Russian Minister Blames Officials, Loggers 
For Forest Fire Problem

BBC, May 24, 2002
Source: Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1000 gmt 24 May 02

Presenter — Russian Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu held an emergency meeting in Khabarovsk today. According to Shoygu, the outbreak of forest fires which have been raging in the territory for more than three weeks is, first and foremost, the fault of sluggish officials and a lack of preventive fire-fighting equipment. Andrey Medvedev reports. Correspondent Sergey Shoygu’s visit to Khabarovsk lasted just three hours. The emergencies minister flew to Khabarovsk specially for the meeting. The theme was the same as in Irkutsk yesterday – the problem of forest fires. As it turned out, during the forest fires in April and May, the authorities did not always act promptly.
Shoygu — An appeal to us, even to us, the Emergencies Ministry, for aviation, despite the fact that we are responsible for protecting and patrolling particularly dangerous facilities – gas pipelines, oil pipelines, electric power lines, railways and settlements – we only received a request on the sixth day, and not from you.
Correspondent — According to Sergey Shoygu, the sluggishness of officials is not the only reason for the fact that this year’s forest fires in the taiga almost reached disastrous proportions. Timber enterprises objectively don’t have the resources to carry out preventive work. There’s no money to prepare equipment or to train people. The heads of environmental protection departments on several occasions suggested transferring some of the proceeds from timber sales not to the federal budget, but directly to them. Sergey Shoygu promised that, in the near future, he would try and help to solve this problem.
Shoygu — There will be a cabinet meeting on 13 June, and the problems with legislation and with funding will already be addressed at that meeting.
Correspondent — The leadership of the Far Eastern Federal District has drafted in the military to fight the forest fires – otherwise the problem won’t be solved. According to local bosses, unemployment has played no small role in the outbreak of forest fires. Sergey Shoygu demanded a detailed report on the activities of illegal loggers. Few still harbour any doubts that they are responsible for some of the forest fires which have broken out.


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