In an episode that would be hilarious if one read it in the works of Nikolai Gogol or Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, but is actually a grim illustration of Russia’s environmental sickness, officials in a Siberian town were reprimanded in 2018 for painting snow white.

Pollution in the coal-mining region is so horrendous that the snowfall is thick with soot and ash. The officials responded, in the time-honoured manner of provincial Russian bureaucracy, by painting over a problem they felt helpless to solve.

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