Russian weathermen refute conspiracy to rain on opposition’s parade

March of Millions opposition rally participant seen in Sakharov Avenue, Moscow (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Astapkovich)
The head of Russia’s main meteorological center has said that it would have been physically impossible to cause an artificial rainstorm during a recent opposition march.

The idea that authorities were using weather as a weapon against protesters on June 12 was suggested by opposition MP Ilya Ponomaryov, a member of the moderate leftist party Fair Russia and one of the key figures behind the Russia Day march. Ponomaryov wrote in his blog that some unnamed chemists had tested the rain water and found “unnaturally high content of silver iodide”.The politician asked everyone to help distribute this information and many Russian media followed the call – some out of sympathy, some just for the amusement of their audience.

Several days later, scientists dealing with weather issues gave their reply. “It is simply impossible to start rain over a particular region. If we observe an irreversible process, the process in which a well-defined warm front is moving, no influence could prevent rain,” chief Russian meteorologist Roman Vilfand was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

At the same time, the weatherman admitted that special aircraft had sprayed chemicals on rainclouds on June 12 – the Russia Day holiday, but said that this was done to disperse them, not to bring rain to Moscow. Besides, he said the chemicals were sprayed 50-70 kilometers away from the city to deplete the rainclouds as they approached. The rainstorm hit Moscow anyway, but the weatherman said this was normal, as standard ways of countering the weather can only soften its blow by 15 or 20 per cent and not provide full protection.

However, even Ponomaryov in his original post admitted that Russian law does not forbid the summoning of forces of nature against one’s political opponents, and that even if his claims proved true, it was not clear how this would help the opposition.