Medvedev smoulders over wild fire threat

Medvedev smoulders over wild fire threat

28 April 2011

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Russia — The peat bogs are smouldering and so is the president’s fuse. Dmitry Medvedev warned officials on Wednesday that they could be sent out to fight the flames themselves if they don’t make better progress with fighting the fires.

Russia could be facing a repeat of last year’s flaming disaster. Already, one month earlier than last year’s warning signs, the omens are ominous. “The symptoms are alarming, meaning that peat bogs to the south east are smouldering and the wind is blowing from there. It will go up just like hay,” Medvedev warned.

And he is not happy about this, Kommersant reported. “I want to know when the real struggle with this will begin in the Moscow region and in other areas,” he said.

Public discontent

Worried commuters told The Moscow News last week that the bogs had already started to burn, pouring cold water on government assertions that there would be no repeat of last year’s summer of discontent.

The government faced a barrage of criticism after one million hectares and 1,200 homes went up in smoke, 53 people died in the fires, and the death rate in smoke-swamped Moscow at least doubled.

Red-faced officials

Vice Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov tried to defend the government’s efforts this year. Citing last year’s “bitter experience” he said there were working groups and operational decisions aplenty to staunch the embers.

“On April 1 this year we flooded 9 per cent of the [threatened] area, that’s 5.6 thousand hectares. Of course that’s only a little,” he blushed.

“Far too little,” spluttered the president.

“So on the authority of the government a large package of measures are being implemented and so we (the working group) are correcting the situation,” Zubkov stuttered.

Too late

“The problem lies in the fact that it has already started to burn and given the sad experiences of the previous year this work should have been done last year before the snow fell. If you needed extra money neither the finance ministry nor anyone else could have refused,” snapped Medvedev.

Moscow region governor Boris Gromov found himself in line for a similar roasting, despite assertions that round the clock monitoring was in place and that fires had already been spotted and extinguished.

Medvedev was unimpressed and asked why this couldn’t have been prepared for in January.

“If you fail you will go accordingly to the moors to fight fires yoursleves, this applies to the government of the Moscow region and the government of the Russian Federation,” Medvedev fumed.

Missing the point

According to volunteers this might well come to pass as the government have shown that they are incapable of dousing the flames themselves and the volunteers who bailed them out last time are not being properly included in the picture.

A website to track where fires are located across the country merely duplicated efforts by volunteers who had already been working on a similar project of their own, Anastasia Severina, the volunteers’ website coordinator, told The Moscow News two weeks ago.

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