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Russians revolt after politician says Siberia fires unprofitable

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
A wildfire burns Thursday in the Boreal Forest in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia, Russia.  Photo by Russian Federation Service Aviation Forest Protection/EPA-EFE
A wildfire burns Thursday in the Boreal Forest in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia, Russia.  Photo by Russian Federation Service Aviation Forest Protection/EPA-EFE

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- As firefighters battle wildfires across eastern Russia, demonstrators are demanding the resignation of a regional leader in Siberia who's said it doesn't make much financial sense to fight the fires.

Hundreds of activists rallied in Krasnoyarsk Thursday to demand Gov. Alexander Uss resign. He made the controversial comment at a youth forum last month.

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"This is a common natural phenomenon, which is meaningless to fight, and at times perhaps even harmful," Uss said.

Two signs at Thursday's rally read, "You have money for propaganda but not for forests" and "We'll get our rights."

The fires have been burning in multiple locations in recent weeks, and are large enough they can be seen from space. They're also releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide.

In Moscow, protesters have called for fair elections and against the government's stance on wildfires.

Greenpeace Russia called the fires, which have burned millions of acres so far, an "ecological catastrophe."

"Big Siberian cities are covered with toxic haze that had already reached Urals," the advocacy group tweeted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian army to help fight the fires, but protesters said Uss' comments show his priorities are misplaced.

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"The forest fires were the boiling point that prompted the people to take to the streets," Krasnoyarsk resident Ruslan Farmanov said.

A poll by the Presidential Human Rights Council last year showed a Russians feel their right to environmental safety is violated more than anywhere else.

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