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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thesbian Putin Hams it Up, Fools Nobody


The New York Times reports that Vladimir Vladimirovich has suddenly become a bosom friend of the environment . . . or has he?

President Vladimir V. Putin declared today that an oil pipeline being built across Siberia should be rerouted significantly further away from the northern shore of Lake Baikal, one of the world's natural landmarks.

The pipeline's route, coming so close to Baikal, had raised concerns that any accident in a remote, seismically active region could send oil spilling into a lake holding more than 20 percent of the world's unfrozen fresh water and an abundance of unique species of wildlife. Not only environmental groups, but also Russian scientists opposed Transneft's planned route. Mr. Putin's decision today was an unexpected reversal, one that appeared highly choreographed for state television networks.

The reversal underscored Mr. Putin's highly centralized power and his penchant for dramatic gestures. Wielding a pen in front of an oversized map of Baikal, he swept aside the decisions of several government agencies, as well as those of Transneft, which had warned that finding another route would be prohibitively expensive.

So is Mr. Putin, who presides over one of the world's most environmentally filthy countries, standing up for his own personal power or for the environment? You be the judge, dear reader:

Mr. Putin's decision came as Russia, along with Ukraine and Belarus, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. In a sign that public protests have their limits, the authorities broke up a demonstration against nuclear energy in Moscow, briefly detaining a dozen Greenpeace activists who had chained themselves to a fence in front of St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square.

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