News / Europe

Russia's Heat Wave Wilts Crops, Nation

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

Russia's worst drought in 130 years became a political issue Friday as the Kremlin held an emergency meeting to combat the impacts of  a month long heat wave that is shriveling crops, forcing up food prices, and causing hundreds of drownings as Russians jump into rivers to escape heat funneled up from North Africa.

"Stop the panic," Russia's top official for agriculture commanded Russians on Friday as the nation faced a fourth week of baking hot temperatures more normally associated with North Africa.

With crops failing across Russia's Black soil belt, and vegetable gardens wilting outside suburban dachas, first deputy prime minister Victor Zubkov warned against price gouging, saying "There are absolutely no grounds for price hikes of food."

As Russia struggles in the embrace of the worst drought since 1880, the Kremlin worries that food prices will shoot up, blowing apart inflation targets for this year, a year before parliamentary elections.

Russia's Grain Producers Union recently forecast a 20 percent drop in the nation's grain harvest. Coming from the world's fourth largest wheat producer, this report contributed to a 25-percent spike in world wheat prices in July. To ease pressure on prices, the Kremlin started last week to sell grain from its massive stockpiles.

Gennady Yeseleyev, deputy director of Russia's Federal Weather service, warns of the drought's impact.

While farmers' combines harvest at night to avoid mechanical breakdowns from the soaring heat, city trucks in Moscow water streets by day to prevent asphalt from melting. As hot temperatures afflict Moscow, portable air conditioners, fans and inflatable pools are flying off the shelves.

After a Japanese tourist died from heat stroke near Red Square, the Kremlin, suspended a weekly changing of the guard ceremony. After two men died of heat-related causes in Moscow's metro, a consumer group sued the transit operator to bring down temperatures to the legal maximum of 32 degrees centigrade.

In St. Petersburg, almost on the same latitude as Anchorage Alaska, residents are cooling off by jumping into normally icy canals. Across Russia, almost 2,000 people have drowned since June, well higher than normal. In one tragic case, six children at a summer camp drowned because  camp counselors were following a Russian summer tradition of trying to cool off by drinking alcohol.

On Friday, Galina Petrovna, a 64-year-old Moscow nanny, let her two year old charge cool off with a dip in a public fountain. On Sunday, her employers are going to Italy - to cool off.

Her employers also will be escaping a growing haze from peat moss bog fires now ringing Moscow, Europe's most populous city. She says, they are in shock - they say we have hot weather, but not like you have here.

Across Russia fires are running at twice the rate of normal.  

To further reduce pollution - and to cut road rage - General Victor Kiryanov, of the Russian Road police asks drivers to stay at home.

He says the heat affects both drivers and police inspectors. People are too tired, irritated, and aggressive. And this is exactly what makes driving dangerous. So, he said,  he would like to address all drivers now - if you have a chance, stay at home or at work, don't use your cars, please.

But the credibility of government officials was dented this week when journalists from Saratov, one of Russia's most severely drought stricken regions, recognized their governor in a You Tube video of Russians detained on July 9th on a yacht near Sicily. Italian police released the group, saying they did not find what they were looking for - leaders of the Russian mafia.

That Friday, the official schedule of the Governor, Pavel Ipatov, had him in Moscow, meeting with vice prime minister Zubkov to win drought relief for his constituents. Later, Ipatov, a Kremlin appointee, admitted that he took a short Italian holiday.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid