange reprising their roles for the small screen. Not only did Baldwin receive a Tony nomination for his Broadway performance, he also drew favorable comparisons to legendary actor Marlon Brando, who starred in the stage production and the 1951 movie version. Around this time Baldwin was also landing meaty screen roles, including that of Jack Ryan opposite Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October.
But as time progressed, Baldwin’s name was more frequently heard in connection to his social life and scandals than for his stage or screen performances. His marriage to actor Kim Basinger, who he met in 1991 while filming The Marrying Man, ended acrimoniously, and Baldwin’s relationship with the couple’s daughter, Ireland, has often been fractious. In 2007, a voicemail message the actor left for Ireland, who was 11 at the time, caused a sensation due to Baldwin’s use of not very fatherly language, during an ongoing spat with Basinger following their 2002 divorce.
Then there is the other Alec Baldwin, described by the actor himself as “bitter, defensive, and more misanthropic than I care to admit,” in an open letter to Vulture magazine in 2014 titled Good-bye, Public Life. At that time Baldwin had forged a reputation as a violent, homophobic egocentric following several incidents aired in the media. And, of course, from his own mouth. Even so, he managed to resurrect his career in the most surprising way imaginable: by making fun of himself.
Baldwin’s portrayal of the absurd and conceited television executive Jack Donaghy across seven seasons of 30 Rock (2006-13), a character inspired by Baldwin himself, earned back his public popularity and landed the actor back-to-back Primetime Emmy Awards in 2007 and 2008 and three Golden Globes. In 2011, he started a new chapter in his personal life with his current wife, Hilaria Baldwin, with whom he has six children. But as one of his closest friends, Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live where Baldwin has received plaudits for his impersonations of former US president Donald Trump, once said: “Everything would be better if you were able to enjoy what you have.”
Baldwin’s altercations – mostly verbal, occasionally physical – with the paparazzi or anyone who in the actor’s opinion has violated his privacy have been frequent, including on productions on which he has worked. In 2013, the actor Shia LaBeouf was fired from the Broadway theatre production of Orphans when Baldwin said: “Either he goes or I do.” Years earlier an actress left another play Baldwin was working on by leaving a written note stating that she feared for her “physical, mental and artistic” safety.
Every one of Baldwin’s reinventions seems inexorably to be followed by another fall from grace. On the one hand, there is the Baldwin who has stated on several occasions that he intends to withdraw from public life, and on the other the Baldwin who is obsessed with social media, writing a tweet for every occasion. Many of these posts have cost the actor, such as in 2017 when he commented on a video of a suspect being fatally shot by police: “I wonder how it must feel to wrongfully kill someone…”
There are still unanswered questions surrounding the death of Halyna Hutchins. The investigation has not disclosed whether the firearm was discharged accidentally or if Baldwin was aiming it at the time, although the transcript of a call to the emergency services appears to indicate it happened during a rehearsal. As of yet, no charges have been filed against Baldwin but it is unknown if this may yet occur at a later date. A statement taken from the assistant director states that Baldwin was told by crew members that the gun was not loaded. Many observers are wondering if Rust will be completed, if the project will be abandoned. And many more are asking the same about Baldwin: will he be able to find a way back from this latest dramatic moment?