Russia's emergencies chief claims success in summer of wildfires
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry successfully coped with the wildfires that ravaged large swathes of European Russia this summer, Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Sunday, RIA Novosti reported.
"I can say absolutely clearly that, experiencing such climatic conditions for such a period for the first time, the whole of the Russian system of preventing emergencies managed to cope with the forest fires," he said in an interview on NTV television.
"We defeated the peat fires, we defeated the forest fires, we saved 4,500 thousand settlements," Shoigu said.
There was widespread criticism of the response to the fires, which left thousands homeless and covered the capital and many other cities in thick smoke for days at a time.
The minister said a lot more should have been done by those directly responsible for the protection of forests.
"Those who had to answer for the safety of the forests, including fire safety, should have tripled, if not increased tenfold, the system for monitoring fires in the forests. In reality, much of this was not done," Shoigu said.
He said that when things started to spiral out of control, those responsible for fire safety in populated areas were brought into the emergencies ministry's forces.
He added that the mobilization included manufacturing capabilities, such the production of almost 7,000 firefighting backpacks in a very short period.
"This really was a war against the elements, with all the attributes of a war," Shoigu said. "With its provocateurs, traitors, with its heroes, and, of course, with its blunders."
He said the Emergency Situations Ministry had drawn some conclusions from the crisis and had made some recommendations.
"We have to substantially and seriously increase the air grouping - this is very important," Shoigu said, adding that the experience surrounding particularly hazardous sites, such as the nuclear research center in Sarov, showed that state-of-the-art monitoring should be introduced around sensitive facilities.
The Sarov Federal Nuclear Center in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region was twice threaten by forest fires and thousands of firefighters and soldiers battled to save the complex, although officials said there was no danger of a nuclear explosion.