News / Europe

Russian Fires Spark Anger at Government

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sits in the cabin of a Russian firefighting aircraft Be-200 during the firefighting effort in Rayzan region some 250 km outside Moscow, 10 Aug 2010
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sits in the cabin of a Russian firefighting aircraft Be-200 during the firefighting effort in Rayzan region some 250 km outside Moscow, 10 Aug 2010

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

After 25,000 wildfires, some Russians are starting to place some of the fault on Kremlin policies and mismanagement.

Nestled in the woods, surrounded by towering pines, life in the blue trim cottage at Number One Forest Lane would be normally considered picturesque.  But this summer, after weeks of drought and wildfires, Olga Kubysheva says it feels like living next to a nuclear reactor.

Kubysheva, a normally patient grandmother, is part of a growing number of Russians in the countryside and the city, who increasingly blame part of the massive fire damage on government mismanagement and lack of investment.

On Tuesday, leading business newspaper Kommersant estimated that the fire will total $15 billion in economic losses, trimming one percentage point off an already feeble economic recovery.  Three public opinion polls released on Tuesday showed dropping approval ratings for Prime Minister Vladmir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev.

Mr. Putin responded with his usual enthusiasm.  As state television cameras chronicled his exploits for the Tuesday evening news, he co-piloted an amphibious firefighting plane, taking on water from a river and dumping it on burning fires in the Ryazan Region.

"We hit it", Mr. Putin exclaimed as his plane zoomed low over the flames.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Putin met with Moscow's Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov.  He acidly congratulated the mayor for his 'timely' return Sunday from a weeklong foreign vacation.  While the mayor was away, city residents struggled with choking smog and extreme heat in well-insulated apartments built to withstand extreme cold.

Angering many Muscovites late last week, the mayor's press spokesman, Sergei Tsoi, told a news website that there was "no crisis situation in Moscow."

In face of sagging approval ratings, Russia's president also disciplined underlings.  On Tuesday, the head of the Moscow forestry department was fired hours after Mr. Medvedev criticized him for not coming home from his summer vacation.

But Forest Lane's Kubysheva and other Russians say that government policies and mismanagement have made the country excessively vulnerable to this ongoing natural disaster.

Through Soviet times and modern times, Kubysheva has lived and worked in the forestry complex outside of Lukhovitsi, about 130 kilometers southeast of Moscow.  A big change came four years ago, when Russia's new forestry law essentially privatized management of state forests.  On the ground, it meant that the company laid off forest wardens to cut costs.

With the new law, she said, the forest around her has no owner.  Two weeks ago, when the wildfires started, city and company authorities dismissed as alarmist Forest Lane residents who asked for protection.  

After fires exploded across European Russia, burning 2,000 homes and killing 52 people, city officials sent out a work crew.

As she spoke chain saws whined next to her house.  But, she said, the crew was cutting only a 30-meter firebreak, one-third the size ordered nationwide last week by Prime Minister Putin.  Surrounded by 30-meter tall pines, she said she was praying for rain - and keeping her documents in her car for a quick escape.

While chains saws were cutting pine trees in the country, hammers were banging nails into pine boxes at morgues in the city on Tuesday.

The Sechenov Morgue, a Czarist-era red brick building located across the street from a Moscow city hospital, saw constant comings and goings of family groups dressed in black.

Anatoly Korenyuk, the morgue truck driver, a large man in black suspenders, fitfully tried to relax with a paperback.

The extreme heat, he said, has meant more people dying and more funerals.  As he spoke, a morgue attendant interrupted, bearing a clipboard with four new addresses.

Nearby, Marina Pirozhnivona, recounted how her 86-year-old aunt died last Saturday after experiencing breathing problems on a day when wood smoke pushed city carbon monoxide to almost seven times safe levels.

She recited a long list of relatives who have left Moscow in recent days, hoping to find cleaner air and cooler temperatures.

Weather forecasters say that Moscow's smog may continue to recede on Wednesday.  But they forecast little heat relief in a country where 500 forest fires were burning Tuesday.

According to Roman Vilfand, director of the Hydrometcenter weather forecast service, Moscow daytime temperatures through the weekend will continue to hit 34 degrees Celsius.  He said these temperatures were more typical of the Sahara.

You May Like

AU Takes Action on Boko Haram, Defers on S. Sudan

African Union is moving forward with a request for a military force to stop the spread of Boko Haram insurgency in West Africa; Ban Ki-moon welcomes decision to form a five-nation force More

Mass Protests Held for 58 Killed in Pakistani Shi'ite Mosque Bombing

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims took to the streets across Pakistan Saturday to protest a powerful bomb blast at a mosque in Sindh province during Friday prayers, killing dozens of people More

Williams Wins Australian Open with Straight-Set Victory over Sharapova

The win is Serena Williams' sixth in Australia, and her 19th overall Grand Slam title More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid