Jeffrey Lewis“Monkey with a Grenade”

Officially, the entire country is dry. But our people are highly skilled. Some of the stills I saw there were works of art.

Aleksandr Bolgarov describing how Russian personnel at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant cope with Prohibition in Iran

Aleksandr Bolgarov is a Russian engineer who spent two years at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and has given a not entirely reassuring interview (in Russian) about safety at the plant.

At one point, the journalist asks Bulgarov whether the situation at Bushehr can be fairly compared to a “monkey with a grenade.” Bolgarov disagreed with that characterization, noting that the Russians will most likely operate the plant for the next few years.

But he provides plenty of other reasons for worry.  A must read.

The machine translation is not bad and I am sure there is an Open Source Center translation floating around (which someone could post in the comments).

Bolgarov has lots of details on the politics between Russia and Iran over the construction of the plant, expatriate life at Bushehr (miserable), and the the safety of the plant — including details on the pump that failed last year.

Although the pump was not a harbinger of safety problems, Bulgarov depicts an organizational culture that does not inspire confidence.  Bulgarov makes a joke at the expense of the Iranian calendar, which dates to the Hijra in 622 CE:

I will quote the remark of one of a Russian specialists…. He said “The Iranians could easily … operate a plant independently in 2011.” He paused dramatically and added “according to their calendar.” For the moment, we are in year 1390.

So, that just means we need to make do for the next 622 years or so.  As a start,  Nima Gerami, writing in the Bulletin, has suggested that Iran sign and ratify the Convention on Nuclear Safety and accept IAEA offers of assistance.

Comments

  1. Steeljaw Scribe (History)

    The machine translation is not bad and I am sure there is an Open Source Center translation floating around (which someone could post in the comments).
    …ask and ye shall receive:

    [Article by Yuriy Alekseyev: “‘How I Built Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant’: Engineer Aleksandr Bolgarov on Russian Management, Iranian Nuclear Power Plants, and Iran’s Main Abandoned Construction Site”]

    This summer, there was word that the nuclear power plant being built by Russia in Bushehr for Iran is all ready and will be put into operation soon — this August according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Talking with a Russian nuclear energy worker is no simple task. They have a vow of silence at the level of the Italian Omerta. In this case, however, we got lucky. Aleksandr Bolgarov is the former lead engineer of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant’s control room and a resident of the European Union. For 2 years, he was involved in construction and startup of the nuclear power plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr. And because he has no plans to return there, he can be so bold as to talk freely.

    How [people] end up in Bushehr

    [Alekseyev] What were you working on before you ended up in Bushehr?

    [Bolgarov] Before that, I had only had one workplace. After graduating from Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, I was sent to the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (which was under construction) in Lithuania. It was put into service 1 year after I went to Lithuania, and I worked there all the way up until January 2009.

    [Alekseyev] What was your last job?

    [Bolgarov] Lead engineer of the reactor control room.

    [Alekseyev] Were you the one who sits at the “red button”?

    [Bolgarov] Yes, well I personally controlled the reactor.

    [Alekseyev] How did you end up in Bushehr?

    [Bolgarov] I understood that the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant would be closed and that a year before the closure, the final (second) unit would be let go. During my job search, I saw an opening in Bushehr, applied, and was hired. I worked as the lead engineer and leader of the nuclear safety monitoring team in the respective department.

    [Alekseyev] And how long did you work there?

    [Bolgarov] Exactly 2 years.

    [Alekseyev] What did your work consist of?

    [Bolgarov] I kept track of the procedures for organizing the operations involving nuclear fuel. I wrote instructions, checked programs for their correctness from a nuclear safety standpoint, and took part in obtaining so-called special permits to perform the work involving use of nuclear fuel.

    [Alekseyev] Am I correct in thinking that Russians are building the plant in Bushehr and will then turn it over to the Iranians to operate?

    [Bolgarov] The situation there is rather complicated. I was extremely surprised to find a minimum of four chief engineers at the site….

    [Alekseyev] How did that happen?

    [Bolgarov] There is the client — the Iranians. And there is the contractor — Russia. But the contractor recruited a devilish amount of subcontractors. To my mind, they did not establish a reasonable chain of command to manage the construction and startup. The management is irrational. With another approach, the plant’s construction and startup could have gone more quickly and more efficiently.

