HIV infection rate in Russia rises 10 pct in Jan.-Oct.

The number of new HIV infections in Russia rose almost 10 percent in January-October 2011 year-on-year, a leading Russian expert on HIV/AIDS said on Wednesday.

“We have registered 48,363 new cases in ten months, up 9.6 percent year-on-year. We expect that more than 62,000 new HIV cases will be detected this year,” said Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of Russia’s federal AIDS research center.

The statement came ahead of World AIDS Day, observed on December 1. Between 2011-2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”

As of November 1, Russia had 636,979 confirmed cases of HIV infection since recordkeeping began in 1987. The number has almost doubled since 2006. A total of 104,257 HIV patients have already died.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects cells of the immune system and destroys or impairs their function. Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body’s ability to fend off infections and diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Health Statistics report, the number of people living with HIV worldwide continues to grow, reaching an estimated 33.3 million people in 2009, with 2.6 million new infections and 1.8 million HIV/AIDS-related deaths recorded in the reporting period.

HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 10 million people worldwide are in need of antiretroviral therapy but have no access to the treatment.

Pedophilia Suspect Caught

Pedophilia Suspect Caught

Published: November 2, 2011 (Issue # 1681)

St. Petersburg police detained 22-year-old student Alexander Kasatkin last week on suspicion of committing three instances of sexual violence against 10 and 11-year-old girls. The cases caused city police to hold preventative lectures on personal safety in city schools.

Kasatkin is believed to have been involved in about 15 more such cases, Fontanka reported.

Kasatkin was detained on Oct. 28, three days after the police asked city residents for help in identifying a suspect.

Several people called the police to identify the suspect, whose image had been caught on film by outdoor cameras on the buildings where the victims lived, Fontanka reported.

When asked, those who knew the man came forward with only positive things to say. He’s a good student, fond of sports, but not aggressive, is never seen drunk. He had relationships with women his age. Nobody suspected him of having sexual inclinations toward young children, Fontanka reported.

Viva Espana!

Viva Espana!

Spanish evenings return to St. Petersburg.

Published: October 26, 2011 (Issue # 1680)

FOR SPT

Alexis Soriano.

A modern Spanish opera inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel “Don Quixote” is one of the central events of this year’s “Spanish Evenings” festival that kicked off on Oct. 21 with a performance by Spanish guitarist Rafael Aguirre at the Glinka Hall of the Philharmonic.

“The opera was shown in Passau in 2010 with great success and it will be performed in Barcelona and New York in 2012,” said Albert Barbeta, artistic director of the Art Modern Foundation, a St. Petersburg-based center of musical and cultural exchange among Russia, Spain, Latin America and the U.S. The foundation is a long-term partner of the festival.

“The mission of our foundation is to promote contemporary music,” Barbeta said. “One of our first projects was the “Sovremennoe Proshloye” (Contemporary Past) music festival, which we held in 2008 with an eye to showcasing Russian composers who suffered from persecution or whose music was banned for political reasons.”

The opera “La Dulcinea de Don Quixote,” written by the aspiring Spanish composer Agustin Castilla-Avila, will be performed Sunday at the theater of the St. Petersburg Academy of Theatrical Art on Mokhovaya Ulitsa. The festival, which is now in its 14th year, is always on the lookout for new venues and performance spaces.

“To keep the festival and the foundation alive, we feel we should not limit ourselves to the very narrow circle of academic venues like the Philharmonic Hall,” he said. “For example, one of the foundation’s most important projects was a performance of the chamber opera “The Letters of Van Gogh” with Opera Incognita St. Petersburg at the Hermitage Theater.”

On Oct. 29, the festival will present a master class by the Spanish pianist Enrique Bagaria at the Conservatory. The day before, the musician will give a recital at the Glinka Philharmonic Hall, accompanied by his compatriot, violinist Jesus Reina.

The “Spanish Evenings” festival was founded in 1998 by the Spanish conductor and Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory graduate Alexis Soriano, who reserves a special place in his heart for the city in which he studied music.

