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1 Jan, 2008 06:19

Fireworks to be banned in Russia?

A new law is being discussed to ban people from setting off fireworks in Russia. Although soaring accident numbers have prompted the government to look at banning private firework displays, many say unauthorised vendors are causing the casualties.

Once the exclusive preserve of vast public arenas, Russia’s love of celebration has been channelled into booming sales of fireworks for private events, such as corporate parties.

Fireworks and sparklers, Roman candles and rockets – New Year celebrations wouldn't be the same without them. Russians love fireworks and are prepared to part with hard-earned cash for the pleasure.

Shops report that people are ready to spend up to $US 400 to make their holiday brighter. In previous years that figure was more like $US 100.

However, soon offenders caught lighting the blue touch-paper could find themselves further out of pocket. Anyone setting off firecrackers or fireworks on the streets faces the likelihood of a $US 500 fine. Moscow authorities say the aim is to reduce the number of people being injured, following an escalation in the number of firework-related accidents.

Less extreme, more effective

However, experts have told RT that public information campaigns and laws to block illegal sales outlets could prove less extreme – and more effective.

Most of the fireworks sold in Russia are made in China under sophisticated Russian brand names. It’s a highly streamlined business.

Schools and media in the West are filled with warning campaigns around festive periods. But firework sales have jumped so fast in Russia that it hasn’t developed the accompanying safety culture. Industry sales are up 20% year-on-year.

The commercial director of Moscow’s biggest firework retailer supports the ban. She claims the vast majority of casualties are underage buyers and drunks. Careful people are tending to move to organised public events.

As if to prove their danger Elena tried and failed to light their best-seller, the ten-dollar Fountain. Her male colleague stepped in and refused to allow her a second try, saying it was too dangerous.

One of the country’s top firework display organisers, Stanislav, disagrees with Elena. He says the state is not interested in developing the industry, and it can never promote celebrations like a private company.

His displays are simulated then controlled by hi-tech computer programmes to minimise the risks.

Stanislav also blames the crisis on the thousands of unlicensed and inexperienced firework traders, who set up tables around festive periods and unscrupulously sell them to drunks or children without any instructions.

The issue mirrors the problem throughout the Russian economy, which has mushroomed so fast that legislation has not kept pace with developments on the ground.