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Warm winter for Russians -

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Warm winter for Russians

AM - Thursday, 13 January , 2005 08:28:19

Reporter: Emma Griffiths

ELEANOR HALL: Russians are enjoying their warmest winter on record.

By Australian standards it's hardly a heatwave, but over the last few days temperatures in many
regions have climbed above zero, and that's so warm for Russia that a black bear at the St
Petersburg Zoo has woken up from its hibernation two months early while another bear has refused to
go to sleep at all.

This report from Moscow Correspondent, Emma Griffiths.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: Instead of the crunch of snow underfoot in Moscow these days, there's the squelch
of slush.

(sounds of slush)

There's hardly any snow on the ground, ice sculptures around the city have simply melted and winter
sports enthusiasts have had to cancel their trips.

At this time of year, Muscovites expect the temperature to drop to around minus 15 and stay there.
Instead it's been up to 20 degrees warmer than the average since New Year's Day. One day the
mercury even hit six degrees above zero, unheard of warmth for January.

At Moscow's famed Gorky Park, the rides are at a standstill. The paths are usually frozen over to
attract ice-skaters, but they've melted, and for the past week the park has been more like a ghost
town.

(Sounds of birds chirping)

Dimitri the security guard doesn't like it.

(Dimitri speaking)

"I much prefer snow", he says. "This weather's all right, but as for winter, it's not working. It
should be snowing."

Lena, who works at one of the many café's at the park, has also been disappointed by this heatwave.

(Lena speaking)

She just bought skates for her 5-year-old grandson, but there's been no ice rink for him to
practice on.

And Yuri, who supervises the kids' fun park, reckons the last time Moscow melted like this was in
1975, but even then it wasn't as warm.

(Yuri speaking)

"It would be better if the cold came", he says, "so the ice rink can open. Or if spring came early
then at least the fun park can operate".

(sound of Russian news)

The nightly weather forecasts don't expect the temperatures to drop until later this month.

The phenomenon has roused talk of global warming. Scientists say Russian winters have been getting
warmer for the past two or three decades. There are fears, too, for Russian agriculture. No snow
means drought and crop failure. Even for Muscovites with vegetable gardens at their country homes,
it means no spring cucumbers or tomatoes.

For this correspondent, going through my first Russian winter, it means new down jackets and
thermals are gathering dust in the cupboard and any hopes of boasting about living through a minus
20 day will just have to wait.

Those Russians who cherish their icy winters are pinning their hopes on February. Maybe it will
deliver its usual sub zero conditions.

This is Emma Griffiths in Moscow for AM.