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Russia

Dancing Bears: Can Old-School Russian Circus Survive In Cirque du Soleil World?

Circuses in Russia are facing animal cruelty accusations and competition from abroad.

Is it funny still?
Is it funny still?
Oleg Khokhlov and Diana Khromvskikh

ST. PETERSBURG - The fact that the St. Petersburg State Circus troop was unhappy about the naming of Vyacheslav Polunin as their new director was not really unusual - performing arts institutions around the country seem to always protest when they get a new leader. In a letter addressed directly to President Vladimir Putin, the troop expressed concern that Polunin would turn the 135-year-old circus into a cabaret. They didn’t bother complaining to Vladimir Medinskii, the Minister of Culture, who was behind the change in circus leadership. Medinskii had visited the circus at the beginning of the year and came away with an “oppressive feeling.”

The President didn’t answer, of course. “Changes are always difficult,” Polunin said. “The only way to return the Russian circus to its rightful place on the world stage is by combining tradition with a search for new ideas.”

The animal rights’ organization Vita is behind some of those supposedly new ideas. It recently released a 10-minute video of circus rehearsals in which five animal trainers beat circus animals - including two monkeys, a group of poodles, an ostrich and a kangaroo. The video was shot in January, 2012, and when Vita filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, it turned out that the video was shot at a rehearsal of the St. Petersburg State Circus.

When Polunin took over at the beginning of the year, the scandal was still alive, but he was already promising to address the issue of "circus animals."

Irina Novozhilova, the president of Vita, is not waiting for an answer from the prosecutor. Last week she sent the Minister of Culture a request to establish Russia's “first cruelty-free circus” in St. Petersburg - which is to say, a circus without animals. Polunin asked the audience to speak up, and many well-known cultural figures voiced their support for an animal-free circus.

The circus community is also writing letters. “In hiding behind false slogans about the humanization of the circus, animal rights organizations are colluding with our foreign competitors and are trying to forbid animal trainers from performing on Russian stages,” reads the declaration on the Russian Circus Company’s website.

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Economy

The Bogus Concept Of "Carbon-Neutral" Oil

The Colombian president recently said that the country had exported one million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset oil. But in an unregulated carbon market, such a claim is pure greenwashing.

People walk in the streets of Bogotá

María Mónica Monsalve Sánchez

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ - In March this year, various national and corporate leaders met in Houston, Texas, for CERAWeek, an annual conference to discuss the world's energy challenges. Colombia's President Iván Duque took the opportunity to remind participants that his country produced just 0.6% of the world's carbon emissions even as it had raised crude production to one million barrels a day.

He said oil should not be seen as an enemy, since the fight was really against greenhouse gas emissions. He also revealed at the event that the country's national oil firm, Ecopetrol, had sold the Asian market its first million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset crude, consisting of the entire extraction, production and exportation chain.

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