‘500-year flood’: Florida begins to assess Hurricane Ian’s catastrophic damage

Yahoo! News

‘500-year flood’: Florida begins to assess Hurricane Ian’s catastrophic damage

Dylan Stableford, Senior Writer – September 29, 2022

A day after Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida as a Category 4 storm, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the storm surge that came with it was “basically a 500-year flood event.”

“We’ve never seen a flood event like this,” he said during a news briefing in Tallahassee. “We’ve never seen a storm surge of this magnitude.”

More than 2.5 million people across the state were without power as search and rescue teams and first responders assessed the historic damage.

Motor homes in a flooded area with billowing smoke rising in the background.
Flooded streets in Fort Myers, Fla., on Thursday after Hurricane Ian caused widespread destruction. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Large sections of the Sanibel Causeway, which connects the Sanibel Islands to the mainland, collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico.

DeSantis said the causeway and Matlacha Pass Bridge are “impassable” and are going to require “structural” rebuilds.

Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, was particularly hard hit. On NBC’s “Today” show, Mayor Kevin Anderson, who has lived in the city since the 1970s, said Ian was “by far the worst storm” he’d ever seen.

Boats damaged by Hurricane Ian are seen in Fort Myers, Fla.
Severely damaged boats in Fort Myers, Fla., amid other debris following the hurricane. (Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images)

And there were conflicting reports of fatalities.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said, “While I don’t have confirmed numbers, I definitely know the fatalities are in the hundreds.” DeSantis, though, said that that number was unconfirmed and based on the thousands of people who called to report rising water in their homes.

Later on CNN, Marceno said that there were five confirmed deaths and that “a couple thousand calls came through 911.”

“We got crushed,” he said.

The devastation was seen in other counties too. In Port Charlotte, in Charlotte County, the storm ripped part of a roof off a hospital’s intensive care unit, forcing staff and patients to evacuate to other floors.

A mangled spiral staircase in the brush next to a white pickup truck near the Sanibel Causeway.
A spiral staircase in the brush next to a pickup near the Sanibel Causeway. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

DeSantis said he spoke early Thursday with President Biden, who formally issued a disaster declaration and reaffirmed his commitment to use all available federal resources to assist in rescue and recovery efforts.

Biden was scheduled to receive a briefing on the response efforts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., Thursday afternoon.

Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm as it cut across the state Thursday morning, but officials warned that conditions remain dangerous.

In Kissimmee, Fla., just south of Orlando, multiple people were rescued from their cars in rising floodwaters. A military transport vehicle was used to bring people and their pets to safety.

In Volusia County, east of Orlando, a 72-year-old man died “after going outside during the storm to drain his pool,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.

“The initial investigation indicates the victim was using a hose to drain the pool down a hill and into a 30-foot-wide canal, where a steep decline into the water was extremely soft and slippery due to the heavy rain,” the post read. “The Sheriff’s Office sends its sincere condolences to the victim’s family.”

Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida’s home insurance industry

ABC News

Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida’s home insurance industry

Alexis Christoforous – September 29, 2022

Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida’s already-fragile homeowners insurance market. Experts say a major storm like Ian could push some of those insurance companies into insolvency, making it harder for people to collect on claims.

Since January 2020, at least a dozen insurance companies in the state have gone out of business, including six this year alone. Nearly 30 others are on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s “Watch List” because of financial instability.

“Hurricane Ian will test the financial preparedness of some insurers to cover losses to their portfolios, in particular smaller Florida carriers with high exposure concentrations in the impacted areas,” Jeff Waters, an analyst at Moody’s Analytics subsidiary RMS and a meteorologist, told ABC News. Waters said Florida is a peak catastrophe zone for reinsurers, and those with exposure will likely incur meaningful losses.

PHOTO: This aerial photo shows damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla.  (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
PHOTO: This aerial photo shows damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

More than 1 million homes on the Florida Gulf Coast are in the storm’s path, and while Ian’s track and severity can change in the coming days, one early estimate pegs the potential reconstruction cost at $258 billion, according to Corelogic, a property analytics firm.

Industry analysts say years of rampant and frivolous litigation and scams have brought Florida’s home-insurance market to its knees, with many large insurers like Allstate and State Farm, reducing their exposure to the state in the past decade.

MORE: What Hurricane Ian means for food and gas prices

“Insurers most exposed to the storm will be the Florida-only insurers, which we define as insurance companies with at least 75% of their homeowners and commercial property premiums written in Florida,” according to a report from Moody’s Analytics submitted to ABC News.

