- - Sunday, August 12, 2012

MOSCOW — Russian Cossacks on horseback Sunday kicked off a two-month friendly march on Paris to mark the bicentenary of a key battle Russia fought against Napoleon that led to an eventual French defeat.

The commemorative horse trek spanning some 1,560 miles and estimated to cost $2.5 million is supported by the Russian government and comes amid a drive to boost Russia’s global standing.

Twenty-three Cossacks will retrace the Russian army’s march on Paris from 1812 to 1814, passing through Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Germany and France — part of state-orchestrated festivities to mark the 1812-1813 war.

In September, the country marks the 200th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of Borodino outside Moscow that Russian forces fought against Napoleon in 1812.

Although the epic battle was lost by Russia, it greatly weakened Napoleon’s army and led to France’s eventual defeat.


Wildfires threaten precious parks

EL CERCADO — Fierce wildfires forced the evacuation of thousands of residents and were threatening some of Spain’s most precious natural parks, including one that is a U.N. world heritage site, officials said Sunday.

Fires on the Canary islands of La Gomera and Tenerife led to the evacuation of more than 4,000 residents beginning late Saturday and the cutting off of many roads as precautionary measures, the regional government said.

By midafternoon Sunday, residents still were not allowed to return to 18 towns and villages that had been evacuated, eight on the popular tourist island of Tenerife and 10 on La Gomera, the government said.

A statement said firefighting crews working on the islands were “finding it difficult to limit the spread of fire.”

“We are living through hell. We have asked the central government for more resources with which to fight the fire,” said Casimimo Curbelo, local government leader of La Gomera.

At the heart of his island is Garajonay National Park, which experts say contains woodlands that have survived since the Tertiary age, 11 million years ago.

Water-carrying aircraft that doused flames when the fire first broke out there a week ago were sent elsewhere after officials decided the outbreak had been brought under control, only to find it was rekindled by winds and high temperatures, said regional official Nancy Melo.

Due to the islands’ location, 850 miles off Spain’s southwestern tip, it can take up to a day for propeller-driven firefighting planes to return once deployed back to the mainland.


Cameron: Officials face athletic honors overload

LONDON — Britain’s prime minister says the officials charged with doling out the country’s knighthoods and other honors will have their work cut out for them in the wake of the London Olympics.

David Cameron told journalists Sunday that the Britain’s haul of gold medals in the 2012 Games means there will be plenty of options when deciding who Queen Elizabeth II will reward in her semiannual honors list.

Sportsmen and sportswomen are staples of the honors list, which is intended to recognize people from all walks of life for merit, gallantry or service.

Olympians who already have received knighthoods include champion rower Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Chris Hoy, the Scottish cyclist who won his sixth career gold medal in London.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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