Faced with raging wildfires, Russian rescue workers unveil new secret weapon: A giant gingerbread man sworn to protect the forests
With his massive square head and gaping grin, Russia’s new fire safety mascot is dividing internet users. But, like him or loathe him, the gingerbread man is coming for unruly kids who don’t know enough about protecting nature.
In a ceremony in the city of Tula on Monday, local representatives of the Federal Emergency Services Ministry decided on whether to admit their newest recruit to the force. Known as Tula Pryanik, after the Russian name for a variety of baked goods, the giant state employee pledged to prepare youngsters to go out into nature safely and responsibly, without setting anything on fire.
The mascot’s sweet words evidently went down well with officials, who voted unanimously to admit him into the ranks of the emergency services workers. As part of the ceremony, he was even handed an official identity card, inaugurating him as Agent Pryanik.
“It is always important for us to teach children the right ways to deal with an emergency,” the jubilant gingerbread man said. “A person in a unique position like mine should love children, respect them, and impart on them as much new wisdom as possible.”
Stealing the show at a Safety Day meeting at a local recreation center, there are now plans for Mr. Pryanik to visit all the schools in his native Tula Region. The area is famed for its baked goods, ranging from gingerbread to honey rolls stuffed with fruit jams.
However, not everyone has been as welcoming, and some online critics have blasted the scheme as half-baked, comparing the would-be fire safety hero to SpongeBob SquarePants and even former US President Donald Trump. Others have likened his appearance to the long-running vatnik internet meme, caricaturing former Soviet citizens who buy into whatever authorities say.
Despite that, fire safety is a hot topic in Russia at the moment, with rescue workers dealing with vast blazes spreading across Siberia and the Far East. At one point in recent weeks, more than a million hectares of land was thought to be on fire, wreaking a terrible toll on wildlife in the region.
President Vladimir Putin has said that the infernos are down to climate change. Coupled with flooding in the south of the country, Putin argued that freak weather was to be expected from now on, and that “if not entirely, then at least to a large extent, this is due to global climate change in our nation.”
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