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Russia will not set clocks back to restore ‘winter time’ for the time being

February 07, 2013, 16:44 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

There will be no early decision to set Russia’s clocks back to restore winter time, which Dmitry Medvedev canceled back in 2011 during his presidency, although there have been numerous rumors from various sources to the contrary, and even the International Olympic Committee lodged its strong request.

Russia has no immediate plans of restoring winter time, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the government on Thursday.

“There are no unambiguous approaches. Opinion polls prove that. This is precisely why the government believes that another adjustment during the current period of time would be inexpedient,” he said.

Medvedev asked the people to live in the current conditions for a while “without making a fuss.”

“We shall continue to monitor the overall situation. We shall review the opinions of experts, physicians, and the ordinary people’s attitude, if it changes, once again. In other words, we shall consider all pros and cons. But for the time being we shall leave the current state of affairs as it is.”

The “time question” is a high profile one, Medvedev acknowledged. He recalled that a number of State Duma members had come out with a proposal for either setting all clocks back once and for all, or getting back to the previous custom of shifting them back and forth twice a year.

Resetting the clocks, which some Russians have been pressing for, has drawn strong objections from others. Besides, the leadership of the International Olympic Committee has asked Russia to restore winter time in connection with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, because the three- or even four-hour gap would cause great inconveniences in telecasting sports competitions.

The daily Izvestia on Thursday quoted senior sources in the government and the Kremlin as saying that the government has already made a decision to set clocks back so as to return Russians one hour of sleep.

At the end of December State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin asked the government to give thought to the idea of cancelling “eternal” summer time.

President Vladimir Putin, when he was still the prime minister, acknowledged that he found it much more difficult to wake up in the morning after the cancellation of the winter time. Last time he discussed the theme of resetting clocks at his grand news conference at the end of December.

“True, there are problems. I do see them. I feel them myself. You get up when it is dark and you go to bed when it is dark,” Putin said, adding that a decision regarding the summer and winter time would be made after the government carried out special monitoring.

For Medvedev, though, this is a question of image. In June 2011 he signed a law that canceled the resetting of clocks twice a year - in the autumn and in the spring. It was one of the most controversial decisions of his presidency. Before there was a lengthy public discussion, and it seems to be still going on. The Russian segment of the Internet is literally brimming with complaints about seeing no daylight at all, about going to work and getting back home in the dark.

The Communications Ministry, too, came out for the idea of restoring winter time, due to the inconveniences for the foreign television viewers of sports broadcasts from Russia and to the lack of comfort for Russians. Besides, Russians find it far more difficult to watch European sports events, which last well into the night.

The Industry and Trade Ministry has summarized complaints from regions. Many of the critics argue that the cancellation of winter time has pushed up sickness rates, while the economic effects are meager. In the meantime, energy saving was one of the main argument in the campaign for perpetuating summer time.

The Energy Ministry has calculated that the energy saving effect of the cancellation of clock resetting averages a tiny of 0.45 percent.

The Defense Ministry has said that the space systems and complexes, satellites, space control and the GLONASS instruments still operate in the standard Moscow time. In other words, clocks are set back and forth regularly. It is too costly to re-adjust military equipment and space systems, the Defense Ministry says.

The Foreign Ministry has said that its office in Kaliningrad has noticed disruptions in the operation of transport and some industries due to the cancellation of winter time, which resulted in a one- or two-hour time gap between Russia, on the one hand, and Lithuania and Poland, on the other.

According to the national pollster VTsIOM only 31 percent of the polled Russians are prepared to see the seasonal time restored. Those who wish to have winter time and summer time are split evenly (26 percent and 28 percent) respectively. The former option is more to the liking of people in big cities, while the latter has more supporters in medium cities.

People are different and far from every one gets up at 07:00 to go to work, says Levada Center director Alexey Grazhdankin. Those whose working day starts early are most often unhappy with the winter time. The sociologist said that for those who get to work at lunchtime and work late into the evening it is all the other way round. Summer time is more comfortable.

“It is impossible to please everyone,” he warns.

Summer time should be canceled for one simple reason, the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets quotes the chairman of the State Duma’s health committee, Sergei Kalashnikov as saying. “Inconveniences in telecasting Olympic events are not the reason. The health of the people is far more important. The Health Ministry has already produced its conclusions. Statistics from 29 regions indicate that summer time causes adverse effects on people’s health. Since the moment Russia canceled the shift to winter time in the autumn of 2012 doctors have noticed more frequent cases of depression. People with cardiovascular diseases and have been calling the ambulance more often. The rate of traffic accidents has gone up, and so on and so forth.

“Discontent is mounting. I can see that myself in the growing flow of messages addressed to the State Duma. The letters are getting ever angrier,” Kalashnikov said.


MOSCOW, February 7