“I have been to many countries and towns, but only here have I met such an incredible love and enthusiasm for Spain and Spanish [culture],” he said. “This admiration touched me to the depths of my soul.”

As a response to this enthusiasm, in 1998 Soriano created a festival dedicated to a subject close to his heart: Spanish music. The idea behind “Spanish Evenings” is to introduce Russian audiences to more obscure music by eminent Spanish composers, with a focus on contemporary classical music in Spain. Ironically, even the festival’s organizers on the Russian side admit that contemporary Spanish classical music is virtually terra incognita in Russia.

According to Barbeta, Soriano strives to present the musical culture of Spain in all of its diversity.

“Alexis is very open to ideas; he has earned a solid reputation in Spain, and musicians often send him their work in the hope that he will present it to international audiences,” he said.  

“When the festival began in 1998, I essentially discovered a new world for myself,” says local composer Sergei Yevtushenko. “Before, I was under the impression that Spanish classical music … was dead and buried. It isn’t even studied at the Conservatory.”

However, the festival has proved that classical music is thriving in Spain.

“I was amazed to see the variety of names, styles and approaches,” said Yevtushenko. “Contemporary classical music has surely had a luckier fate in Spain than in St. Petersburg. Every [“Spanish Evenings”] festival features several Russian or even world premieres.”

For a full schedule of the festival, see www.remusik.net/news/festivals/111013-2/

TALK OF THE TOWN

TALK OF THE TOWN

Published: October 19, 2011 (Issue # 1679)

Top notch Italian regional cuisine is on the menu at the Corinthia Hotel’s Imperial restaurant this week as the hotel hosts the Bella Italia festival, the latest event in the Year of Italy in Russia cultural exchange program.

The restaurant is serving a special menu through Sunday prepared by double Michelin-starred guest chef Valentino Marcattilii from Imola, Italy. As well as the special menu, which includes his signature dish — one giant, delectable ravioli stuffed with spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, truffle sauce and egg yolk — Marcattilii will host a master class on Oct. 19. The culinary extravaganza will culminate in an Arrivederci Brunch at the Imperial restaurant on Oct. 23.

Alongside regional Italian cuisine, the festival also aims to showcase Italian interior design and fashion. The hotel is hosting an exhibition of Italian wares ranging from olive oil, pasta, truffle sauce and other regional delicacies to upscale ceramic kitchenware and Alessandro Gheradi shirts, whose clients include Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Visitors to the exhibition, which runs through Wednesday, will have the opportunity to sample some of the edible exhibits.

Meanwhile, the new menu at the Viktoria restaurant in the Taleon Imperial Hotel celebrates Russian gastronomic cuisine while providing new insights into the city’s architectural and historical legacy. The idea behind the new menu is to connect certain dishes with a particular historic building that can be observed from the terrace of this panoramic restaurant located on the top floor of the former mansion of the merchant Yeliseyev, on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and the Moika embankment.

The hits created by the restaurant’s chef Vyacheslav Vasiliev include mullet baked in fragrant herbs, duck fillets served with cranberry and red cabbage, sturgeon soup with a touch of champagne and quail with foie gras. The baked mullet — one of the lightest dishes on the menu — has become an instant hit. Viktoria boasts one of the finest views in town, offering close-ups of Kazan Cathedral, the Singer building, Mertens House and the Nobel House, among other architectural gems. The historical notes accompanying the description of dishes reveal secrets about the rations of the city’s hussars, aristocrats and orphanages in pre-revolutionary times.

In the second half of October, the aroma of fried chestnuts permeates the streets of French towns, and now the chain of Jean-Jacques Rousseau French bistros has imported the idea to the banks of the Neva River with the launch of a chestnut menu from Oct. 17. The highlights of the menu include chestnut soup with Parma ham, salad with chestnuts and mushrooms, chestnut muffins and home-made chestnut marmalade. The bistro at 2/54 Gatchinskaya Ulitsa on the Petrograd Side will also serve take-away grilled chestnuts sold at 100-150 rubles per portion.

Tchaikovsky in New York

Tchaikovsky in New York

A month-long festival at Carnegie Hall celebrates Tchaikovsky.

