Staunton, August 7 – Yesterday, some 300 residents of Novosibirsk took part in a meeting in reaction to recent statements by officials there that it isn’t worthwhile to fight the forest fires raging in the area but preferable to allow the conflagration to burn out on its own (sobkorr.org/news/5D4AB6EAA478D.html).
The meeting was organized by Sergey Boyko, an opposition candidate for mayor of that city. He told the crowd that officials had suggested he cancel the demonstration because the smoke that had enveloped Novosibirsk has eased in recent days. But he said that he hadn’t because despite official claims to the contrary the area engulfed in flames has only grown.
Boyko said that officials have tried to ignore or minimize the extent of the problem, with the federal media treating it as some minor matter. “For Moscow bureaucrats, Siberia burning is hardly a significant event. How can this be news worthy of federal treatment? Let the fires burn and then there will be fewer protest meetings.”
Other speakers said that the harm from this year’s fires will take “no less than 100 years” to recover from; and they demanded not only that greater efforts be expended to control and extinguish the fires but that those officials responsible for this “ecological catastrophe” be identified and punished.
Participants shouted “We demand an end to the killing of the natural wealth of Siberia!” “Is it really unreasonable to put out forest fires but entirely so to build a residence for Patriarch Kirill for 2.8 billion rubles” (40 million US dollars). And most seriously, they declared that “We Can’t Change the Climate but We Must Change Our Political Leaders.”
The meeting adopted a resolution demanding that all available forces of the emergency services ministry and the Russian Guard be used to fight the fires and agreed to send it to Sergey Menyaylo, the president’s plenipotentiary for Siberia. The meeting ended without any arrests or disorders.