The state-run, taxpayer-subsidized Citizens Property Insurance Corp. stands to lose the most. As more local insurance companies in Florida have closed their doors, Citizens has seen its number of policyholders swell from 700,000 to more than 1 million in just the past year.

Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg and a vocal critic of Florida’s insurance industry, warns that if Citizens can’t pay its claims, Floridians should brace for assessments to go up on their own insurance policies under a state law that allows it to assess non-customers to pay out claims.

“Every policy holder in the state of Florida, home and auto, should be watching this storm very carefully because it could have a direct impact on their pocketbooks,” said Brandes. He predicts policy holders will see rate hikes of up to 40% next year as a result of Ian.

A spokesperson for Citizens tells ABC News that if their preliminary estimate of 225,000 claims and $3.8 billion in losses holds, the insurer of last resort would be in a position to pay all claims without having to levy a “hurricane tax” on residents.

Florida is already home to the highest insurance premiums in the U.S., something Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor running against incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis, blames on his opponent.

“Gov. DeSantis let these insurance companies double Floridians’ rates and they’re still going belly up when homeowners need them most. You pay and pay and pay, and the insurance company isn’t there for you in the end anyway,” Crist said in a statement Monday.

A spokesperson for DeSantis did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

In May, DeSantis signed a bipartisan property insurance reform bill into law that poured $2 billion into a reinsurance relief program and $150 million into a grant program for hurricane retrofitting. Among other things, it prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on the age of a roof and limits attorney fees on frivolous claims and lawsuits.

At a news conference Tuesday, DeSantis said a lot of the damage from Ian would be from flooding and storm surge. DeSantis said the danger with the Tampa Bay area is that the water has no place to go, noting that the area has close to 1 million residents enrolled in a national flood insurance program.

PHOTO: A man begins cleaning up after Hurricane Ian moved through the Gulf Coast of Florida on Sept. 29, 2022 in Punta Gorda, Fla. (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A man begins cleaning up after Hurricane Ian moved through the Gulf Coast of Florida on Sept. 29, 2022 in Punta Gorda, Fla. (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)

Homeowner policies typically do not cover flood damage, and most homeowners located in a flood zone often get coverage from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Most private property insurance companies insure primarily for wind damage.

President Joe Biden on Thursday approved DeSantis’ request for a disaster declaration for a number of counties in the state. It includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

MORE: Biden coordinates with DeSantis and Fla. officials, warns oil companies as Hurricane Ian hits

“The expense will be higher because of higher construction costs and overall inflation,” Denise Rappmund, the vice president of Moody’s Public Project and Infrastructure Finance Group, told ABC News. “FEMA is the key source of aid following a natural disaster, but much of the costs to repair and rebuild damaged property will be borne by property insurers who will benefit from $2 billion of state-funded reinsurance.”

Analysts say Hurricane Ian has the potential to be among the four costliest storms in U.S. history, mostly because Florida’s population has exploded in recent years.

No state in the eastern U.S. has grown faster in population than Florida in the past decade and the state’s fastest growing cities: Tampa, Fort Myers and Sarasota, are all in the storm’s path. Analysts warn that more people and more homes mean that a major storm could become more destructive and costly.

What is the healthiest fish to eat? What fish should I avoid?

USA Today

What is the healthiest fish to eat? What fish should I avoid?

Jacob Livesay, USA TODAY – September 28, 2022

Fish is generally a healthy food high in omega-3 fatty acids, which our bodies do not naturally produce, according to Healthline.

In addition to protein content, the American Heart Association says eating fish twice per week can also lead to better cardiovascular health.

But not all fish are equal. Some are much healthier than others, and there are also considerable environmental concerns related to contaminants like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls.

Here are the best fish to include in your diet, as well as some to avoid.

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How to keep your cholesterol down: Foods, normal readings and more.

What is the healthiest fish to eat?

These are some of the healthiest fish for your diet, according to Healthline — though read further for more details on how to ensure you’re not contributing negatively to the environment:

  • Alaskan salmon
  • Cod
  • Herring
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Mackerel (other than king mackerel)
  • Perch
  • Rainbow trout
  • Sardines
  • Striped bass
  • Tuna (other than bluefin and bigeye tuna), especially canned light tuna
  • Wild Alaskan pollock
  • Arctic char

What foods are high in iron? Here’s some healthy, iron-rich options to add to your diet.

What are the worst fish to eat?

The worst fish to eat are those high in mercury, according to WebMD. Avoid these fish for that reason:

  • Imported swordfish
  • Imported marlin
  • Shark
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel
  • Orange roughy

Some types of tuna, such as bluefin and bigeye tuna, may also be more likely to have higher levels of mercury, according to WebMD.

