Moscow mayor whips up a storm as wrong weather hits town

THE MAYOR of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, has long been accused by his critics of striving to run a city state, isolated from the rest of Russia. Now he may go one step further: fed up with unexpectedly filthy weather, he wants his own forecasting service.

An angry Mr Luzhkov has threatened to sever all ties with Russia's national weather service after it failed to give any warning of the past two days of terrible weather, which have buried the capital under at least eight inches of snow.

Such matters are taken seriously by the mayor, not least because the city has to fork out large sums of money on emergency teams of sweepers, salters and icicle removers. He made no secret of his annoyance when the national forecasters, who predicted temperatures of 9C to 11C, turned out to be spectacularly wrong. It was "a deception", said the mayor's spokesman. Such "disinformation" has happened all too often this winter, and "bad forecasting has cost Moscow a great deal of money". The capital, he said, was contemplating starting its own weather service.

Nor was Mr Luzhkov, who is famously outspoken, alone in his outrage. The national weather service yesterday found itself fielding call after call from indignant Muscovites. A hapless weather-service official was wheeled on to a prime-time television programme wryly entitled "Hero of the Day".

The weather has special resonance for Muscovites, not least because it has done much to secure the capital's survival. The Russian winter helped to destroy Napoleon's invading army and kept Hitler at bay.

Last September, Mr Luzhkov tried to take personal control of it, dispatching aircraft into the skies to seed the clouds with iodine pellets to prevent them raining on Moscow's lavish 850th anniversary celebrations. Success was limited: on the final day of the jamboree, the heavens opened.

But not all Mr Luzhkov's subjects will share his irritation. Tonight, Spartak Moscow is to play the second leg of a Uefa cup match against Inter Milan. Russians often complain that they cannot achieve much in spring because the change of season affects their biorhythms. Today's conditions should suit the fans just fine.