Russian military called in to fight Siberian forest fires

Russian military called in to fight Siberian forest fires”

The Russian military on Wednesday joined efforts to fight forest fires that have engulfed almost 30,000 square kilometers of territory in Siberia and the Russian Far East - an area the size of Belgium.

Late Wednesday, the White House issued a statement saying President Donald Trump had spoken with Putin earlier in the day and "expressed concern over the vast wildfires afflicting Siberia".

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Putin had been briefed and had ordered the defence ministry to help put out the fires and also to permanently station a firefighting unit in Siberia's Irkutsk region, one of the affected areas, until further notice.

Putin's office thanked Trump for the offer, but denied USA assistance - telling him he had already instructed Russia's Defense Ministry to assist in putting out the fires.

Putin was reportedly flattered by Trump's gesture, understating it to be a 'guarantee of the future restoration of full-fledged bilateral relations, ' between the U.S. and Russian Federation.

"In the future, it will be possible to restore full-format relations between the two countries", the Kremlin said, quoting Putin. Russian Federation has declared a national emergency in five Siberian regions and deployed the military to help battle the blazes. People in the most severely affected regions say the sun is being blocked out by the smoke and it's becoming increasingly hard to breath.

A view through an aircraft window shows smoke from wildfires rising above the Zhigansky district of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia.

The fires have been mostly in remote areas and no injuries or evacuations have been reported. It's believed they were first started by lightning strikes during "dry thunderstorms".

"The situation is hard", said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, while surveying scorched areas in the Krasnoyarsk region. 'Many forests are burning, smog and smoke are observed over many populated areas. "The prognosis at this moment is not happy".

US relations with Russian Federation have deteriorated to their lowest levels since the end of the Cold War after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, backed separatist fighters in the Donbas, and interfered in the 2016 USA presidential election. Those forest fires, it said, were not being fought because the costs and risks of doing so were higher than the potential damages the fires could cause to unpopulated areas.

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