Prosecutors Suspecting Foul Play in FarEastern Forest Fires
ITAR-TASS News Agency, May 5, 2003 By Alexander Shashkov
The prosecutors investigating the rapid spreading of forest fires in Russia’s Far East do not exclude foul play, saying they might requalify them as arsons. It is possible that fires are started for profiteering purposes, they said. An expert examination is now underway to find out if sellers of commercial timber benefit from forest blazes since the damaged merchandise is of inferior brand and sells at lower prices. In this case, exporters may act in collusion with forestry officials, Deputy Prosecutors General for the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Chaika and Valentin Simuchenkov told a news conference in Moscow on Monday.
According to Simuchenkov, “the human factor” is behind 90 percent of all forest fires. For example, more than 80 criminal cases have been opened in Siberia over negligence in the issues of preserving forests and taking fire-protection measures.
More than 600 people have faced administrative penalties, he added.
According to Chaika, some 30,000 square kilometers of forests are ablaze in the Far Eastern district, but the size of this area is not as extensive as last year’s.