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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 10, 2010

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TODAY: Moscow mortality rates double; Kremlin pledges funds for Emergency Situations Ministry; heatwave in line with climate change expectations, says UN; Khimki forest case used by police to pressure journalists; Georgia makes official complaint about Medvedev’s Abkhazia visit; Putin’s 11 years of power.
Moscow’s mortality rate has doubled amid record temperatures and toxic pollution from wildfires, reaching around 700 a day, says the head of the city’s health department (a statement that was promptly denied by the Health Ministry, but confirmed by staff at morgues, says The Guardian).  The death toll could end up being ‘far higher than the official count‘, largely due to cases of heat stroke, heart disease and bronchial asthma, and Reuters has a grisly report on ‘overflowing‘ morgues and crematoriums that are struggling to cope.  The Kremlin has earmarked $1.8 billion for new firefighting aircraft and trucks to support the Emergency Situations Ministry as Sergei Shoigu acknowledged that its systems were not properly equipped to deal with forest fires.  ‘Although most forest fires are natural disasters, the extent of damage is largely dependent on the government‘s ability to fight fires and other calamities.‘  Cutting through some of the more official rhetoric, the BBC has published a handful of reader’s accounts on Moscow’s current conditions, and boston.com has collected some striking images.

Activists for media freedom say that the Khimki forest case, and in particular the recent reported attack on a Khimki administration building, is being used by police to pressure journalists into revealing their sources.  The Georgian government has made an official protest over President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Abkhazia, its former republic, calling it ‘yet another cynical act.
The UN World Meteorological Organization says that Russia’s heatwave is in line with the predicted extremes attributable to global warming.  ‘Aunt Nyura was still pouring water on burning wood while everything was falling apart and burning around her‘: read a case study from Verkhnyaya Vereya, a village in Nizhny Novgorod completely destroyed by fire.  Construction has apparently started on new dwellings for those made homeless by the blazes. 
Yesterday marked Vladimir Putin’s 11th year in power, according to this Istanbul daily
IMAGE: AFP