    [Alekseyev] Some [people] are of the opinion that there is no big hurry to start up the plant. Politics….

    [Bolgarov] Yes, I sensed that at one time, neither Russia nor Iran wanted a very quick startup. But I hesitate to say this unequivocally.

    [Alekseyev] And who are these subcontractors?

    [Bolgarov] [They include] a host of organizations. All of them are Russian, but they are diverse. They have their own bosses and their own ambitions but no desire to assume any responsibility. Everyone had to coordinate with everyone, and as a result the work got bogged down and did not move forward.

    [Alekseyev] But why is this so? What is the reason?

    [Bolgarov] I do not know. You need to ask in Moscow. I had the experience of observing the startup of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. I remember how the director Lukonin came, and the plant was put into service in record time. But in Bushehr, everything is very slow, inefficient, and expensive…. My impression is that the Iranians spend money like water. It does not matter to them. All that matters is that something is happening. They are not very interested in the result. The minister says: “The station will provide current this autumn.” Autumn comes, there is no current, and no one knows when there will be. But everyone is silent and calm, and no one was hanged. If he [the minister] tried to look at some woman in an unseemly manner, there would be retribution. But no one will bear responsibility for the fact that many millions have been spent.

    Legacy of the Shah

    [Alekseyev] What is the plant’s status now?

    [Bolgarov] It is practically ready for operation, but there are a lot of pieces of unfinished work that no one in the complex in is monitoring. Everyone is monitoring some piece of his own, and some problems are regularly resurfacing….

    [Alekseyev] And what was the story with the loading and unforeseen unloading of the fuel?

    [Bolgarov] Well, there was one snafu. A pump that had been on standby for about 30 years broke down. It had been supplied by the Germans. Metal parts got into the first loop, and there was a risk of the fuel being damaged. The fuel was unloaded, and I personally took part in inspecting each cassette. With one exception, they were deemed fit for operation. We then flushed the loop, reloaded them all, and sealed the reactor vessel. The first criticality was then achieved….

    [Alekseyev] Where did the 30-year-old German pump come from?

    [Bolgarov] Well, it was left over from when the Germans were building the plant — back before the Islamic Revolution. Then the Germans left. When the Russians undertook the task of finishing it, they set up a special department to integrate the German equipment into the Russian project — so that certain pumps, cranes, and engines were included rather than discarded. A plan was created that made allowance for the building structures and metal structures that the Germans had erected.

    [Alekseyev] And for how long now have the Russians been building it?

    [Bolgarov] I would say for about 30 years.

    [Alekseyev] Thirty years of construction…. In 30 years, the equipment has become not just physically worn out but also obsolete….

    [Bolgarov] And why did the pump break down? [It was] age. A great many things there already need to be replaced. But because the equipment has not been used under actual operating conditions, it is considered tentatively functional.

    [Alekseyev] Tentatively? And where can spare parts for this equipment be obtained now? Thirty years — that is the same as a rare automobile….

    [Bolgarov] I do not know, I do not know. There were cases where screw nuts were brought in for the adapter connectors on a pressure gauge and they did not fit. But things were finagled in a purely Russian way. A wrench with a slightly longer handle was used…. [ He laughs.] But of course, the basic equipment is inspected, and questions regarding reliability exist. Let us say that….

    [Alekseyev] And how soon can a full startup of the reactor be expected? When will there be current?

    [Bolgarov]In several months. There are what are called coefficients of reactivity: a lot of values that must fall within the range specified by the plan. They are all checked at what is called the minimum controlled reactor power. The process takes several months. After that, an independent oversight agency will issue a permit for further operation.

    [Alekseyev] From which one?

    [Bolgarov]In Iran, it is the National Nuclear Safety Department, which is an agency subordinate directly to the government and not to the Ministry of Energy so that the people who are doing this do not do things carelessly or slyly. This is accepted [practice] throughout the world, and the same thing is being done in Iran.

    [Alekseyev] And who is the principal contractor?

    [Bolgarov] Atomstroyeksport [ASE].

    [Alekseyev] So is it to blame for the unscheduled unloading of the fuel?

