Florence Gervais d’Aldin got hooked on Russia at an early age when the Soviet Navy dropped anchor in Cherbourg, a port in northern France.
Eleven years old at the time, she ignored the initially frosty reception that the Soviet sailors received and experienced the warmth and boisterousness of Russian company, which left a lasting impression.
“In the evening there was singing and dancing, and I experienced the Russian soul,” d’Aldin said in an interview. “I was lost because what I saw was totally warm and — especially when you are young — you cannot be insensitive to this spectacle. From this, I wanted to learn Russian and had the will to go where I was told not to.”
A subsequent high school trip to Moscow, where she used the excuse of preparing for her diploma to skip the teachers’ prearranged tours and explore with a friend, piqued her interest in the still-closed country yet further.
“I was totally shocked. I visited in 1983. There was no advertising, nothing in the shops, and lines everywhere,” she said.
The brief excursion also marked the first time that d’Aldin made money on Russian soil, as Muscovites — amazed by the plastic bags that the teens were carrying — came up to them and bought up the bags with relish.
MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday banned all exports of grain after millions of acres of Russian wheat withered in a severe drought, driving up prices around the world and pushing them to their highest level in two years in the United States.
The move was the latest of several abrupt interventions in the Russian economy by Mr. Putin, who called the ban necessary to curb rising food prices in the country. Russia is suffering from the worst heat wave since record-keeping began here more than 130 years ago.
“We need to prevent a rise in domestic food prices, we need to preserve the number of cattle and build up reserves for next year,” Mr. Putin said in a meeting broadcast on television. “As the saying goes, reserves don’t make your pocket heavy.”
Wheat prices in Europe reached a two-year high this week after Russian officials announced that extreme heat and drought had decimated roughly 20 percent of the country’s winter crop. Prices retreated slightly after the country’s Agriculture Ministry said that Russia, the world’s third-largest wheat exporter, would use its stocks to maintain exports.
Despite the reassurances, financial markets remained concerned that the wheat losses could be higher than projected, The Financial Times reported. Meteorological reports indicate that hot, dry weather in Russia will continue until mid-August.
Poor growing weather has also stunted wheat harvests in other countries, including Canada, where unusually heavy rains will reduce yields by about 17 percent. Ukraine faces an even more severe grain shortage after a growing season marked by drought and floods, leading government officials to impose a wheat export ban. Meanwhile, hot, dry weather in Western Europe is expected to reduce production of a wide swath of food commodities.