News / Europe

Russia's Heat Turns Political

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

Russia's two-month heat wave took a political turn as protesters tried to gather in front of Moscow City Hall to demand the resignation of Moscow's mayor.

The sidewalk protest demanding Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's resignation never got off the ground, though, as police moved in swiftly, strong-arming 34 protesters - including the three organizers - into waiting police buses.

Protesters said they were angry the mayor vacationed in Europe for a week while Moscow choked in wood smoke and smog from a surrounding ring of forest fires.

Lawyer Natalya Belaeva said she was not surprised the mayor was on vacation.  She said she was surprised that he came back.  She said while the Mayor was on vacation her neighbor died of the smog, and her own dog died of the smog.

A smog wave is predicted to blanket the city again this weekend.  Fueling the gray haze are 560 forest fires, a number little changed in recent days.  

About 10 percent of the fires are in national parks and reserves, including one that flared up in Moscow's massive Losiny Ostrov park.  Two villages around Moscow were evacuated due to fire danger.

Israel Marques, an American political science student who watched the protest, said his Russian neighbors and university friends were angry about the dense smog that blanketed Moscow.

"Everybody is really ticked off about the smog and it does not help that the government has only gotten really interested in the last few days," said Marques.

Boris Gromov, governor of the region that rings Moscow city, said workers are starting to lay a 300-kilometer network of water pipes to re-flood peat bogs with water.  During the Soviet era the bogs were drained, and the peat was cut for fuel.  Now, underground peat fires are a major source of air pollution.

On the national level, President Dimitri Medvedev announced $1 billion in aid to farmers, and almost $2 billion to purchase new fire trucks and fire-fighting airplanes.

On the sidewalk outside Moscow's City Hall, though, talk kept returning to Mayor Luzhkov, and what protesters said was his lack of leadership during the city's crisis.  Protesters were not pacified by Kremlin news leaks carried in Thursday's papers that criticized the mayor.

Victor Davidoff, a writer who participated in the protest, said his friends were disgusted to learn that the Mayor, a passionate beekeeper, seemed to show more concern for his bees than for Moscow's 11 million residents.  "Everyone knows they evacuated his bees from his bee farm to a safe place, and at the same time he did not come to the city."

Mayor Luzhkov swung into action, asking Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service to study the price hikes of bread, a national staple.  During the past week, bread prices have jumped by 20 percent.  Some supermarkets have posted signs saying that the price of flour has jumped by as much as 50 percent.

President Medvedev said Russia has lost about one quarter of its crops this year to heat and drought, and the Agriculture Ministry says Russia will export only 10 percent to 20 percent of the amount of grain as last year.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs