MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti)
Napoleon’s Message about Destroying the Kremlin Auctioned Off
The coded letter from Napoleon Bonaparte describing his order to blow up the Moscow Kremlin was sold at an auction in Paris for 187,500 euros, a bid ten times higher than its estimated presale price.
The message written in a numeric code and signed ‘Nap’ was dated October 20, 1812, and addressed to French Foreign Minister Hugues-Bernard Maret.
"At three o'clock in the morning, on the 22nd I will blow up the Kremlin," the message says.
In his letter, Napoleon also laments the serious shortage of horses for his cavalry troops and requests that Maret provides new stallions as soon as possible.
The auctioneers expected the letter to bring up to 15,000 euros. However, the sale price was ten times the estimate.
Napoleon’s army moved in to occupy Moscow on September 14, 1812. Just over a month later, the French troops had to leave the Russian capital due to a lack of supplies and low morale.
Napoleon ordered Marshall Mortier, who was staying in Moscow with a small group of soldiers, to destroy the Kremlin. Mortier immediately ordered bombs to be planted around the Kremlin and every building within its walls. Some bombs did go off, but not everywhere as was planned. The damage was nevertheless extensive. The Vodovzvodnaya Tower was completely destroyed. Other towers, walls and the Faceted Palace suffered serious damage and took over 20 years to be restored.
Heavy Snow Stops Traffic in Russia
Truck drivers spent three days in a traffic jam, which by some estimates was up to 200 kilometers long, due to heavy snowfall northwest of Moscow. Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov ordered the road cleared by Monday morning, but even Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev couldn’t guarantee the prompt delivery of Kommersant Dengi and Kommersant Vlast to eager readers.
Heavy snow stopped traffic on the Moscow-St. Petersburg route near Tver, where people had to walk to their offices on November 30, doctors consulted patients by phone, and fire and other rescue equipment was used to remove deep snow. To speed up the process, the Tver utilities closed the city to heavy vehicle access, which, in turn, created the jam on the M-10 highway.
According to the federal road agency Rosavtodor, the traffic police normally clear one lane for snow removal equipment during a storm, but this time heavy snow slowed the process and the road was completely closed to traffic for a time.
Tver authorities said on Sunday morning that the jam had been cleared, but it was in fact only getting worse. Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov flew to Tver for a meeting on measures to clear the congestion by Tuesday morning. Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov used a helicopter to inspect the progress and to see that those in the affected areas received everything they needed, in particular, hot meals for those in vehicles.
Drivers complain about the poor quality of assistance. Alexander Kotov, head of the Interregional Trade Union of Professional Drivers, said drivers did not receive fuel or hot meals, and that roadside cafes tripled their prices. Many drivers were unable to make calls because of depleted cell phone batteries.
Tver volunteers used online social networks to organize a collection of food, warm clothes and hot drinks for the motorists. Even taxi drivers offered to help. Food and warm clothes were also sent to the area by train from St. Petersburg.
As for the extent of the traffic backup, Tver traffic police estimated it at 40 kilometers, but drivers say the road was blocked from Klin to Vyshny Volochyok, which is 200 kilometers.
The Emergencies Ministry reported on Sunday evening that movement on the M-10 had been opened to cars and buses. Officials claimed that the snow had been removed but that drivers were not moving through the area quickly enough.
The stop in traffic will be discussed by the Russian government on Monday. Transport Minister Sokolov has reported on the snow removal effort to Medvedev. According to Medvedev’s press secretary, Natalya Timakova, the prime minister has instructed his deputy, Dmitry Rogozin, to report on Emergencies Ministry and traffic rescue services’ efforts to ensure the resumption of traffic and help stranded motorists.
Service Personnel Praise New Russian Army Uniform
The Russian Army’s new summer combat uniform, as approved by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, appears to be very close in design to the U.S. Army Combat Uniform (ACU). Izvestia obtained the new Russian version to compare it with an ACU purchased online.
The two field uniforms have only minor differences such as the slightly different shades of the camouflage print.
“It has the same pockets, the same standup collar and other details except this loose flap on the chest. Instead of doing this nonsense, they should have simply approved the uniform that we designed and that the Commander-in-Chief approved,” said fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin, who designed the original version.
The new uniform is a faithful copy of the ACU, including details that Russian soldiers won’t even need, said Vladislav Shurygin, editor-in-chief the Soldaty Rossii (Russian Soldiers) magazine. The designers even used right-hand zippers, he added.
“In Russia right-side zippers are only used in women’s garments. In the US, they always use them for combat clothes because they are reportedly easier for soldiers to open quickly for emergency aid when injured,” he explained.
Observers have pointed out some curious differences though. “Despite the visible similarity, the pockets on the Russian uniforms are smaller,” retired task force officer Anatoly Matviychuk suggested.
“The jacket pockets are too small to hold a passport, let alone a cellphone. The pant pockets are also small. I don’t know why they did that, maybe to save fabric,” he said, adding that, unlike the ACU designers who focused on the details, the Russian designers obviously didn’t see the value.
“The shoulder pockets on the ACU are secured with Velcro and there is Velcro on chest to fasten rank insignia, name and service branch. The Russian uniforms don’t have that. Neither do they have the infrared markings for night vision identification on the shoulder pockets. And they also saved fabric by deleting the pen pocket on the left sleeve,” Matviychuk added.
On the other hand, the experts do approve of borrowing a good solution.
“The Americans are using their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Shurygin said. “Their uniform is very comfortable. In fact Russian task forces already buy the US Propper-brand uniforms. I have had an original ACU set since last year. I see nothing wrong with Russian soldiers using them.”
The Russian soldiers who tested the new uniforms agree with this.
“It’s very comfortable, nothing like the old one or even the later one from 2009. The best thing is the collar, which doesn’t irritate your neck when opened but protects from wind and sand when closed,” said a servicemen who has been wearing this uniform for over a year.
“It doesn’t matter who designed the uniform. A Russian soldiers’ comfort is all that matters,” said Viktor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Rossii (Russia’s Arsenal) magazine. Borrowing good equipment, weapons and clothing solutions is quite common around the world, he added.
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Russia has surged ahead on the foreign policy stage, but this is not enough to remain a great power. The tough-minded policies and masterful diplomacy of Russia’s leadership have maximized the country’s position in the world, and are now the main source of its international influence and prestige. Russia’s foreign policy in the next decade depends entirely on what happens at home.