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Saving image in time of wildfires

world Updated: Aug 13, 2010 00:37 IST
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Be it dousing fires from a plane or sacking officers in a single meet, Russia’s ruling tandem is battling to ensure its hold on power does not go up in smoke in the wildfire crisis.

Image-making has emerged as significant a weapon in the crisis as water-bombing jets as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev seek to ensure their popularity survives the crisis intact.

With Russia emerging from the slowdown, the duo may have been congratulating themselves on seeing off the crisis. But then Russia found itself hit by a heatwave that wrecked 10 million hectares of land and triggered wildfires that killed 50 people.

Putin on Tuesday took the controls of a plane to scoop up water from a lake in one of the worst affected regions and then dump it on the burning forests.

Taking a page from his handbook, Medvedev staged a meet over the damage caused by the fires to a naval logistics centre where he sacked five officers in the space of 30 seconds.

“The two are in a very strong public relations drive,” Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Centre, one of Russia’s pollsters, said.

“Putin goes up in the plane, puts out fires, Medvedev sacks little scapegoats, they hand out money and the public likes it.”