    [Bolgarov] That is a matter of red tape, and such matters are Russian bureaucrats’ strong suit. This is the first time in my experience that a zone was loaded and then unloaded without a startup. What is even worse is that when we unloaded it, we were supposed to find a surgically clean loop. But we found a devilish amount of what can be called sludge: some sort of scale and some sort of tiny flakes…. On paper, however, everything is good, and no one answered for it.

    Where things stand with the Iranian nuclear experts

    [Alekseyev] Will local specialists operate the plant?

    [Bolgarov] Yes, that is the plan.

    [Alekseyev] Have you had dealings with the Iranian specialists?

    [Bolgarov] Of course. My duties included coaching engineers having a job similar to mine.

    [Alekseyev] And what is their level of training like?

    [Bolgarov] The Iranians are a very unique people. They do not move quickly. Perhaps they know more than I think they do, but they did not demonstrate this. They have the training, and in principle, they could operate [the plant] at the required level, but… without any particular desire.

    [Alekseyev] What does “without desire” mean?

    [Bolgarov]When we arrived at the nuclear power plant, we delved into all the details. I personally crawled through the entire reactor on my belly to understand its design. I was supposed to remember the spatial configuration of the pipelines and which internal structures stood where, and it was all necessary and interesting to me. But there were no Iranians. They want us to prove that everything is safe, but they do not want to strain themselves in any way.

    [Alekseyev] And where are they being trained? Who is their teacher?

    [Bolgarov] Several educational centers exist in Iran…. But all the people with whom I worked speak Russian well even though according to the contract, the working language is English. In reality, the working language there is Russian. It is clear that every one of the specialists (at least in the nuclear safety department) completed an externship in Russia.

    [Alekseyev] At real nuclear power plants?

    [Bolgarov] No, as a rule, it was at the Obninsk Research Center. Perhaps they also worked at actual power plants, but where and when specifically, I cannot say. They have the theoretical knowledge….

    [Alekseyev] In other words, will they be practicing on a working reactor?…

    [Bolgarov] I understood the question. [ He smiles.] I will quote the remark of one of the Russian master specialists involved in the transport and processing operations. He said the following: “The Iranians cold easily become big specialists and operate a plant independently in 2011.” He paused dramatically and then concluded: “for their era.” For a minute, we were in the year 1390.

    [Alekseyev] Okay, I will say something politically incorrect: Is there no fear that we will not end up with someth ing like a monkey with a grenade?

    [Bolgarov] No, because mentally, they are still very cautious. I think that everything boils down to the fact that a new contract will be reached. They will hire Russians for the initial operation — for something on the order of 5 years and paired with Iranian personnel.

    Mental and climate difficulties

    [Alekseyev] Where do the Russians live when they are working there?

    [Bolgarov] We are starting with the saddest thing. They live in a sort of camp: small houses left from the Germans that are quite decrepit. I called my residence a chicken coop.

    [Alekseyev] Is this an area closed to the local population?

    [Bolgarov] A security guard stands at the entrance, but there are local workers who take care of the grounds. And as a result, for Russians, the rules of behavior and form of dress could be ignored only at specific times on the weekends, when the local workers leave so that, God forbid, a gardener’s innocent eyes would not get a look at a woman’s ankles — or men’s knees.

    When I walked out in a sleeveless shirt, I was stopped by their security service, given a talking to, and forced to go back and change under penalty of a bonus reduction for openers — and ultimately, deportation from the country.

    [Alekseyev] And what about the climate?

    [Bolgarov] The climate is awful. They say that for the Iranians, this province [Bushehr] served as the analog of Siberia, to which convicts were exiled in the old days. It is a desert that is flooded by high water and extends beyond the horizon and on which nothing will grow. In winter, several rains fall, but it is very hot all the time.

    [Alekseyev] How hot?

    [Bolgarov] It reaches 50 in the shade, and 40 to 45 is normal — often with 100% humidity. Nothing dries out at night, and traveling outside an air-conditioned vehicle is very difficult. A special bus even runs throughout the grounds — [people] travel 300 meters in an air-conditioned bus.

    [Alekseyev] And at the plant itself? It must have enormous rooms — reactor rooms. Do they also have air conditioning?

    [Bolgarov] Yes, all the air is cooled there. Otherwise, one could not work.

    [Alekseyev] And what did you do besides work? Two years in a closed country behind an iron fence….

    [Bolgarov] To travel, you need to get a special permit. If you wish to travel 20 kilometers to Bushehr to go shopping, for example, you need to be registered in a special logbook and obtain a card with your name and address, and upon arrival, you need to report that you are alive and well.

    [Alekseyev] Do they also have women working there?

    [Bolgarov] Yes, by my estimate, 40% [of the workers] there are women. They even have a gatehouse for men and a gatehouse for women.

    [Alekseyev] And how does a Russian get by without vodka?

    [Bolgarov] Officially, a prohibition law exists throughout the entire country…. But our people are highly skilled. Some of the stills that I saw there are works of art.

    [Alekseyev] But what do they distill from?

    [Bolgarov] From sugar.

    [Alekseyev] Well, what other forms of entertainment exist over there besides moonshine?

    [Bolgarov] To my mind, there is only one form of entertainment. It is the pool. It is a good 50-meter pool that the Germans built. Of course, there are some dances with Russian pop music. But I did not go to them, so I do not know about them. In general, however, there is nothing to do. There are five Russian-language television channels….

    [Alekseyev] But people live over there for years — young people. Do they not become stupefied from this?

    [Bolgarov] They do become stupefied. By my estimates, half of them are crazy. I personally could not stand it for more than half a year: I went home. But the general rule is as follows: A person must work for 11 months and only then go on vacation. A person could shoot himself.

    [Alekseyev] In the civilized world, such undertakings are organized on a rotational basis….

    [Bolgarov] But not Russian ones. They do not think that it is economical.

    [Alekseyev] So is it then easier to treat them for “having a screw loose”?

    [Bolgarov] Why treat them? Simply give them the boot and hire others. Many are willing. By my estimate, approximately 80% of those there now are Ukrainians, 10% are military, and just 10% (the core management) are Russians.

    [Alekseyev] Why are there so many Ukrainians?

    [Bolgarov] Because the situation in their country is such that it is obvious.

    [Alekseyev] What is the wage level there compared with that received by Russians in Russia?

    [Bolgarov] About one and a half times higher.

    [Alekseyev] Is that all?

    [Bolgarov] That is all. One perk is that you do not pay for housing while living there. As in the army, all expenses are paid. The only expenses are for food.

    [Alekseyev] And what is the food like there?

    [Bolgarov] You can eat in the dining room (it is very unappetizing) or cook yourself. There are some who can avoid doing so. But avoiding it is not easy. There are no dairy products as we understand them. The fruits and vegetables are all imported and bland. Nothing grows there. I usually traveled to Bushehr for coffee and fish.

    [Alekseyev] And what does this Bushehr look like?

    [Bolgarov] It is a typical Eastern small city. It looks exactly like it did a thousand years ago: low-rise buildings and dusty. The sewer system runs in a special trench directly along the surface, and the smells there are very unique.

    [Alekseyev] It is right next to the ocean. Is it possible to go swimming?

    [Bolgarov] Well, in principle, there is a special beach for the Russian specialists. The Germans made it. It is ostensibly closed. But nevertheless, let us say that for a woman, going swimming in the sea is altogether a problem. Women can go swimming if she is clothed from head to toe — just as when they are walking around. For men, things are a bit simpler. But the water there is shallow. Reaching a depth where one can swim (I calculated this specially) requires [going out] about 2 kilometers. Naturally, this shallow water heats up. In summer, the water is simply hot. Moreover, rays swim close to the shore, and if one stings you, you will have serious problems.

    [Alekseyev] And were there any problems with the Iranians?

    [Bolgarov] Yes, over trifles. During Ramadan, I was not allowed to smoke outdoors. In general, they are kind to Russians.

    [Alekseyev] Am I correct in thinking that you have no plans to return for construction of the Bushehr Nuclear Plant?

    [Bolgarov] I do not.

    [Alekseyev] But why? Is it the climate? They way of life? The low pay?

    [Bolgarov] In part — but that is not the main thing. I was not paid badly. Understand that Russians treat fellow citizens as in the old days: I am the boss, and you are a fool. Do you understand? Throughout the entire 2 years that I was there, I did not feel that I could do anything useful. The strange Russian [style of] management does not presume this.

    [Alekseyev] There is something that I do not understand….