How to lower your blood pressure: Tips include limiting alcohol and table salt

What are the best fish to eat for the environment?

It’s important to think about sustainability, as well as the health implications of consuming fish with contaminants such as mercury or polychlorinated biphenyls. Fish healthy to eat and having minimal environmental impact, according to One Medical:

  • Troll-caught or pole-caught albacore tuna from the U.S. or British Columbia
  • Wild-caught salmon from Alaska
  • Farmed oysters
  • Wild-caught sardines from the Pacific Ocean
  • Farmed rainbow trout
  • Tank-farmed freshwater coho salmon from the U.S.

Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid

Associated Press

Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid

Andrea Rodriguez – September 27, 2022

A classic American car drives past utility poles tilted by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A classic American car drives past utility poles tilted by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Men lead their ox cart past a tobacco warehouse smashed by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane and left 1 million people without electricity, then churned on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Men lead their ox cart past a tobacco warehouse smashed by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane and left 1 million people without electricity, then churned on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Maria Llonch retrieves her belongings from her home damaged by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Maria Llonch retrieves her belongings from her home damaged by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Mercedes Valdez holds her dog Kira as she waits for transportation after losing her home to Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Mercedes Valdez holds her dog Kira as she waits for transportation after losing her home to Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian knocked out power across all of Cuba and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it slammed into the island’s western tip as a major hurricane Tuesday.

Cuba’s Electric Union said in a statement that work was underway to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million people during the night. Power was initially knocked out to about 1 million people in Cuba’s western provinces, but later the entire grid collapsed.

Ian hit a Cuba that has been struggling with an economic crisis and has faced frequent power outages in recent months. It made landfall as a Category 3 storm on the island’s western end, devastating Pinar del Río province, where much of the tobacco used for Cuba’s iconic cigars is grown.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and others fled the area ahead of the arrival of Ian, which caused flooding, damaged houses and toppled trees. Authorities were still assessing the damage, although no fatalities had been reported by Tuesday night.

Ian’s winds damaged one of Cuba’s most important tobacco farms in La Robaina.

“It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” said Hirochi Robaina, owner of the farm that bears his name and that his grandfather made known internationally.

Robaina, also the owner of the Finca Robaina cigar producer, posted photos on social media of wood-and-thatch roofs smashed to the ground, greenhouses in rubble and wagons overturned.

State media said Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited the affected region.

Cuba’s Meteorology Institute said the city of Pinar del Río was in the heart of the hurricane for an hour and a half.

“Being in the hurricane was terrible for me, but we are here alive,” said Pinar del Rio resident Yusimí Palacios, who asked authorities for a roof and a mattress.

Officials had set up 55 shelters and took steps to protect crops, especially tobacco.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the hurricane struck with top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph).

Ian was expected to get even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 130 mph (209 kph) approaching the southwestern coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate.

As the storm’s center moved into the Gulf, scenes of destruction emerged in Cuba. Authorities were still assessing the damage in its world-famous tobacco belt.

Local government station TelePinar reported heavy damage at the main hospital in Pinar del Rio city, tweeting photos of collapsed ceilings and downed trees. No deaths were reported.

Videos on social media showed downed power lines and cut off roads in the provinces of Pinar del Rio, Artemisa and Mayabeque. A hospital in Pinar del Río was damaged.

“The town is flooded,” said farmer Andy Muñoz, 37, who lives in Playa Cajío in Artemisa.

He said many people lost their belongings due to the storm surge.

“I spent the hurricane at home with my husband and the dog. The masonry and zinc roof of the house had just been installed. But the storm tore it down,” said Mercedes Valdés, who lives along the highway connecting Pinar del Río to San Juan y Martínez. “We couldn’t rescue our things … we just ran out.”

AP journalist Osvaldo Angulo in Pinar del Rio contributed to this report.

