Russia, August 5, 1999
Nothing like stripping the copper out of live electrical wiresHELLO RUSSIA
By Alexander Samoiloff
In 1999 a chronic Russian disease of non-ferrous metals theft has grown up into the real fever. The problem is that impoverished Russian people steal non-ferrous metal parts for selling at a low price to the "recycling companies". During few previous years local telephone and electric companies waged a war for survival of their copper cables. Now the Russian crisis has made export of metals a highly profitable business and we receive regular daily reports about theft fever in all Russian industries.
A 67 years old pensioner Leonid Galich told me - "When I traveled by bus to take a look at Dacha (country house) my neighbor said - If you have anything made of aluminum or copper I can bet they are stolen. A scrap reception station was opened in the neighboring village. And the neighbor was right. Local BICHI has robbed out all metal things from my and all neighboring Dachas, including aluminum spoons, forks, wire, pails, ladders, corrugated roofing sheets and etc. Robbers are paid 15 - 20 Rbls per kilo at the reception station."
Khabarovsk electric and telephone companies, Trans-Siberian Railroad and aviation suffer a real disaster. For example, police reported about 8 casualties as the result of attempt to cut off operating high voltage electric cables in 1998. Only in January 1999 we already had 5 deaths. If in 1998 transportation police has registered 545 cases of metal parts theft from railways for the whole year, than only in January 1999 they report about 126 such cases.
For example, at the train station Korphovskaya the team of railroad electricians at night stole 150 meters of the linear copper wire and some other equipment. While workers have received for the "scraps" 275 Rubles, which they immediately have spent for buying 12 bottles of vodka, the railroad has suffered 22,5 thousand Rbls loss.
Deputy Chief of Transportation Police Anatoly Zaikin told me that in January near the Amur-River Bridge they have found a dugout and detained a team of "scrappers" equipped with all necessary tools for dismantling of equipment. Those professional "scrap diggers" were travelling along the railroad between Siberia and Vladivostok.
Khabarovsk City Telephone Company suffers heavy losses because of the regular theft of copper cables, which leaves the houses and some areas without communications. For example an ambush in Uzhny Microrayon detained a man who regularly cut off the telephone cable in the big house. To their surprise police found that the robber lives in the same house and has a telephone. Near the town Troytskoye police ambush detained the team of electricians from Electric Company, who stole at night 1,5 km of high voltage wire line. Khabarovsk airport reports about invasion of robbers on their facilities. Thieves steal equipment, parts, cut off lightning cables and etc and sell to the "Recycling Company".
During inspection raids on scrap reception stations police often finds Army ammunition and equipment, like copper artillery shells, missiles. Recently they found a missile launcher. In an effort to stop robberies Governor of Khabarovsk Krai Victor Ishayev has issued a decree on licensing and strict control of the domestic scraps reception stations. But the Chief Procurator cancels the regulation, as it "contradicts to the federal legislation and infringes on the civil rights". But the neighboring China enjoys a Civil Right to receive super profits from Russian scrap metals by destroying the remnants of Russian economy.
"DEVIL'S DEN" EL DORADO
By Tykhookeanskaya Zvezda
A real "Gold Rush" has started near the small town Obor down south of Khabarovsk. Local residents and visitors from Khabarovsk and Prymorye has built in the woods a tent camp "Devil's Den" and dig for non-ferrous metals - an old army ammunition.
At the beginning of 1998 one local resident found few bronze artillery shells in the woods and started to dig. In a month already few hundred people worked hard on the site of the old W.W.II Army ammunition warehouses. Later few diggers have purchased bulldozers. "We live like American gold diggers in Klondike at the end of 19 Century.
The sites are fairly shared between people and every morning men go to this hard and dangerous work - said an old timer Valentine Denisenko. - They use probing rods to detect shells and mines and women pile them. Two men were killed by mine explosion and one has lost his hand. Few businessmen buy metals on the place for 8 Rbls per kilo of bronze and 6 Rbls per kilo of aluminum. Later they resell it in the city at the much higher prices." There are few camp vendors who supply diggers with food and other necessary products. Also, here you can exchange metal to vodka.
Many local residents of that rural area are unemployed. It's almost impossible to find work as the lumber mill, were a majority of them worked earlier doesn't operate. So, some people live on hunting and fishing, another part sells illegal vodka and cultivates cannabis for sale. Last fall police detained few old Babushkas, who are professional drug dealers.