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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MOSCOW MAILBAG: Olympics, Airplanes And Enigmatic Bears

With spring in the air and summer on the way, Fumito Hokamura of Fukuoka-ken, Japan, asked about our prospects for the upcoming Sydney Olympics. We are going to send a grand total of 500 athletes to Australia this summer, 250 of whom have already been chosen in selective competitions. Russia plans to win a total of 100 medals, 36 to 39 of them gold. Much of the gold will be for track and field events.

One listener wrote in with a question on our shortwave programs, asking if they enjoy freedom of speech.

I have repeatedly stated that, in the years of our reforms, I have not had a single line deleted. But I'm afraid freedom of speech on our television has taken an ugly form. Some commentators who represent certain vested interests have gone too far and have engaged in mudslinging on a scale previously unheard of. It got to the point where I simply used to switch to another channel.

Another listener wanted to know if we drink water from the tap in this country. I for one have been drinking Moscow tap water for as long as I can remember. But articles have begun to appear in the press saying that today it is not safe. So several years ago, I began to boil all the water I drink. I'm still here.

Richard Randell of Cheltenham, England, apparently a plane enthusiast, asked about the airport he passed driving to Istra in the northwestern part of Moscow. That, sir, is the Tushino Flying Club. In the Soviet era, air shows and exhibitions were held there, often with none other than Josef Stalin in attendance. Today it is still a flying club, but it also caters to private or business-class planes.

Randall further wondered if we have private planes in Russia. We do, but not on the scale that you find in the West. Private planes are for the most part owned by large companies, sometimes by individuals. But that's Russia for you, where the average wage is miserably low.

Engida Zewdie Gebru of Arfi, Ethiopia, a land far from snow, ice and cold, asked me to describe the polar bear and identify in which part of Russia it is found.

The polar bear is among the strongest of animals. It is listed in what we call the Red Data Book, which identifies endangered species. Starting in 1938, we limited the hunting of polar bears, and in 1956 it was banned outright. To protect the animals' dens, a large area of Wrangel Island, in the northeastern part of the Arctic, was made into a strictly guarded reserve. Polar bears have a remarkable mechanism that unfailingly helps the animal find its way about on the ice. This mechanism remains an enigma to scientists to this day.

Joe Adamov hosts an English-language radio program on the Voice of Russia.