How a party of neo-fascist roots won big in Italy

Associated Press

How a party of neo-fascist roots won big in Italy

Nicole Winfield – September 26, 2022

FILE - Right-wing party Brothers of Italy's leader Giorgia Meloni, center-right on stage, addresses a rally as she starts her political campaign ahead of Sept. 25 general elections, in Ancona, Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. The Brothers of Italy party has won the most votes in Italy’s national election. The party has its roots in the post-World War II neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. Giorgia Meloni has taken Brothers of Italy from a fringe far-right group to Italy’s biggest party. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)
Right-wing party Brothers of Italy’s leader Giorgia Meloni, center-right on stage, addresses a rally as she starts her political campaign ahead of Sept. 25 general elections, in Ancona, Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. The Brothers of Italy party has won the most votes in Italy’s national election. The party has its roots in the post-World War II neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. Giorgia Meloni has taken Brothers of Italy from a fringe far-right group to Italy’s biggest party. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)
FILE - Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, center, hands on hips, with members of the Fascist Party, in Rome, Italy, Oct. 28, 1922, following their March on Rome. The Brothers of Italy party, the biggest vote-getter in Italy's national election, has its roots in the post-World War II neofascist Italian Social Movement and proudly kept its symbol the tricolor flame as the visible and symbolic proof of its inheritance as it went from a fringe far-right group to the biggest party in Italian politics. (AP Photo, File)
Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, center, hands on hips, with members of the Fascist Party, in Rome, Italy, Oct. 28, 1922, following their March on Rome. The Brothers of Italy party, the biggest vote-getter in Italy’s national election, has its roots in the post-World War II neofascist Italian Social Movement and proudly kept its symbol the tricolor flame as the visible and symbolic proof of its inheritance as it went from a fringe far-right group to the biggest party in Italian politics. (AP Photo, File)

ROME (AP) — The Brothers of Italy party, which won the most votes in Italy’s national election, has its roots in the post-World War II neo-fascist Italian Social Movement.

Keeping the movement’s most potent symbol, the tricolor flame, Giorgia Meloni has taken Brothers of Italy from a fringe far-right group to Italy’s biggest party.

A century after Benito Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which brought the fascist dictator to power, Meloni is poised to lead Italy’s first far-right-led government since World War II and Italy’s first woman premier.

HOW DID POST-FASCISM BEGIN IN ITALY?

The Italian Social Movement, or MSI, was founded in 1946 by Giorgio Almirante, a chief of staff in Mussolini’s last government. It drew fascist sympathizers and officials into its ranks following Italy’s role in the war, when it was allied with the Nazis and then liberated by the Allies.

Throughout the 1950-1980s, the MSI remained a small right-wing party, polling in the single digits. But historian Paul Ginsborg has noted that its mere survival in the decades after the war “served as a constant reminder of the potent appeal that authoritarianism and nationalism could still exercise among the southern students, urban poor and lower middle classes.”

The 1990s brought about a change under Gianfranco Fini, Almirante’s protege who nevertheless projected a new moderate face of the Italian right. When Fini ran for Rome mayor in 1993, he won a surprising 46.9% of the vote — not enough to win but enough to establish him as a player. Within a year, Fini had renamed the MSI the National Alliance.

It was in those years that a young Meloni, who was raised by a single mother in a Rome working-class neighborhood, first joined the MSI’s youth branch and then went onto lead the youth branch of Fini’s National Alliance.

DOES THAT MEAN MELONI IS NEO-FASCIST?

Fini was dogged by the movement’s neo-fascist roots and his own assessment that Mussolini was the 20th century’s “greatest statesman.” He disavowed that statement, and in 2003 visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel. There, he described Italy’s racial laws, which restricted Jews’ rights, as part of the “absolute evil” of the war.

Meloni, too, had praised Mussolini in her youth but visited Yad Vashem in 2009 when she was a minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s last government. Writing in her 2021 memoir “I Am Giorgia,” she described the experience as evidence of how “a genocide happens step by step, a little at a time.”

During the campaign, Meloni was forced to confront the issue head-on, after the Democrats warned that she represented a danger to democracy.

“The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws,” she said in a campaign video.

HOW DID BROTHERS OF ITALY EMERGE?

Meloni, who proudly touts her roots as an MSI militant, has said the first spark of creating Brothers of Italy came after Berlusconi resigned as premier in 2011, forced out by a financial crisis over Italy’s soaring debt and his own legal problems.

Meloni refused to support Mario Monti, who was tapped by Italy’s president to try to form a technocratic government to reassure international financial markets. Meloni couldn’t stand what she believed was external pressure from European capitals to dictate internal Italian politics.

Meloni co-founded the party in 2012, naming it after the first words of the Italian national anthem. “A new party for an old tradition,” Meloni wrote.

Brothers of Italy would only take in single-digit results in its first decade. The European Parliament election in 2019 brought Brothers of Italy 6.4% — a figure that Meloni says “changed everything.”

As the leader of the only party in opposition during Mario Draghi’s 2021-2022 national unity government, her popularity soared, with Sunday’s election netting it 26%.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PARTY’S LOGO?

The party has at the center of its logo the red, white and green flame of the original MSI that remained when the movement became the National Alliance. While less obvious than the bundle of sticks, or fasces, that was the prominent symbol of Mussolini’s National Fascist Party, the tricolor flame is nevertheless a powerful image that ties the current party to its past.

