Guest Post: Speedbox – Postcard from Kislovodsk Redux #2

If you like walking, you’ll love Kislovodsk.  There are dozens of kilometres of walking trails in the near vicinity and into the mountains.  Easy to arduous terrain depending on your preference.  

Mrs Speedbox has returned from Russia after a near five week visit with friends and family in Kislovodsk and nearby Pyatigorsk.  Both are small cities (pop 140-150,000) in southern Russia only a short (1-1.5 hour) drive from Georgia.

The following may be of interest to Cats.

(a) There are two distinct schools of thought amongst Russians regarding the recent withdrawal of Russian forces from Kherson. The first is that the withdrawal was a national embarrassment for the Russian Army and that Russian forces should push forward and capture most/all of Ukraine. 

The alternate view is that land east of the Dneiper River is adequate and in any event, Ukraine forces would blow the Nova Kakhovka dam flooding Kherson city and much of the region.   With the 35,000 Russian troops evacuated, those troops can now be utilised to defend the area east, or elsewhere, as required.  With the recent mobilisation of a further 315,000 troops, the Russians see their hold on eastern Ukraine as consolidating.

Mrs Speedbox made the point that Russians love the game of chess – and whilst the withdrawal from Kherson was at face value disappointing, it should be viewed as just another move in something much larger.

(b) Russians are convinced that Zelensky is becoming ‘unhinged’ (or more unhinged) and his assertions that Russia is facing imminent defeat are without foundation. Russian television shows extensive war footage each day with some segments preceded by a claim from Zelensky which is followed by video footage that directly refutes that claim. 

The recent issue of a missile landing in Poland and Zelensky’s declaration that it was fired from Russia caused scornful laughter.  The average Russian knew that was absurd.

(c) Russians are baffled that anybody would place credence in western media assertions that Russia may use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Again, the average Russian knows that is absurd.

(d) During the period Mrs Speedbox was in Russia, there was no change in the ready availability of fresh produce, meat or other foodstuffs. Most other goods, including imported, remain available although some items are in short(ish) supply. 

With regard to some western branded products, the explanation appears to be that many of those items are manufactured in China on behalf of western businesses and some of those goods are unofficially diverted to Russia despite the sanctions.   Whilst Mrs Speedbox did note an increase in Chinese branded goods, Russian factories have cranked up to full production and new manufacturers have opened, some of which are producing outright copies of western brand goods. 

Alternatively, wealthy (or entrepreneurial) Russians continue to travel abroad to Dubai, Istanbul, Vienna and elsewhere to buy products for personal use or re-sale.   A close friend of Mrs Speedbox recently departed for Turkey carrying over $US40,000 to buy assorted products (much of which is pre-sold to local Russians).  The friend is just one person in a widespread practice and this is not her first trip.  Wholesalers or retailers in those countries must be rejoicing at the additional sales.

(e) The nearby town of Mineralnye Vody hosts the airport that services much of the region and that airport also accepts some international flights from Turkey, UAE and a handful of other countries. Inbound international passengers are often headed for the health resorts of Kislovodsk and the Russian government are building a new motorway from Mineralnye Vody to Kislovodsk. 

Eagle eyed locals have noticed that the new motorway has included provision for automatic speed cameras.   Shock!!   This will decimate the time-honoured tradition of bribing the  constabulary whenever you are detected speeding.  I dare say the police are also less than impressed at the pending cut-off of their income stream.  The motorway is not due for completion for several months but on completion, it is only a matter of time before the speed detection cameras are incapacitated and the status quo is restored.  (My guess is the local coppers will be utterly bewildered at who may be responsible for the vandalism and will ‘step up’ to catch speeding motorists once again.)   

(f) Electricity and gas are available without restriction or outage. The typical electricity cost for the average apartment is approximately $10-15 per month (yes, per month) and gas is a bit cheaper per month.  Those are the unsubsidised amounts – pensioners receive a concession.   Local government rates on a 3 bedroom apartment are about $150 per annum. 