Published: October 12, 2011 (Issue # 1678)

New York City’s Carnegie Hall inaugurated its 120th season with a month-long festival dedicated to the work of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on Oct. 5.

Commemorating the composer’s 19th-century American debut on the concert hall’s opening night, “Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg” kicked off with a gala performance of his “Variations on a Rococo Theme” by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

When Tchaikovsky arrived in the U.S. in 1891 he was already one of the world’s most illustrious and popular living musicians. By then his opera, ballet and concert music had been enjoying success on the world’s stages for more than a decade. Arriving in New York, he was embraced by American audiences and feted by the city’s beau monde. For a composer whose work had been so often maligned at home, it was perhaps unsurprising that he took an instant liking to the place, remarking that “people in the United States know my work better than they do in Russia, in my own home.”

For most of the composer’s short lifetime Tchaikovsky regularly divided opinion. While universally popular with concertgoers, his reputation with the critics and his peers had been fraught with drama and politics. And in a 20th century shattered by war and absorbed with “serious” atonal music, his compositions were seen as a bit too precious to be taken seriously. Relatively recently, however, a new appreciation for the composer’s output has emerged, led in no small part by maestro Gergiev’s tireless efforts.

In addition to leading the opening night gala, Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra performed all six Tchaikovsky symphonies on successive nights as well as another concert dedicated to the composer’s “Piano Concerto No. 1” with soloist Daniil Trifonov, this year’s winner of the Tchaikovsky prize. The orchestra has just released new recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies No. 4, 5 and 6, and will reprise its performance of the piano concerto at the Mariinsky Concert Hall on Oct. 25.

Meanwhile, back in New York, the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York will present a program of sacred music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Arensky on Oct. 22. Ensemble ACJW, a group of young musicians associated with Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute, will perform three mournful classics of Russian romanticism on Oct 25, including a Tchaikovsky piano trio.

Bringing things full circle, the festival will finally wind down on Oct. 26 with another much-anticipated American first for Carnegie Hall, this time by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko. For her U.S. recital debut, Netrebko will sing a selection of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky romances accompanied by pianist Yelena Bashkirova.

No stranger to New Yorkers, Netrebko has been performing dramatic roles at the city’s Metropolitan Opera for the past ten years. In September she opened the Met’s 128th season in a new production of “Anna Bolena” directed by David McVicar, for which the diva was accorded a rare solo curtain call.

For those who weren’t around 120 years ago when Carnegie Hall switched on its lights for the first time, this month offers a chance to experience some of the magical excitement of that far-off night.

For more information about “Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg” visit www.carnegiehall.org.

High fashion

High fashion

The city’s fashionistas gear up for the fourth Aurora Fashion Week.

Published: October 12, 2011 (Issue # 1678)

The fourth Aurora Fashion Week kicked off Monday with a press conference hosted by Jenny Lombardo, guest speaker and world fashion and design director of W hotels. That same evening, the Fashion Next cocktail party was the first in a series of social events taking place in St Petersburg, ringing in the new season.

This time around, Aurora Fashion Week’s organizers say one of the highlights of the festival will be a catwalk show of the Louis Vuitton collection. The fashion show will present two different outfits for each pair of shoes, comprising one day outfit and one evening outfit.

“The Louis Vuitton fashion show is one of the major events of the week, demonstrating the loyalty and high interest of the leading fashion houses to Aurora Fashion Week,” said the event’s organizers.

The show-stopper of the fashion week looks set to be “Inspiration,” which represents a series of fashion shows based on research into the phenomenon of fashion. The Manezh exhibition hall — the main location of the fashion week — will host a fashion show of vintage dresses belonging to fashion historian Mara Parmegiani. The “Inspiration” program will also include the final round of a competition for young designers organized by Grazia magazine.

The fashion week is expected to attract more than 80 professionals from the fashion world such as buyers, journalists, designers, stylists and celebrity bloggers to St. Petersburg.

Aurora Fashion Week, which runs through Oct. 16, is mostly directed toward industry professionals. This time around, it has been timed to coincide with the international fashion calendar.