    [Bolgarov] Well, how did I work in Lithuania? If you suggest something valuable, you will be listened to unequivocally. There [at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant], this was not the case. While you are speaking with some specific individual, he will answer, “Yes, you are right.” But that is all. You will not get anywhere no matter how hard you try. And I suspect that this is so throughout all of Russia. Do you recall the story about Levsha [The Lefthanded One]? [ Tran slator’s note: This is a reference to the 1881 story by Nikolay Leskov titled “The Tale of the Cross-eyed Lefthander From Tula and the Steel Flea.”]

    [Alekseyev] In other words, you did not come together mentally….

    [Bolgarov] Precisely.

    [Alekseyev] All of this is very interesting. You are a Russian citizen of Russian descent and with a Russian education. But [your] mental rift with Russians is already at the level of that of Europeans or Asians?

    [Bolgarov]Yes, that is exactly right. They themselves said the following to me: “Bolgarov, you are of course Russian, but you are not Russian.” I am referring to their attitude toward how work must be done from the standpoint of the Western mentality: quickly, effectively, and professionally. But the Russian [mentality] is somewhere in between the Eastern/Iranian and the European. Russians can of course work miracles when their motherland summons them “to the barricades.” But during the normal process without an assault, there is tediousness and melancholy. Only war unites Russians.

    [Description of Source: Moscow Slon.ru in Russian — Commentary website edited by fomer SmartMoney Chief Editor Leonid Bershidskiy and rumored to belong to Medvedev’s press secretary, Natalya Timakova; URL: http://slon.ru]
    [This item was originally filed as CEP20110803346001]
    ——————————–
    w/r, SJS

    • Arrigo (History)

      Minor translation note: it is “omertà”, with a grave accent on the “a” and no capital letter.

      Arrigo

  2. Pavel (History)

    Anyone who knows anything about Russia would know that accounts like this should be taken with a pinch of salt, to put it mildly. Both the guy and the interviewer are clearly in self-promotion business – it’s pretty sad to see they are getting help from ACW (which hit a new low by putting the racist slur in the title).

    This is not to say, of course, that there is no reason to worry about safety of Bushehr. Rosatom, of course, understands that – for the first few years the plant will be operated by a joint venture (of which the guy does not seem to be aware of) [http://en.rian.ru/world/20100821/160285719.html].

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Whoa, slow down my friend.

      First, “monkey with a hand grenade” isn’t particularly racist in English. (At least I don’t think it is.) Is there some Russian language nuance we are missing?

      Second, his description of the problems with the pump seemed quite detailed and accurate to me. As for the joint venture, it seems to me this is precisely what he said — that for the first few years it would be operated by Russia.

      What’s with the bee in your bonnet?

    • Pavel (History)

      Well, it very much is in Russian and, in fact, was explicitly meant to be in the interview. I guess these things don’t translate well. Which is one more reason to be careful with them.

      I would still not trust the guy, a few correct details or not – I’ve seen quite a few interviews like this that have little to do with anything.

    • Pavel (History)

      Just an example – no Russian worth his salt would claim that you could make good moonshine out of pure sugar.

  3. masoud (History)

    Just what is Nima talking about Jeff?
    The IAEA unilaterally withdrew all technical cooperation following one of those ridiculous US centric resolutions. This is a case of political manipulation of the BOG getting in the way of the IAEA statutory mission and obligations, not something that’ll be fixed by Iran imposing more reporting obligations on itself.

    And I second Pavel. Just because some ignorant Russians feel comfortable breaking out the Racial slurs, doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to parrot them(and nothing else) in your headline and summary. The substantive criticisms made were directed almost entirely at the Atomsyexport and it’s cohort of subcontractor. Just about the only criticism he mad of the Iranians was for not crawling through every pipe of the plant on their stomachs, and instead expected the Russian contractors to prove that their designs were safe. What a bunch of pansies.