“Political logos are a form of branding, no different than those aimed at consumers,” said Rutgers University professor T. Corey Brennan, who recently wrote “Fasces: A History of Rome’s Most Dangerous Political Symbol.”

He recalled that when Almirante made his final MSI campaign pitch to voters in the 1948 election at Rome’s Spanish Steps, he put the party’s flame symbol on top of the obelisk and illuminated it with floodlights.

“You can make whatever you want out of a flame, but everybody understood that Almirante was making a deeply emotional appeal to keep the spirit of fascism alive,” he said.

HOW DO ITALIANS FEEL ABOUT IT?

In general, the party’s neo-fascist roots appear to be of more concern abroad than at home. Some historians explain that by noting a certain historical amnesia here and Italians’ general comfort living with the relics of fascism as evidence that Italy never really repudiated the Fascist Party and Mussolini in the same way Germany repudiated National Socialism and Hitler.

While Germany went through a long and painful process reckoning with its past, Italians have in many ways simply turned a willful blindness to their own.

Historian David Kertzer of Brown University notes that there are 67 institutes for the study of the Resistance to Fascism in Italy, and virtually no center for the study of Italian Fascism.

In addition, Mussolini-era architecture and monuments are everywhere: from the EUR neighborhood in southern Rome to the Olympic training center on the Tiber River, with its obelisk still bearing Mussolini’s name.

The Italian Constitution bars the reconstitution of the Fascist party, but far-right groups still display the fascist salute and there continues to be an acceptance of fascist symbols, said Brennan.

“You don’t have to look very hard for signs,” Brennan said in a phone interview. “Fully a quarter of all manhole covers in Rome still have the fasces on them.”

DOES THAT MEAN ITALIANS SUPPORT FASCISM?

If history is any guide, one constant in recent political elections is that Italians vote for change, with a desire for something new seemingly overtaking traditional political ideology in big pendulum shifts, said Nathalie Tocci, director of the Rome-based Institute of International Affairs.

Tocci said the Brothers of Italy’s popularity in 2022 was evidence of this “violent” swing that is more about Italian dissatisfaction than any surge in neo-fascist or far-right sentiment.

“I would say the main reason why a big chunk of that — let’s say 25-30% — will vote for this party is simply because it’s the new kid on the block,” she said.

Meloni still speaks reverently about the MSI and Almirante, even if her rhetoric can change to suit her audience.

This summer, speaking in perfect Spanish, she thundered at a rally of Spain’s hard-right Vox party: “Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby. Yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology.”

Back home on the campaign trail, she projected a much more moderate tone and appealed for unity in her victory speech Monday.

“Italy chose us,” she said. “We will not betray it, as we never have.”

Sabrina Sergi contributed to this report.

Kremlin says no decisions taken on border closure amid mobilization

Reuters

Kremlin says no decisions taken on border closure amid mobilisation

September 26, 2022

Russian reservists depart for military bases during mobilisation of troops, in Bataysk
Russian reservists depart for military bases during mobilization of troops, in Bataysk
Crossings from Russia at the Zemo Larsi/Verkhny Lars station in Georgia
Crossings from Russia at the Zemo Larsi/Verkhny Lars station in Georgia
Crossings from Russia at the Zemo Larsi/Verkhny Lars station in Georgia
Crossings from Russia at the Zemo Larsi/Verkhny Lars station in Georgia
Crossings from Russia at the Zemo Larsi/Verkhny Lars station in Georgia
Crossings from Russia at the Zemo Larsi/Verkhny Lars station in Georgia
Russian reservists depart for military bases during mobilisation of troops, in Bataysk
Russian reservists depart for military bases during mobilization of troops, in Bataysk
Russian reservists depart for military bases during mobilisation of troops, in Bataysk
Russian reservists depart for military bases during mobilization of troops, in Bataysk

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that no decisions had been taken on closing Russia’s borders, amid an exodus of military-age men since President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization last Wednesday.

Asked about the possibility of border closures in a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I don’t know anything about this. At the moment, no decisions have been taken on this.”

Peskov also acknowledged that some call-ups had been issued in error, saying mistakes were being corrected by regional governors and the ministry of defence.

Peskov said: “There have been cases when the decree is violated … These cases of non-compliance with the required criteria are being eliminated.”

Russian media have reported a string of cases of elderly or medically exempt men being called up for service in Ukraine. Regional governors in Dagestan and Buryatia, two regions that have seen aggressive mobilisations, have said that mistakes were made in the initial rollout.

The comments come amid rising fears of a border closure, with Russia’s frontiers seeing an unprecedented outflow of military-aged men since the partial mobilisation was declared last week.

