News / Europe

Russia's Heat Wave Wilts Crops, Nation

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

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.


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid