Trump offers Putin help with Siberian wildfires

Massive fires in Russia's Siberia

Massive fires in Russia's Siberia

But the fires, which were being spread by strong winds, have produced heavy smoke has clogged the air in several cities, including Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city with a population of 1.6 million in southwestern Siberia. Russian President Vladimir Putin appreciates US President Donald Trump's offer to help with extinguishing wildfires in Siberia as a signal that Moscow and Washington will manage to fully normalize relations in the future, the Kremlin press service said on Wednesday.

Wildfires in Russian Federation have already spread to around 7.4 million acres of mostly remote forest, an area nearly the size of Belgium, wafting smoke across Siberia and prompting several regions to declare states of emergency.

The acrid smoke has affected not only remote villages and small towns but major cities such as Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk.

Ten planes and 10 helicopters with firefighting equipment are being deployed in the region.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the city of Krasnoyarsk on Wednesday and gave a glum assessment of the forest fires.

A state of emergency was earlier declared in the Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk regions, two areas of the Republic of Buryatia and one area of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

People living there have uploaded images to social media showing roads hazy with smoke and the sun barely visible in the sky.

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The majority of the fires, however, are raging in remote or inaccessible areas. Authorities make the decision to extinguish them only if the estimated damage exceeds the cost of the operation.

Temperatures in Siberia were already eight to 10 degrees Celsius above average for the season, he said.

No injuries or evacuations have been reported so far from the fires, many of which appear to have been started by lightning strikes in "dry thunderstorms" in which precipitation disperses before reaching the ground.

Summer fires are common in Russian Federation but this year they have spread further than usual.

A spokesman for the environmental organisation told the Echo of Moscow radio station that the involvement of the military would not "drastically change" the situation with the forest fires.

"As a rule, bringing in the help of army units is ineffective because soldiers don't know how to put out fires", Grigory Kuksin, the Greenpeace activist, was quoted as saying. Greenpeace also planned to submit a petition with more than 200,000 signatures to the Russian government urging a better response to wildfires and more preventive action.

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