, MOSCOW, March 28 – The total number of Russia\’s time zones fell from 11 to nine on Sunday as part of an initiative backed by President Dmitry Medvedev to tighten the sprawling country\’s economic integration.
Russia\’s far eastern regions of Kamchatka and Chukotka, located near the US state of Alaska, went from being nine hours ahead of Moscow to eight, putting them in the same time zone as the neighbouring Magadan region.
In the European part of Russia, the Samara and Udmurtia regions, which had earlier been one hour ahead of Moscow and had enjoyed the status of being in their own time zone, were brought into Moscow time.
The elimination of the Samara-Udmurtia time zone — which was carried out despite opposition from many Samara residents — means there is now a two-hour difference between the Moscow time zone and the next zone to the east.
The feat of eliminating two time zones was accomplished by having residents of Kamchatka, Chukotka, Samara and Udmurtia not set their clocks forward as Russia switched to daylight savings time on Sunday.
A fifth region, the coal-rich Kemerovo region of southern Siberia, also did not set its clocks forward, bringing it from the Krasnoyask time zone into the Omsk time zone, which is one hour closer to Moscow.
The decrees ordering the time zone reshuffle were signed earlier this month by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, but the idea originated with Medvedev, who surprised many observers when he first proposed it last November.
Medvedev said eliminating time zones could help the residents of some remote Russian regions, but critics have derided his idea as silly and proof that he is a weak leader incapable of implementing substantive reforms.