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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    Video Energy Lacking at Annual Offshore Oil Conference

    The slump in oil prices that began in 2014 has taken a toll on the industry but all express confidence it will end eventually

    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.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora