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MOSCOW—Russia made progress in putting out wildfires overnight, and there was less smoke engulfing the Moscow region, officials said Tuesday.
Russian firefighters are seeing a “positive dynamic” as blazes in the Yaroslav, Tula, Penza and Udmurtia regions were extinguished, and smoldering peat fires near Moscow shrunk by 30 hectares, Emergency Situations Ministry crisis center director Vladimir Stepanov said in a briefing. The skies over Moscow were noticeably less smoky Tuesday, with the sun clearly visible, and the forecast was for 34 degrees Celsius, below recent record temperatures.
No civilians perished in the past day from the fires, Mr. Stepanov said, leaving the death toll at around 50, but a member of the Russian armed forces was killed after a burning tree near the Sarov nuclear facility fell on his head, Interfax news agency reported.
The cost of the extreme heat and fires in Russia is estimated at $15 billion, or about 1% of gross domestic product, Kommersant daily reported, citing investment banks.
The human cost may also be high, with the death rate in Moscow rising 50% in July compared with a year earlier. The political toll is still being evaluated, with some analysts saying the party of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may suffer as food prices rise as a result of the drought-ravaged grain harvest.