The biggest energy cost is winter central heating which is supplied via gas heated water from the various stations in the region.  The cost is approximately $35 per month in mid-winter.  All up, in the deep of the coldest/darkest winter, cumulative energy and heating costs are around $55-60 per month.    

Unleaded petrol is about $1.00 per litre.

(g) News of a 19-year-old transexual named Brían Nguyen being crowned ‘Miss Greater Derry’ at a Miss America beauty pageant event made it all the way to Kislovodsk where it caused gales of laughter. 

These outcomes serve to reinforce the perception that the west, led by the USA, are in terminal moral decline which, in turn, leads Russians to ask the obvious question: “why would we want to be like you?”.  

In short, life for the residents in this southern region of Russia is unchanged.   The stores are open and well stocked, energy remains cheap and plentiful, tourists continue to visit in large numbers and new retail businesses and manufacturing works are opening.   Whilst military personnel losses are acknowledged and mourned, the cause is justified to eliminate open Ukrainian hostility towards Russians in the Donbas and establish a bulkhead against the broader NATO threat.

29 thoughts on “Guest Post: Speedbox – Postcard from Kislovodsk Redux #2”

  1. “why would we want to be like you?”

    it’s interesting watching the migrant inflow into the USA the last few years, they don’t want to become Americans.

    they want to work there to send money home or to go home wealthier than when they left.

    a lot of Americans still kid themselves that everyone wants to be an American if they have the opportunity


    Report comment

    5
  2. Old School Conservative says:
    November 21, 2022 at 9:29 am

    Thanks for the bride’s-eye-view of the Russian experience.
    You don’t see that in many media outlets.

    Yes. Thank you Speedbox.

    I have enjoyed these ‘postcards’.


    Report comment

    12
  3. thefrollickingmole says:
    November 21, 2022 at 9:44 am

    As a generalised comment, the average monthly income for a worker in Kislovodsk is around $1500 per month although every person seems to have a scheme to earn more (and usually does). Note that wages are higher in Moscow and St Petersburg but so is the cost of living, particularly apartment rent/purchase.

    Government pensions are a spaghetti of arrangements depending on the person’s work role, the location of their work (those who worked* in remote areas get more), whether the person was born during WW2, retirement age (actual years worked)….. and other factors. Pensions can vary from as little as $350 per month to over $1,000 per month.

    * Mrs Speedbox’s grandmother was born during WW2 (1942) and worked for many years in several very remote areas of Russia, for the government. She retired when 69 years old. Her pension is almost $1200 per month being about 80% of the average wage in Kislovodsk.

    Workers in remote areas are eligible to retire at 45 years old and receive a pension so a person who works past that nominal retirement age ‘banks’ significant additional pension benefits. You don’t need to stay in the remote area to get that additional benefit. Mrs Speedbox’s grandmother has lived in Kislovodsk for almost thirty years – the remote area pension supplement is portable. Mrs Speedbox’s brother was a police officer in Kislovodsk and transferred to a very remote mining area for a decade. He did that solely to secure the remote area pension supplement for retirement. He is now back in Kislovodsk.


    Report comment

    15
  4. Speedbox

    Are the Russian authorities pushing the covid narrative/ precautions? Are the locals bemused at the carry on by the western authorities re Covid?


    Report comment

  5. Mole – as you know, average wages is like asking “how long is a piece of string”. Kislovodsk is relatively affluent as it is a ‘resort city’ that feeds of large numbers of domestic and international tourists. The federal government are also pouring a lot of money into the district with new sport facilities, parks + walking trails, and roads (in addition to the new motorway). Kislovodsk has long been a ‘favourite child’ of the federal government.

    Mrs Speedbox noted there were two new (small, say 20-25 room) hotels under construction and that the city appeared ‘full’. She actually commented that there appeared to be more tourists than she’s ever seen. The nature resorts, walking, alpine outlook and natural mineral water spas in the near hills and mountains around Kislovodsk have always been extremely popular and are chock-a-block with guests.