    Personally I don’t think the Russians are ever going to commission the plant, and the Iranians will have to take over and finish the job themselves. The only conceivable reason this hasn’t happened yet is Security Council politics. Here’s hoping that by this time next year AEOI mans up enough to give the Russians their pink slips.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      First, it is not true that the IAEA ended all technical cooperation from Iran. There are 8 active projects, by my count, including 2 active TC programs for Bushehr: IRA/4/035 “Strengthening Owner’s Capabilities for Commissioning and Start-up of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant” and IRA/4/038 “Upgrading NPPD’s Safety and Engineering Infrastructure for Planning and Construction of Two NPP Units with Pressurized Light Water Reactors (PWR) in Bushehr.” No one has suggested canceling these programs. I would certainly oppose an effort to cancel either.

      Second, I am really baffled at how “monkey with a hand grenade” is racist — at least in translation. Hugo Chavez, for example, said that George Bush was “more dangerous than a monkey with a razor blade.” And you must know the infinite monkey theory. Again, perhaps there is something in the Russian that doesn’t come through in the translation.

      It is insulting, to be sure, but is it racist?

    • masoud (History)

      You have a point, albeit a narrow one about not *all* technical cooperation having been withdrawn. Only most of it has. In the aftermath of UNSC1737 the IAEA cancelled cooperation in some 22 of 55 projects, and adopted a policy of refusing to cooperate with Iran on any new projects. 1737 even went so far as demanding that programs that contributed to “food, agricultural, medical or other humanitarian purposes” be canceled if they could be construed as a part of some fictitious dual use program. In Iraq this logic went as far as blocking pencils for school children. The IAEA BOG scandalously rolled over and agreed to theses terms, contrary to both it’s own mission and commitments.

      So again, tell me, how would Iran imposing additional binding reporting burdens on itself, supplying western politicians have even more mud to throw at it, resolve this impasse with the IAEA BOG? If anything it will make matters worse. I don’t think Nima’s suggestion is in the least bit helpful, but if you do, I’d like to understand why.

  4. Scott Monje (History)

    Regarding the monkeys, some Russians do have a tendency of describing people from developing countries as having recently descended from trees.

  5. bym-bym (History)

    [Alekseyev] Okay, I will say something politically incorrect: Is there no fear that we will not end up with someth ing like a monkey with a grenade?

    [Bolgarov] No, because mentally, they are still very cautious. I think that everything boils down to the fact that a new contract will be reached. They will hire Russians for the initial operation — for something on the order of 5 years and paired with Iranian personnel.

    In context, it seems to be used to depict a potentially dangerous and unpredictable situation, rather than an ad homonim attack on Iranians. I recall seeing ads on billboards in Moscow for a movie which depicted the image of a monkey with a hand grenade as well, so I too fail to see the racism.

  6. Scott Monje (History)

    More interesting perhaps is the suggestion that this tale of caution may have been posted by someone connected to Medvedev’s staff. Does it reflect the administration’s attitude toward Bushehr, or is slon.ru just some money-making venture? (Then, again, maybe it’s a closet Republican. “Slon” means elephant.)

    Pavel: I, for one, shall stay away from sugar vodka.

  7. Ben (History)
  8. Ataune (History)

    Bushehr is a turn-key project. Here’s a definition of turn-key by wiki:

    “A turn-key or a turn-key project is a type of project that is constructed by a developer and sold or turned over to a buyer in a ready-to-use condition.”

    Any Bushehr power plant safety issues before operation is the responsibility of the russians. Russian authorities have constantly affirmed that Bushehr is one of the safest nuclear power plant in the world.

    Ask about the number of vodka shots consumed per day by russian male (particularly of the engineer type – and I have worked with lots of them) before trying to sort out the meaning and implication of this interview.

  9. A Complete Stranger (History)

    Forget the Iranian connection; this article (and the discussion that follows it) is much more informative about Russia/Russians/Russian-ex-pats (both being interviewed and commenting on the interview) than anything else. Thanks for posting it and thanks to the many interesting comments by the readers.

  10. A Complete Stranger (History)

    Jeffery: I certainly didnt take the monkey reference as racist in your article but the interviewer did highlight that possibility in Russian by saying it wasnt “PC.” This is just one of the many interesting Russian things about the article.

  11. Ray Arnaudo (History)

    Jeff: Thanks for publishing this. One of the better explanations of Bushehr delays I have read. Or at the least, of the mindset of the Russian work force there. I am no expert on Russia, but i have lived in Moscow for a few years recently. And Bolgarov certainly rings pretty true, even if he doesn’t know the nusances of amateur vodka production..

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