Russia Crippled as Heat Wave Rages On

In the middle of the worst heat wave in 130 years of record keeping, much of Russia is literally burning. Over 800 seemingly unstoppable wildfires have so far forced the evacuation of weapons from a Moscow garrison, disrupted air travel, incinerated a fifth of the country’s wheat crop, left 3,000 homeless, and killed 52. Moscow’s environmental protection agency announced that concentrations of carbon monoxide were five times higher than the acceptable level, The New York Times reports. Perhaps even more alarming is Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu's statement, saying that there may be a threat of nuclear contamination as the radiated Chernobyl site catches fire. Nuclear materials have already been transferred away from a research facility 310 miles east of Moscow. In response to the damage the drought and fires have wrought on Russia’s wheat crop, Prime Minister Putin announced Thursday that Russia would ban all grain exports for the rest of the year, sending grain prices up and grain importers scrambling to make sure Russia makes good on its contracts. In terms of combating the fire itself, Putin and President Medvedev have had to content themselves with firing and demanding the resignations of Russian officials, whom the two heads of state condemn for their lackluster response to the conflagration.