    So, obviously, the locals feed on the tourism income and other commerce which in turn is reflected in wages and of course, the assorted practices to supplement those wages.


    Report comment

    4
  6. Sounds to me that the good Russian folk are just living in an alternative cloud cuckoo land of belief in government indoctrination, to our good Australian folk believing our governments on the cloud cuckoo land of evil carbon indoctrination. At least the Russians might have affordable heating this winter. We are heading for cold and communism.


    Report comment

    6
  7. pete of perth says:
    November 21, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    According to Mrs Speedbox, she doesn’t recall seeing a single mask in the entire 5 weeks. That includes Moscow airport. Weirdly, Russian immigration control requires proof of vaccination for inbound tourists (but not for inbound Russian citizens) although to be fair, there are fewer inbound tourists at the moment as many of the major airlines have stopped flying into Russia as a result of the sanctions.

    But, short answer, nobody is talking about covid and everybody is just getting on with life.

    C.L. says:
    November 21, 2022 at 3:25 pm
    The Ukrainians are now claiming Russia is shelling itself. There is literally no ludicrous, dangerous bullshit they’re too embarrassed to detail…. western media

    Mrs Speedbox outlined some of the stories we hear in our MSM to her friends. They were incredulous. Everybody acknowledged that each side will tell their own version of events but even so…..there have to be limits to gullibility.


    Report comment

    4
  8. “why would we want to be like you?”

    -In some respects I agree with the sentiment. However, Russians should consider that it is their form of Marxism or Communism that is afflicting the West. It is their never-ending march through our institutions that has brought us down to their level.

    They have succeeded in destroying everything that made the West so attractive to people from around the world. Almost.

    I don’t think they have much to crow about, really.


    Report comment

    5
  9. Russians should consider that it is their form of Marxism or Communism that is afflicting the West.

    no, it “was” their communism
    it isn’t now

    It is their never-ending march through our institutions that has brought us down to their level.

    no again.
    we now have our own communists

    this is a cultural revolution
    like all the others
    it will go the same place

    …its our turn


    Report comment

    9
  10. Zelensky – he really outed himself over the Ukraine Missile on Poland

    There’s reason to believe that this was a deliberate, targetted attack rather than a Ukrainian mishap. There is a fertilizer storage facility in that Polish village which was hit, if the missiles hit that facility the resultant explosion would have destroyed the complete village and the local population, think Beirut August 2020.

    Such an explosion would also have destroyed all evidence of the Ukrainian missile, hence WW III would have been a likely result. Fortunately the missiles hit a grain silo rather than the fertilizer storage, so the Russia / NATO war will have to wait a bit longer.


    2022.11.20 About That Missle That Fell In Poland . . .
    – Gonzola Lira – 11 minutes.


    Report comment

    4
  11. FTX Deep Fake- The Funds are Gone

    From Armstrong Economics –

    “Disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is hiding out in the Bahamas, where he is allegedly attempting to recover “lost” funds. “I hate what happened and deeply wish that I had been more careful,” Bankman-Fried passively told reporters at CNBC after causing his own customers to lose billions in crypto. No one is going to lend that man a penny or touch FTX.

    FTX filed for Chapter 11 on November 11, and John Ray III, the man who restructured Enron, is now CEO. Ray said that he is hoping for a bailout but said the situation is dire and the worst failure he has witnessed in his 40-year career. FTX’s balance sheets were “unaudited and produced while the Debtors [FTX] were controlled by Mr. Bankman-Fried,” according to Ray. As there is no accurate bookkeeping, it would not be “appropriate for stakeholders or the Court to rely on the audited financial statements as a reliable indication of the financial circumstances.” Ray believes a “substantial portion” of FTX’s holdings were either stolen or missing.

    Sam Bankman-Fried said he wishes FTX did not file for bankruptcy as he personally no longer can control the company’s restructuring. FTX and 100 subsidiaries located in Delaware are under chapter 11, but FTX Digital Markets, based in the Bahamas, is separate and Bankman-Fried believes he has some shot in the dark with those assets. “F— regulators, they make everything worse,” the 30-year-old tweeted. Regardless, the money is gone.

