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Putin will spray rain clouds to guarantee sunshine for celebrations

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he can guarantee sunshine for the St. Petersburg's 300th birthday celebrations by ordering the Russian air force to spray chemicals on rain clouds.

Ten planes will be kept ready for action in case rain clouds accumulate around the city, the Defence Ministry in Moscow confirmed.

The planes will then spray the undisclosed chemicals on the clouds to make them rain outside the city and spare the celebrations from disruption.

More than 50 world leaders including Tony Blair and President Bush are expected to attend the event that commemorates the founding of the city by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.

Meanwhile, scores of gardeners in St Petersburg are said to be taking legal action after their allotments were scorched and gardening sheds burnt down to clean up the city before the VIPs arrive.

The plots were all on municipal land along Peterburgskoye Shosse, which runs past the new presidential residence at the Konstantinovsky Palace, in the Petrodvortsovy area, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Gennady Lebedev, head of the Maintenance Committee of the Strelna Municipal Administration criticised local officials in the Petrodvortsovy District.

He said: "They basically ran ahead of the locomotive with what they did. We'd have to burn down half of Russia if we followed this reasoning."

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