“Aurora Fashion Week opens at the same time as International Fashion Week and is one of the key events in the regional as well as federal policy of Russia in the culture and fashion industry,” said the event’s organizers.

“The high regional importance of Aurora Fashion Week and its position in the context of contemporary fashion industry defines its unique status, which has been founded as a dialogue between culture, art and fashion.”

The spring-summer 2012 fashions showcased at Aurora Fashion Week will be presented at the “Catwalk,” “Ambient” and “Inspiration” programs. Exclusive premieres of all the new collections will be shown from Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, with most of them being presented as part of the “Showroom” program.

During the “Catwalk” program, the new collections of Alexandre Arngoldt, Kute, Sandra Straukaite, Bessarion, Jana Sagetti, Kamenskaya and Kononova (Kiev) and Petar Petrov will be shown, as well as fashion shows by the internationally acclaimed brands Custo Barcelona and Tosha.

Despite being primarily oriented toward fashion professionals, the fashion week will offer a series of innovative programs for less well known designers. One of the programs, “Ambient,” which runs from Oct. 11 to Oct. 16, will showcase clothing by young Petersburg designers at various locations around the city. Among the participants are Osome2some, Cat’s Production and Homoconsommutos.

The fashion week is not just about daring designs and controversial clothing. This season’s event will have an educational component in the form of the “Fashionomica” conference, a platform for discussion and brainstorming on the effective synthesis of fashion and economy as the basis of a successful fashion industry.

Another alternative aspect of the event is the Ready-to-Read festival, which is taking place with the support of the Russian National Library and the St. Petersburg Dom Knigi bookstore chain. The festival aims to promote art, fashion, design and contemporary photography.

Avrora Fashion Week runs from Oct. 10 to 16 at locations around the city. For a full schedule of events, visit www.afwrussia.com.The fourth Aurora Fashion Week kicked off Monday with a press conference hosted by Jenny Lombardo, guest speaker and world fashion and design director of W hotels. That same evening, the Fashion Next cocktail party was the first in a series of social events taking place in St Petersburg, ringing in the new season.

This time around, Aurora Fashion Week’s organizers say one of the highlights of the festival will be a catwalk show of the Louis Vuitton collection. The fashion show will present two different outfits for each pair of shoes, comprising one day outfit and one evening outfit.

“The Louis Vuitton fashion show is one of the major events of the week, demonstrating the loyalty and high interest of the leading fashion houses to Aurora Fashion Week,” said the event’s organizers.

The show-stopper of the fashion week looks set to be “Inspiration,” which represents a series of fashion shows based on research into the phenomenon of fashion. The Manezh exhibition hall — the main location of the fashion week — will host a fashion show of vintage dresses belonging to fashion historian Mara Parmegiani. The “Inspiration” program will also include the final round of a competition for young designers organized by Grazia magazine.

The fashion week is expected to attract more than 80 professionals from the fashion world such as buyers, journalists, designers, stylists and celebrity bloggers to St. Petersburg.

Aurora Fashion Week, which runs through Oct. 16, is mostly directed toward industry professionals. This time around, it has been timed to coincide with the international fashion calendar.

“Aurora Fashion Week opens at the same time as International Fashion Week and is one of the key events in the regional as well as federal policy of Russia in the culture and fashion industry,” said the event’s organizers.

“The high regional importance of Aurora Fashion Week and its position in the context of contemporary fashion industry defines its unique status, which has been founded as a dialogue between culture, art and fashion.”

The spring-summer 2012 fashions showcased at Aurora Fashion Week will be presented at the “Catwalk,” “Ambient” and “Inspiration” programs. Exclusive premieres of all the new collections will be shown from Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, with most of them being presented as part of the “Showroom” program.

During the “Catwalk” program, the new collections of Alexandre Arngoldt, Kute, Sandra Straukaite, Bessarion, Jana Sagetti, Kamenskaya and Kononova (Kiev) and Petar Petrov will be shown, as well as fashion shows by the internationally acclaimed brands Custo Barcelona and Tosha.