    A deep fake video began circulating over the weekend of Sam Bankman-Fried:

    “Hello everyone. As you know our FTX exchange is going bankrupt,” the deep fake of Bankman-Fried said in the video. “But I hasten to inform all users that you should not panic. As compensation for the loss we have prepared a giveaway for you in which you can double your cryptocurrency. To do this, just go to the site [redacted].”
    The video attempted to take advantage of victims by asking them to enroll in a fake crypto giveaway. The video is a complete lie – that is not Sam Bankman-Fried, and the victims will not receive compensation. What people must understand is that there is no record of these funds existing anywhere. No one knows who worked for FTX, as all basic information has been shielded. These mysterious employees were encouraged to use software that automatically deleted messages, and they often spoke in code. Alameda Silo, Ventures Silo, and Bankman-Fried’s other entities allegedly invested in holdings but did not keep a record of their activities. There is no list of bank accounts, signatories, or evidence of debtors’ creditworthiness. No one knows how much money FTX should have or where the funds have gone.

    Do not believe these deep fakes and do not believe anything Bankman-Fried says, whether a deep fake or not. As Ray explained, “Mr. Bankman-Fried is not employed by the Debtors and does not speak for them. Mr. Bankman-Fried, currently in the Bahamas, continues to make erratic and misleading public statements.”

    https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/corruption/ftx-deep-fake-the-funds-are-gone/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=RSS


    Report comment

    2
  12. Angela and Annabelle meet at their family reunion, and they haven’t seen each other in years. They begin to talk and bring each other up to date. The conversation covers their husbands, their children, homes, etc. and finally gets around to their sex lives. Annabelle says “It’s OK. We get it on every week or so but it’s no big adventure, how’s yours?” Angela replies “It’s just great, ever since we got into S&M”. Annabelle is aghast. “Really, I never would have guessed that you would go for that”.
    “Oh sure” says Angela “He snores while I masturbate”.



    Report comment

    1
  13. Joe sets up his friend Mike on a blind date with a young lady-friend of his. But Mike is a little worried about going out with someone he’s never seen before. “What do I do if she’s really unattractive?” says Mike. “I’ll be stuck with her all night”. “Don’t worry” Joe says “just go up to her door and meet her first. If you like what you see, then everything goes as planned. If you don’t just shout ‘Aaaaaauuuggghhh!’ and fake an asthma attack”. So that night, Mike knocks at the girl’s door and when she comes out he is awe-struck at how attractive and sexy she is. He’s about to speak when the girl suddenly shouts: “Aaaaaauuuggghhh!”


    Report comment

    2
  14. A man goes to see the Rabbi. “Rabbi, something terrible is happening and I have to talk to you about it”. The Rabbi asked “What’s wrong?” The man replied “My wife is going to poison me”. The Rabbi, very surprised by this, asks “How can that be?” The man then pleads “I’m telling you, I’m certain she’s going to poison me. What should I do?” The Rabbi then offers “Tell you what. Let me talk to her, I’ll see what I can find out and I’ll let you know”. A week later the Rabbi calls the man and says “I spoke to your wife on the phone for three hours. You want my advice? The man said “Yes” and the Rabbi replied “Take the poison”.


    Report comment

    1
  15. Ukraine & Fake News

    From Armstrong Economics –

    QUESTION: Sir, Discussing Ukraine with a friend, I brought up the Belgrade Agreement of 1991. Searching the internet I found one article besides your blog spot that references it. I couldn’t find it. Do you have a copy? Censorship at its finest.

    Keep up the good work.

