Russia is Burning

For over a month, Moscow and other regions of Russia have been suffering from searing heat and heavy, sticky, eye-burning smog, which has killed many and caused fires that have left many more homeless. But, as is typical of authoritarian regimes, officials have proved incapable of providing the emergency assistance that people so desperately need.

MOSCOW – For over a month, Moscow has been boiling in 40-degree (100 degrees Fahrenheit) heat and heavy, sticky, eye-burning smog. Carbon monoxide levels have reached crisis levels, at six times the maximum allowable concentration. Other toxic substances in Moscow’s air are at nine times the normal level.

In early August, a journalist called the office of Moscow's mayor, seeking comments on the situation. “The office is closed,” a woman at the press office answered, adding that smog had gotten inside the mayoral building, which is located less than two miles from the Kremlin, so everyone was ordered to go home. This was a weekday, shortly after lunch. “Is it at all possible to get a comment from Mayor Yuri Luzhkov?” the reporter asked. “He is not in Moscow,” the woman replied.

Indeed, there are reports that the mayor’s press secretary has been telling journalists that there is no reason for the mayor to return to Moscow. “Why should he?” said the secretary. “Is there a crisis in Moscow? No, there is no crisis.”

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