Despite being primarily oriented toward fashion professionals, the fashion week will offer a series of innovative programs for less well known designers. One of the programs, “Ambient,” which runs from Oct. 11 to Oct. 16, will showcase clothing by young Petersburg designers at various locations around the city. Among the participants are Osome2some, Cat’s Production and Homoconsommutos.

The fashion week is not just about daring designs and controversial clothing. This season’s event will have an educational component in the form of the “Fashionomica” conference, a platform for discussion and brainstorming on the effective synthesis of fashion and economy as the basis of a successful fashion industry.

Another alternative aspect of the event is the Ready-to-Read festival, which is taking place with the support of the Russian National Library and the St. Petersburg Dom Knigi bookstore chain. The festival aims to promote art, fashion, design and contemporary photography.

Avrora Fashion Week runs from Oct. 10 to 16 at locations around the city. For a full schedule of events, visit www.afwrussia.com.The fourth Aurora Fashion Week kicked off Monday with a press conference hosted by Jenny Lombardo, guest speaker and world fashion and design director of W hotels. That same evening, the Fashion Next cocktail party was the first in a series of social events taking place in St Petersburg, ringing in the new season.

This time around, Aurora Fashion Week’s organizers say one of the highlights of the festival will be a catwalk show of the Louis Vuitton collection. The fashion show will present two different outfits for each pair of shoes, comprising one day outfit and one evening outfit.

“The Louis Vuitton fashion show is one of the major events of the week, demonstrating the loyalty and high interest of the leading fashion houses to Aurora Fashion Week,” said the event’s organizers.

The show-stopper of the fashion week looks set to be “Inspiration,” which represents a series of fashion shows based on research into the phenomenon of fashion. The Manezh exhibition hall — the main location of the fashion week — will host a fashion show of vintage dresses belonging to fashion historian Mara Parmegiani. The “Inspiration” program will also include the final round of a competition for young designers organized by Grazia magazine.

The fashion week is expected to attract more than 80 professionals from the fashion world such as buyers, journalists, designers, stylists and celebrity bloggers to St. Petersburg.

Aurora Fashion Week, which runs through Oct. 16, is mostly directed toward industry professionals. This time around, it has been timed to coincide with the international fashion calendar.

“Aurora Fashion Week opens at the same time as International Fashion Week and is one of the key events in the regional as well as federal policy of Russia in the culture and fashion industry,” said the event’s organizers.

“The high regional importance of Aurora Fashion Week and its position in the context of contemporary fashion industry defines its unique status, which has been founded as a dialogue between culture, art and fashion.”

The spring-summer 2012 fashions showcased at Aurora Fashion Week will be presented at the “Catwalk,” “Ambient” and “Inspiration” programs. Exclusive premieres of all the new collections will be shown from Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, with most of them being presented as part of the “Showroom” program.

During the “Catwalk” program, the new collections of Alexandre Arngoldt, Kute, Sandra Straukaite, Bessarion, Jana Sagetti, Kamenskaya and Kononova (Kiev) and Petar Petrov will be shown, as well as fashion shows by the internationally acclaimed brands Custo Barcelona and Tosha.

Despite being primarily oriented toward fashion professionals, the fashion week will offer a series of innovative programs for less well known designers. One of the programs, “Ambient,” which runs from Oct. 11 to Oct. 16, will showcase clothing by young Petersburg designers at various locations around the city. Among the participants are Osome2some, Cat’s Production and Homoconsommutos.

The fashion week is not just about daring designs and controversial clothing. This season’s event will have an educational component in the form of the “Fashionomica” conference, a platform for discussion and brainstorming on the effective synthesis of fashion and economy as the basis of a successful fashion industry.

Another alternative aspect of the event is the Ready-to-Read festival, which is taking place with the support of the Russian National Library and the St. Petersburg Dom Knigi bookstore chain. The festival aims to promote art, fashion, design and contemporary photography.

Avrora Fashion Week runs from Oct. 10 to 16 at locations around the city. For a full schedule of events, visit www.afwrussia.com.

