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'Switzerland would fit into Tyumen region in Siberia seven times. But it doesnt't want to. '

As wildfires rage, the Russian government heads east to battle the crisis

By 0 and 0 and 0
06 August 2012


Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, pictured during his visit to Omsk. Picture:

'The wildfire situation is abnormal. We have not had such a situation for decades,' he said, as he and senior officials took to the Trans-Siberian Railway to lead the fight to halt the flames. 

Controversially, he appeared to blame carelessness by people for the destruction of forests across most of Russia's time zones. 

'This is a common task. Nowhere in the world its solved without the volunteer firefighters,' he said in Omsk.

'Of course, we've got to invest in equipment, and awareness, but we've also got to behave like humans, not swine.  Because we know what is the cause of the majority of fires.'

On an English translation of his words issued by Itar-Tass he stated: 'A lot of fires break out because of the barbarian attitude to forests.'

The sweep across Western Siberia by top officials on board a special train is a sign of concern at the fires which have caused huge destruction in remote areas but also blighted a number of major cities with smog, among them Omsk, Tomsk, Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. 

It comes as ecology and wildlife groups have alleged that the huge scale of the wildfires has not been reported properly to Moscow. 

The former president will chair a meeting in Tomsk on the fires and drought early Monday after arriving in a special train overnight from Omsk. 

The session is expected to include officials from regions blighted by the summer fires. 

'Hopefully, the serious situation in Siberia will be over in two or three weeks,' said Medvedev before leaving Omsk. 

'I am saddened to know that people here and in Tomsk were smothering in the smoke, and nothing changed for a long time. The wildfire was confined by now, but the situation remains serious.'

He cautioned against a quick end to the problems in Siberia. 

'Weathermen said that August would be a difficult month. We cannot expect pouring rains in West Siberia.'

The Prime Minister stressed: 'Recalling the year 2010 when the situation was the worst in European Russia, we drastically changed the firefighting infrastructure.

'Amateur firemen teams were formed, fire trucks and aircraft were purchased. If we had not done that in 2010, the current situation in Siberia would have been much worse. 

'There are no serious consequences of fires now, in contrast to 2010.'

Residential areas had not been destroyed, he emphasised. 

Russian Railways provided the special train for Medvedev and his officials. It is equipped with conference facilities for what is plainly a working visit at a critical time. Officials made clear the train will not disrupt scheduled services on the line. 

The premier is accompanied by Vice-Premier Arkady Dvorkovich, Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, along with his protocol service, security service officers and journalists.

A diesel generator ia attached to the train to ensure a non-stop power supply, said Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin who earlier greeted the premier in Omsk. 'These are our regular carriages, nothing special,' he said. 

The Medvedev's trip is not restricted to the fire problem and in Kemerovo he is expect to visit a coal mine while in Novosibirsk he will see the city's innovative high tech park. He is also expected to visit Leninsk-Kuzentsky.

Comments (2)

like snow in December, wildfires in summer seem to take us by surprise. We had an awful summer in Moscow with just two weeks of smog - and I still remember that smell.
Dasha, Moscow
06/08/2012 19:45
good that he's there in the middle of events
P, Manchester
06/08/2012 13:06

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