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First Fires Lead To Smog Jitters

Published: May 11, 2011 (Issue # 1655)


MOSCOW As warm May weather revives memories ofthe smog that caused thecapital tochoke forweeks last summer, theEmergency Situations Ministry has offered assurances that it has control over thesource ofthe air pollution burning peat bogs andforests inthe Moscow region.

Yevgeny Sekirin, head ofthe ministrys branch inthe region, acknowledged that bogs andforests have started smoldering outside Moscow but said thetotal affected area is relatively small.

Sekirin, speaking onEkho Moskvy radio onFriday, said 18 forest fires covering 21 hectares andfive peat bogs on1.3 hectares are burning inthe Moscow region. Inaddition, he said, 2,500 grass fires occupying anarea ofabout 32 hectares have been put out since thestart ofthe year.

No casualties were reported.

Greenpeace Russia has accused theministry ofdownplaying theissue bytweaking thewildfire statistics. Thewatchdog did not provide its own statistics but said onits web site Thursday that there were several dozen fires inthe Sergiyevo-Posadsky district ofthe Moscow region that firefighters were ignoring.

The ministry has accused Greenpeace ofmisreporting wildfires, but thegroup denied theaccusations, saying Thursday that its volunteers were busy fighting fires inan area that theministry declared smoke-free. Theclaims could not be immediately reconciled.

Last summer, some 1,000 peat bog fires broke out over 1,500 hectares ofthe Moscow region, Moscow region Deputy Governor Nikolai Pishchev told Rossiiskaya Gazeta inlate April. Nationwide, thetotal area engulfed bywildfires reached 200,000 hectares last summer.

Carelessness was toblame formost ofthe fires, Sekirin said. He did not elaborate. But he told Prime-Tass last year that only 10 percent ofpeat bog fires are due tonatural causes, as opposed tocarelessly discarded cigarette butts or themishandling offire bypeople oncamping trips.

Peat bogs occupy 254,000 hectares inthe Moscow region, Pishchev said. About 65,000 hectares ofthose, mostly inthe eastern andsouthern parts ofthe region, need tobe flooded toprevent fires.

About 22,000 hectares will be flooded this year, with therest tofollow by2013, Pishchev said, adding that theflooding program would cost atotal of3.7 billion rubles ($133 million).

Funding forpreventing andcombating wildfires inthe Moscow region stands this year at636 million rubles ($23 million), hundreds oftimes more than in2010, Pishchev told Interfax onFriday.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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