    DK

    ANSWER: That is really unbelievable. The agreement was reached in 1994 following the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Al Gore was quoted by the Guardian on December 18, 1993: “Ukraine is deceiving us all” and that its nuclear policies were “evil.” As the Guardian reported that the Ukrainian “government and its parliament are already in NATO’s bad books for refusing to make good their promise to abandon nuclear weapons.” It was Ukraine that was threatening the entirety of Eastern Europe for their hatred of Russians dating back to ethnic cleansing from the Nazi era was alive and well. You absolutely cannot trust anything Ukraine would ever agree to. I have warned that when shaking hands with Ukraine, you better forget counting your fingers; you need to make sure you still have your arm. Even the IMF has said that Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe. NOTHING they say can be trusted.

    There was a very real deep fear that Ukraine would not only make sure that the cold war would continue, but they also were highly radical and would use nuclear weapons to claim Russia fired first. Ukraine is a country that is not trusted by its neighbors. It is absurd propaganda that they are fighting for Democracy by refusing to allow the Donbas to vote when they absolutely hate the people there. But the West refuses to protect the Donbas also because they are simply Russians. This one-sided view of human rights allows Ukraine to propel the entire world toward World War III.

    Every document you look at and the press pre-2022 cast Ukraine as a dangerous country dominated by corruption and engulfed still in this view of ethnic cleansing from the days of Hitler. Because the CIA protected the Ukrainians, they have never been held accountable, and they are now propelling the world into war.

    But Adalaide University just published a study on how Ukraine has been using BOTS to manipulate the world’s opinion to support Ukraine and the destruction of Russia. Ukraine has always been disliked by its neighbors because of its support for Hitler. They have long been considered radicals and linked to the Nazis all because Hitler promised to allow them to create their own country.

    Ukraine was NEVER a country before the USSR. They were more like the Kurds in Iraq. The borders they are fighting for were merely drawn for administrative purposes by the USSR. They were the ones who pushed for the collapse of the USSR, and they were the ones who immediately began forming an army of 400,000 that scared the hell out of all their neighbors.

    By 1992, they were fighting to take over the Russian fleet. Even Dick Cheney was deeply concerned because Ukraine was irresponsible, and their hatred of Russians from the Nazi days surged to the surface. They had more nuclear weapons than China at the time.

    James Baker went to negotiate and argued that Ukraine should surrender its nuclear weapons. There were never trusted. Just like the Serbs in Bosnia, the hatred ran very deep. Ukraine took the position that it would only surrender its nuclear weapons if Russia did. Their arguments were simply colored with Russian hatred. They instantly formed an army after 1991, and the Belgrade Agreement was finally reached in 1994, where they agreed to surrender their weapons and remain neutral, with NATO vowing not to invade, and Russia took the same position. Only then did Ukraine agree to surrender its nukes, for they realized that NATO did not trust them and would regard Ukraine as a terrorist state hostile to Europe.

    Ukraine then argued it would cost too much to surrender all its nukes. They were the third-largest nuclear power in the world. They then demanded all sorts of guarantees, which they have violated today, but they also extorted money from the United States to disarm their nukes. To cement the deal, Bill Clinton paid Ukraine $175 million to return the nukes to Russia, and Russia, in return, provided the nuclear power rods for Ukraine. Of course, FAKE NEWS seems to be repainting history with the current color of fashion.

    The Ukrainian Civil War was started by the UNELECTED government installed by the US & NATO. They immediately sent an army to attack the Russians in the Donbas. They called it an “anti-terrorist operation,” all to pretend they wore white hats. The Ukrainian people did NOT vote for this war. This was instigated by the West. I warned from the outset that our computer back in 2013 pinpointed Ukraine as the place where World War III would begin. It is now being driven to destroy Russia for climate change. This is NOT my personal opinion. Sorry, I wish it were. Then I could be wrong like any person. But this is the computer projecting, and it has been dispassionate.

