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The Land Of Smoke And Honey

Is Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov beginning to feel the heat?

Is Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov beginning to feel the heat?

It took Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov a while to spring into action as the city choked from the fumes of numerous forest and peat-bog fires ravaging the surroundings of the capital.

He was on vacation when, almost literally, all hell broke loose, but his spokesman in city hall told journalists that everything was under control. (Intrepid Moscow-based journalist Julie Ioffe has been doggedly following the Luzhkov story on her blog.)

However, as soon as these words were spoken, the intrepid mayor returned (not, he claimed, from vacation but from treating an unspecified sports injury). One might think that the reports of elevated death rates in the city and the continuous suffering of Moscow's millions spurred the mayor to return to his post.

Or maybe it was the suffering of his pet bees. Moscow's mayor has long been known as Russia's most prominent beekeeper, and it seems that his little friends haven't been liking the heat and the smog.

So, according to, the mayor has ordered at least some of his hives transported to a lake region in nearby Kaluga Oblast, where, hopefully, their torment will come to an end.

Luzhkov wasn't the only one caught in his bathing trunks by the current crisis in Russia. Sergei Gordeichenko, who until today was in charge of forestry for Moscow and Moscow Oblast, was also working on his tan instead of tending to the trees. His office likewise reported that he didn't plan to return to work because everything was under control.

But a harsh word from President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday was enough to prompt the Agriculture Ministry today to fire Gordeichenko.

You'd think Luzhkov, the quintessential populist, would be acting more cautiously. There have been rumors for months that the Kremlin is looking to fire the longtime city boss. This bee thing might just be the excuse the powers-that-be are looking for to tell Luzhkov to buzz off once and for all.

-- Central Newsroom

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at