On Monday, a senior lawmaker said that Russian borders should be closed to draft-eligible men amid the exodus.

“Everyone who is of conscription age should be banned from travelling abroad in the current situation,” Sergei Tsekov, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, told RIA news agency.

Russian media based abroad, including news sites Meduza and Novaya Gazeta Europe, have reported that the Kremlin is planning to close the country’s borders for draft-aged men. Such reports have not appeared on the main media within Russia, where all independent outlets have been shut and reporting that differs from official accounts is banned.

On Sunday, Novaya Gazeta reported that 261,000 men had left the country since partial mobilisation was declared, citing an unnamed source in Russia’s presidential administration.

Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said that border guards at Russia’s only operational crossing point with Georgia had since Sunday stopped some people from exiting, citing the law on mobilisation. The local interior ministry on Sunday said there was a queue of 2,300 cars at the Verkhny Lars crossing.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports of men being turned back at the border.

Russia’s economy will ‘die by winter’ because of military mobilization

Fortune

Russia’s economy will ‘die by winter’ because of military mobilization

Yvonne Lau – September 26, 2022

In the seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine, some have argued that the international sanctions levied against Russia weren’t strong enough as Russians continued to travel, shop, party—and generally lead a normal life.

Now, an action by Russian President Vladimir Putin could be the catalyst that brings the war home to Russians and plunges the economy into real catastrophe.

Last Wednesday, Putin announced a “partial” mobilization—Russia’s first mobilization decree since World War II—ordering 300,000 able-bodied men aged 18 to 30 in the military reserves to fight in Ukraine, sparking widespread protests across the country.

“I consider it necessary to make [this] decision, which is fully appropriate to the threats we face…to protect our motherland…to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories,” Putin said last week.

In the days that followed, Russian police arrested over 2,300 citizens for protesting, and tens of thousands of Russians have now fled the country to avoid the draft.

Now, Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev, the director of Moscow-based think tank the Center for Research on Post-Industrial Studies, is warning that Putin’s mobilization will have “truly catastrophic consequences,” including the death of the Russian economy and the downfall of Putin’s regime.

“The Russian economy is going to die by winter, I wrote in early March. Now I think I was right. The mobilization announced on Sept. 21 was a milestone that really divided Russian history into ‘before’ and ‘after’—an event that began the final countdown of Putin’s era,” the economist wrote on Sunday for Russian publication The Insider.

‘I don’t want to die for someone else’s ambitions’

Putin’s mobilization decree has already proved highly unpopular in Russia, prompting mass rallies and protest actions.

On Monday, a gunman opened fire at a military recruitment office in the Siberian region of Irkutsk, injuring one person. The gunman’s identity and motivation have not been disclosed. In Ryazan, a city 115 miles southeast of Moscow, a man set himself on fire, shouting that he didn’t want to fight in Ukraine. Over the weekend, at least 400 people—mostly women—protested in Yakutsk’s city centre, telling police to “let our children live.”

Several reports from independent media publications and researchers note that the Kremlin is likely aiming to draft over 1.2 million men to fight in Ukraine—four times more than the 300,000 the government says it’s recruiting. The Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov has denied this claim.

Police and recruitment officers have also rounded up students, after Putin specifically said that university students studying full-time would not be called up to serve in Ukraine. Meanwhile, antiwar activists have denounced the government for disproportionately sending ethnic minorities from its Siberian and Caucasus regions to fight in Ukraine. Almost half of the male population in Buryatia, an eastern Siberian region colonized by Russia in the 18th century, have been brought to military assembly points from rural villages, according to independent media reports.

“Mobilization is not partial…in Buryatia. Summons come to students, pensioners, fathers of many children, people with disabilities,” Alexandra Garmazhapova, president of the Free Buryatia Foundation, told CNN.

In a move that shows how far the Kremlin is willing to go to ensure its mobilization demands are met, Putin signed an additional law on Saturday that approves jail terms of up to 10 years for those evading military duty and up to 15 years for wartime desertion.

Catastrophic consequences

Prior to Putin’s mobilization decree, Inozemtsev agreed with predictions that Russia’s GDP would drop around 4–5% this year. But now he believes that Russia’s GDP will drop that much in October alone, and the “next months will only consolidate the trend. Now my spring forecast for a 10% fall seems almost too optimistic,” he said.

The Kremlin’s exclusive focus on mobilization and war efforts means that government funds will be directed to these initiatives at the expense of investment in business and the economy, the economist predicts.

Investments in business will begin to decline sharply, and the Moscow Stock Exchange could dip below 1,500 points before year’s end, Inozemtsev wrote.

“And all this doesn’t take into account…the inevitable new wave of [Western] sanctions that will be announced in the near future. We are talking about a much more radical-than-expected displacement of Russia from energy markets and a new wave of restrictions on the supply of critical [imports] for the country,” he said.

The “financial effects of mobilization—in the medium-term—will be significantly greater than the consequences of…the war in Ukraine,” Inozemtsev said.

In Russia’s poorer regions like Buryatia, the economic consequences will be disastrous, as “thousands of families will be left without income, and local medium and small businesses will simply die out,” Inozemtsev wrote.

Russia will also lose at minimum hundreds of thousands of men to the war’s frontline, and 3 to 4 million more will “disappear” from the labor market,” he wrote. In Russia’s wealthier cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, residents generally have more resources to leave the country. But Inozemtsev predicts that army officers in the next few days will start serving recruitment papers at people’s workplaces, leading many to quit, or simply not show up at their offices, to avoid getting a summons.

“This will be the strongest blow to the economy. Several million people will prefer to quit their jobs so as not to [serve] in the army. Meanwhile in large cities… the loss of even a few employees can cause disproportionate damage to the economy. Russia is the economy of large cities and companies,” he said.

Putin allies express concern over mobilization ‘excesses’

Reuters

Putin allies express concern over mobilzsation ‘excesses’

September 25, 2022

(Reuters) – Russia’s two most senior lawmakers on Sunday addressed a string of complaints about Russia’s mobilisation drive, ordering regional officials to get a handle on the situation and swiftly solve the “excesses” that have stoked public anger.

President Vladimir Putin’s move to order Russia’s first military mobilisation since World War Two triggered protests across the country and seen flocks of military-age men flee, causing tailbacks at borders and flights to sell out.

Multiple reports have also documented how people with no military service have been issued draft papers – contrary to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s guarantee that only those with special military skills or combat experience would be called up – prompting even ultra-loyal pro-Kremlin figures to publicly express concern.

Russia’s top two parliamentarians, both close Putin allies, explicitly addressed public anger at the way the mobilisation drive was unfolding.

Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, said she was aware of reports of men who should be ineligible for the draft being called up.

Related video: Muscovites protest against mobilization

Muscovites protest against mobilization

Police moved quickly to detain demonstrators who gathered in central Moscow on Saturday to protest the partial mobilization of reservists Russian President Vladimir Putin declared earlier this week. (Sept. 24)

“Such excesses are absolutely unacceptable. And, I consider it absolutely right that they are triggering a sharp reaction in society,” she said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

In a direct message to Russia’s regional governors – who she said had “full responsibility” for implementing the call-up – she wrote: “Ensure the implementation of partial mobilisation is carried out in full and absolute compliance with the outlined criteria. Without a single mistake.”

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower chamber, also expressed concern in a separate post.

“Complaints are being received,” he said.

“If a mistake is made, it is necessary to correct it … Authorities at every level should understand their responsibilities.”

Officials say 300,000 more Russians will called up to serve in the mobilisation campaign. The Kremlin has twice denied it actually plans to draft more than one million, following two separate reports in independent Russian media outlets.

Rights groups saying more than 2,000 have been detained at rallies against mobilization in dozens of cities so far this week, with more protests already having been recorded on Sunday in Russia’s Far East and Siberia.

An ex-US Army general who witnessed Russia’s basic training of recruits says it was awful

Business Insider

An ex-US Army general who witnessed Russia’s basic training of recruits says it was awful, and the ‘newbies’ being drafted face disaster on the front line

Alia Shoaib – September 24, 2022

Servicemen stand in front of a tank during the 'Vostok-2022' military exercises at the Sergeevskyi training ground outside the city of Ussuriysk on the Russian Far East on September 6, 2022.
Servicemen stand in front of a tank during the ‘Vostok-2022’ military exercises at the Sergeevskyi training ground outside the city of Ussuriysk on the Russian Far East on September 6, 2022.Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images
  • Russia has called up 300,000 reservists to be drafted to Ukraine.
  • A former US Army general said this was a sign of weakness, suggesting they will lack proper training.
  • Mark Hertling said he had witnessed how the Russian army is “poorly led and poorly trained.”

A former US Army general said that Russia’s announced mobilization of 300,000 reservists was a “jaw-dropping” sign of weakness.

Mark Hertling, who commanded the US Army Europe, explained in a Twitter thread that he has personally witnessed how the Russian army is “poorly led and poorly trained.”

The poor training, coupled with the decision to draft in recruits with little experience, is likely to spell disaster for Russia, he said.

“Mobilizing 300k “reservists” (after failing with depleted conventional forces, rag-tag militias.. recruiting prisoners & using paramilitaries like the Wagner group) will be extremely difficult,” Hertling said.

“And placing “newbies” on a front line that has been mauled, has low morale & who don’t want to be portends more [Russian] disaster.”

Putin announced on Wednesday the partial mobilization of the country’s military reservists, with Russian officials stating that 300,000 reservists will be drafted immediately.

Only those with combat experience will be called up, and students and current conscripts will not be included, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Since the announcement was made, reports have emerged about Russians trying to flee to avoid deployment, and plane tickets out of country selling out.

Insider reported that recruits being drafted this week were totally unsuitable and included a 63-year-old man with diabetes.

Horrible leadership by “drill sergeants”

Hertling, who for a time also commanded all basic and advanced soldier training for the US Army, said that during two visits to Russia he found the army’s training to be “awful.”

He compared Russia’s army training with the US’, which typically involves new soldiers getting 10 weeks of basic training across several sites from “very professional drill sergeants,” and many going on to get more specialized training.

The former general cited a Moscow Times article from July, six months into the invasion of Ukraine, which said that soldiers were being sent to the front line with minimal basic training.

Sergei Krivenko, the director of the human rights group Citizen. Army. Law. told the outlet: “I’ve been regularly approached by parents whose children signed a [military] contract and ended up in Ukraine just a week later.”

The article also quoted one Russian soldier who said he received just five days of training before being sent to combat in Ukraine.

Hertling said when he visited Russia, he noted that Russian army training faced many issues, including “horrible leadership by drill sergeants,” and cited an article about hazing.

He said that officers told him theirs was a “one year” force, with some, often the poorest, volunteering or being elected for leadership roles.

By comparison, Hertling said that Ukraine’s army more closely follows the US model after having received training from US personnel in both individual and unit training techniques since 2014.

The issue of Russian army training, according to Hertling, starts “in basic training, and doesn’t get better during the [Russian] soldier’s time in uniform.”

Insider reached out to Hertling for comment.

Trump suffers setback as appeals panel rejects Cannon ruling

Politico

Trump suffers setback as appeals panel rejects Cannon ruling

Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein – September 21, 2022

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

A three-judge appeals court panel has granted the Justice Department’s request to block aspects of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling that delayed a criminal investigation into highly sensitive documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

The panel ruled that Cannon, a Trump appointee, erred when she temporarily prevented federal prosecutors from using the roughly 100 documents — marked as classified – recovered from Trump’s estate as part of a criminal inquiry.

Trump “has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents,” the panel ruled in a 29-page decision. “Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents.”

Two of the three judges on the panel, Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant, were appointed to the court by Trump. The third, Robin Rosenbaum, was appointed by President Barack Obama. In the unanimous decision, the judges declared it “self-evident” that the public interest favored allowing the Justice Department to determine whether any of the records were improperly disclosed, risking national security damage.

“For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings,” the appeals court wrote in an opinion that listed no individual judge as the author.

While Cannon speculated in her ruling that allowing investigators continued access to the documents could result in leaks of their contents, the appeals panel brushed aside that concern.

“Permitting the United States to retain the documents does not suggest that they will be released; indeed, a purpose of the United States’s efforts in investigating the recovered classified documents is to limit unauthorized disclosure of the information they contain,” the appeals judges wrote. “Not only that, but any authorized official who makes an improper disclosure risks her own criminal liability.”

The 11th Circuit’s rules appear to preclude any attempt to ask the full bench of that court to reconsider the government’s motion, but Trump could seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court.

Trump attorney Christopher Kise did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

The appeals court’s opinion was unsparing toward Cannon and replete with indications that the appeals judges took a vastly different approach to the document fight than she did.

Trump’s legal team, Cannon and even a senior judge that she appointed as a special master have generally referred to the national-security documents at issue as “marked classified,” deferring at least to a degree to Trump’s claim that he declassified all the records found at Mar-a-Lago, despite a lack of evidence buttressing his assertion. But the appeals court panel took a different approach, often referring without qualification to the records as “classified.”

They also characterized the public dispute over potential declassification of the documents as a “red herring,” contending that even if true, “that would not explain why [Trump] has a personal interest in them.”

Throughout their ruling, the three judges made clear they had little patience for Trump’s freewheeling claims about the status of the 100 documents, noting that he had presented no evidence to support those public assertions. And they noted drily that there’s a common sense reason for documents to include classified markings.

“Classified documents are marked to show they are classified, for instance, with their classification level,” the panel observed.

The timing of the appeals court’s decision, coming less than 24 hours after the parties’ completed legal briefing on the issue, also signaled that the panel viewed the question as straightforward.