Finland’s finest

Finland’s finest

All things Finnish visit the city for the Helsinki Days in St. Petersburg.

Published: October 12, 2011 (Issue # 1678)

A stool from the
‘Woodism’ exhibition
at the Peter and Paul
Fortress.

Alittle piece of Helsinki is visiting St. Petersburg for the third time this week, promoting a healthy relationship between the two cities.

Once every two years, Russia and neighboring Finland take it in turns to organize a cultural exchange, bringing different programs, events, shows and sometimes simply ideas across the border in order to unite people and familiarize each other with their culture.

Helsinki Days in St. Petersburg first took place in 2003 and consisted primarily of official meetings, but when the festival returned to the city in 2007, sponsors tried to make the program less formal and more interactive, bringing exhibitions and musical events to St. Petersburg. This year, the event will give Petersburgers the opportunity to learn more about Helsinki and present the city as a Finnish urban giant. This year’s program has a special flavor, as it looks ahead to next year: Helsinki has been designated World Design Capital 2012.

“Sometimes referred to as ‘the smallest big city in the world,’ Helsinki is a place where everything good — and by everything, we mean everything — is just around the corner,” said the organizers of Finland’s World Design Capital campaign.

An item from the ‘Design
From And For Kids’ show.

On Oct. 14 to 15, Petersburgers can immerse themselves in Finnish culture without even leaving the city center. Both the Finland House and the Center of Finnish Culture, Science and Entrepreneurship will open their doors to the public to take part in a wide range of events, from getting an inside view of how Finnish companies work here in St. Petersburg, to the opportunity for visitors to create their own knick-knacks made from junk. The cultural centers will also host various master classes and competitions in the Helsinki Yard of Finland House, where visitors can have a cup of coffee and sample Finland’s celebrated Fazer delicacies inside a marquee set up in the courtyard.

In the basement gallery of the Finland House, a group consisting of a painter, musician, designer and an artist will show projects created with the use of light and shadow.

Finland is famed around the world for its progressive environmental policies, and the festival’s organizers will showcase handcrafted items made from various recycled materials, brought to St. Petersburg from the Uusix workshop especially for the Helsinki Days event. Visitors will also be able to try their hand at making their own decorations from recycled materials.

Uusix workshops are part of the Social Department of Finland and employ people struggling to find work. All the items in the collection were made with the participation of Aalto University students.

SIGNE BRANDER

Signe Brander’s photos show a very different Helsinki from the early 20th century.

The Helsinki Days program also comprises a trio of exhibitions running from Oct. 6 to Nov. 2 at the Peter and Paul Fortress. For the first exhibition, the Helsinki City Museum has loaned photographs by the eminent Finnish photographer Signe Brander (1869-1942). Brander took many pictures of Helsinki at the beginning of the 20th century, and they are unquestionably the most interesting and most frequently used documentation of the Finnish capital. The exhibition will feature a broad selection of diverse images, including snapshots of Helsinki at the time when it began to rapidly change its architectural style and structure from wood to stone. These photos also clearly capture what life was like for the average Finnish citizen between 1907 and 1913.

The second exhibition, titled “Woodism,” is dedicated to the work of groups of designers and architects from Helsinki, Lahti, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. They design and make furniture and household items from trees that have fallen naturally in yards and parks, eschewing timber that has been felled. Woodism is also part of the ‘World Design Capital Helsinki 2012’ program.

The third exhibition, “Design From And For Kids,” is part of an educational program that invites children living in Finland and Russia to take a fresh look at the objects that surround them in everyday life and paint them from their own point of view. Afterwards, professional designers bring the children’s paintings to life. Organizers of the program believe in the creative potential of children and that talent and creative vision are should be developed from early childhood. The local exhibition will show items created by young designers from both Russia and Finland. 

The Helsinki Days also have something to offer to party-lovers. Griboyedov club has a special program from Oct. 11 to 15, featuring the celebrated Finnish rock singer Jimi Tenor, as well as the Finnish band Dusha Petera and the We Love Helsinki DJs.

