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Russia is Burning

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.”

At the same time, a doctor from a local hospital was writing on his blog: “It is a disaster. There is no air conditioning in the hospital, no ventilators working, smog is penetrating everywhere, including the emergency room’s operating theatre. Each day, 16-17 people die. The morgue is full, and there are not enough refrigerators for the dead – they just put bodies along the walls.”