its fucking cold in Moscow!


Cold snap squeezes Moscow hard
As deaths rise, group asks nation to do more

By Mara D. Bellaby
Associated Press
Jan. 11, 2003

MOSCOW - Winters in the Russian capital are harsh and long. For at least 400 people a year, they're also deadly.

An extended cold spell prompted Doctors Without Borders to appeal Friday to Moscow and the public to help lower the number of deaths.

"These losses are equal to a military campaign," said Alexei Nikiforov, coordinator of a homeless program run by the aid group. "There is no war, but people are still dying."

Since September, the cold has killed more than 270 people in Moscow, according to data from city emergency medical workers. About 2,200 people have been treated for frostbite, hypothermia or other cold-related illnesses.

Temperatures have warmed slightly in recent days but are expected to dip as low as minus-13 degrees in the capital over the weekend.

Most cold victims in Moscow are homeless or alcoholics unable to find proper shelter, medical officials say. Many are forced out of warm public places such as subway and train stations by police.

Eight government-run shelters serve this city of 10 million, with an estimated 100,000 homeless. But the shelters are not full on some nights, even when temperatures drop as low as minus-24.

Officials waived a rule in November that required shelters to accept people only if they had proof of Moscow residency. But homeless men who gathered Friday outside a Doctors Without Borders center complained they are often referred to police when they show up without proper documents.

An estimated 60 percent of Moscow's homeless have no ID papers.

Andrei Shchurok, leaning on a cane and looking decades older than his 27 years, said he spends most nights huddled in building entrances or underground passages because he has no documents.

He is afraid to fall asleep and be wakened by angry police.

"They are always taking from me and harassing me," Shchurok said.

In a letter to Moscow authorities, Doctors Without Borders urged the government to open more temporary shelters on freezing days, and to ensure that all are admitted.

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