For more detailed information, visit www.helsinki.ru/dnihelsinki

Central Heating Comes Early

Central Heating Comes Early

Published: September 28, 2011 (Issue # 1676)

St. Petersburg residents are to have their state-controlled central heating turned on slightly earlier this year than in previous years, with the heating being turned on periodically from last Thursday.

Last year, the central heating season began on Oct. 1, while in 2009, apartment buildings began being heated on Sept. 29.

The first buildings to have their heating turned on are, as usual, kindergartens and other educational establishments, hospitals and other social care establishments.

Initially, residential buildings are being heated for several hours per day. The heating will be left on when the city sees average temperatures of no higher than 8 degrees for five days in a row, in keeping with the city’s policy on central heating.

According to Sergei Tomashevsky, deputy head of City Hall’s Housing Committee, there are 22,375 buildings that required maintenance work to prepare them for the winter. The local district administrations have carried out the necessary repair work on 22,304 buildings, of which 21,779 had been inspected by a technical commission by Sept. 22, according to a report presented by Vladimir Zyabko, head of the state housing inspectorate, at a meeting of an inter-departmental commission devoted to preparations for the winter.

But only 21,024 of the buildings inspected were certified by the commission. The other 755 buildings are officially ready for the winter season, but were not certified because of some violations that need to be corrected. The total sum of the fines incurred by these violations is more than 6 million rubles ($190,000).

Only 40 percent of residential buildings did not have any problems this year, according to Zyabko. Every second roof had some damage, he said.

One of the main problems of St. Petersburg is the city’s worn out central heating networks. After being turned off for the summer months, 97 percent of the pipes are in working condition, according to Tomashevsky. Three districts, however, are not completely ready. These are the Tsentralny, Vyborgsky and Petrodvortsovy districts. All repair works in these districts are due to be completed by Oct. 1.

In spite of the optimistic reports from all the departments, the authorities predict that problems could arise during the winter because of the city’s antiquated, worn-out heating systems.

“According to the reports, everybody is ready,” said Sergei Kozyrev, deputy governor of the city, at a meeting of the inter-departmental commission.

“As for me, I’ll do my best and will sleep for two hours a day in order to work all the rest of the time. Of course, I’m not a magician, but I will do everything that I can.”

Russia set to launch Glonass-M satellite on Oct. 1

A Russian Soyuz-2.1B carrier rocket has been scheduled to lift off on October 1 to put another Glonass-M navigation satellite into orbit, a Space Forces spokesman said.

The launch has been postponed following two failed space launches in August which led to the loss of a Progress space freighter and the Express-AM4 communications satellite.

“A state commission has set the launch of a Glonass-M spacecraft on board a Soyuz-2.1B carrier rocket from the Plesetsk space center for October 1, 2011,” Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said on Thursday.

Russia lost three Glonass satellites last year when a Proton-M carrier rocket veered off course and crashed in the Pacific Ocean in December.

Glonass is Russia’s answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters.

Russia currently has a total of 27 Glonass satellites in orbit, although only 23 of them are operational.

The complete Glonass grouping must have 24 operational and 2-3 reserve satellites for the Glonass network to operate with global coverage.

Russia announces launch of 2 spacecraft in Oct.-Nov.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Tuesday it has tentatively set the nearest launch of a Progress space freighter on October 30 and a Soyuz manned spacecraft on November 12.

Another Soyuz is scheduled to lift off on December 20 and a Progress – on January 26, 2012.

The new launch schedule has been drafted on the basis of an investigation into a failed launch of the Progress M-12M space freighter from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on August 24.

A special investigation commission has established that a Soyuz-U carrier rocket engine failure led to the loss of the Progress cargo spacecraft. The failure was caused by a clogged fuel supply pipe.

The commission described the defect as “accidental” but recommended introducing additional control procedures to ensure that other similar engines do not have the same defects. A new launch schedule for the Russian spacecraft had to be drawn up.

After the retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet earlier this summer, Russian Soyuz spacecraft became the only way for astronauts to reach the ISS until at least 2015, while Progress-family freighters have been the backbone of the Russian space cargo fleet for decades.