    For the Ukrainians who cheer war, I remind you of the story of Croesus, king of Lydia. He asked the Oracle at Delphi if he would win if he waged war upon Persia. The Oracle replied, “A great empire will be destroyed.” He took that as his victory. He lost, and the collapse of the great empire was his. Ah, how stupidity causes history to repeat. Ukraine will be utterly destroyed. Their view of a nation-state will be but a fleeting moment of greatness. They are destroying all the lives of their own people simply because of their hatred of Russians and their quest for ethnic cleansing. Everyone supporting Ukraine in this hatred will suffer the same fate. Post-2032, we will get to redesign our government from the ground up. Nothing will remain standing like the fallen statutes of Egypt and Rome. Our time will come.

    Zelensky was elected on a promise to end corruption, yet, he has stashed more money offshore than any former leader in Ukraine. He promised to end the civil war and seek peace with Russia. He lied to gain power and has done exactly the opposite. This guy puts money before his own country while hiding it offshore, as the Pandora Papers confirm, and refuses to negotiate or honor the Minsk Agreement because fools would stop sending money to his government, and the well would quickly dry up.

    The day before Putin came to defend the Donbas, Zelensky stood up and said he would seek to reestablish nuclear weapons. That ended Ukraine’s 1994 agreement to remain neutral. This was like 1962 when Russia put nukes in Cuba.

    The people who never question anything about Ukraine are the same people who believed COVID was like the black plague and you would die without a vaccine and a mask. People are so easily manipulated. Unfortunately, if they were not, how would you get people lining up to fight and die on a battlefield when the very BEST they could ever hope for is to return unharmed to a family who is still there?

    Bots manipulate public opinion in Russia-Ukraine conflict
    Posted on Sep 8 2022 by Lee Gaskin
    A Ukraine street, featuring damage and debris from the Russia invasion.
    A view of a store after the Russian bombing of the Ukraine city of Kharkiv on 15 March, 2022. Credit: KMimages.
    Researchers from the University of Adelaide have found bots have had a major online presence during the war between Russia and Ukraine.

    The researchers analyzed 5,203,764 tweets, retweets, quote tweets, and replies posted to Twitter between February 23, 2022, and March 8, 2022, containing the hashtags
    #(I)StandWithPutin, #(I)StandWithRussia, #(I)SupportRussia, #(I)StandWithUkraine, #(I)StandWithZelenskyy and #(I)SupportUkraine.

    “We found that between 60 and 80 per cent of tweets using the hashtags we studied came from bot accounts during the first two weeks of the war,” said co-lead researcher Joshua Watt, an MPhil candidate in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Adelaide’s School of Mathematical Sciences. “This drove more angst in the online discourse and even impacted discussions surrounding people’s decision to flee or stay in Ukraine.”

    “We observed increases in words such as ‘shame,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘threat,’ and ‘panic.’ Pro-Russian human accounts were having the largest influence on discussions of the war – particularly on accounts which were pro-Ukraine. To our knowledge, this is the first body of published work which addresses online influence operations in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.”

    “In the past, wars have been primarily fought physically, with armies, air force and navy operations being the primary forms of combat. However, social media has created a new environment where public opinion can be manipulated at a very large scale.”
    Co-lead researcher Joshua Watt, MPhil candidate in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Adelaide’s School of Mathematical Sciences.

    Fellow co-lead researcher, Bridget Smart, a Masters student in Applied Mathematics and Statistics, added: “Our research identifies that this is happening during the Russia-Ukraine war and provides a statistical framework which quantifies the extent to which this is happening. This work extends and combines existing techniques to quantify how bots are influencing people in the online conversation around the Russia-Ukraine invasion. It opens up avenues for researchers to understand quantitatively how these malicious campaigns operate, and what makes them impactful. This research has identified that social media organisations may need to be better equipped for detecting and handling the use of bots on their networks. It has identified that governments may need to have stricter policies on social media organisations, and that social media can be a vital tool during conflict.”

    The paper titled “#IStandWithPutin versus #IStandWithUkraine: The interaction of bots and humans in discussion of the Russia/Ukraine war” has been published in arXiv and will be presented at The International Conference on Social Informatics in Glasgow from 19-21 October.”

    https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/war/ukraine-fake-news/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=RSS


    Report comment

    2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.