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Russian Fires*

Moscow wrapped in smoke from wildfires

Eric Engleman

Associated Press

Published Aug 16, 2002 MOSCOW16

MOSCOW -- The Russian capital was wrapped in a blanket of smoke Thursday, but firefighters reported gaining ground on forest and peat fires in the Moscow region.

Bigger fires continued burning in Siberia, where nearly 3 million acres of forest have been destroyed.

The hazy smoke shrouded Moscow's taller buildings and residents complained of stinging eyes, breathing trouble and the strong smoky smell. A prevailing high pressure system with only light winds promised the smoky pall would linger several more days, said Alexei Lyakhev of Russia's state meteorological committee.

Thursday marked the second time this summer Moscow has been shrouded in smoke, but Viktor Sementin, an official with Russia's forest air defense service, said fires in the Moscow region were down to 46 from a peak of 137 earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, two of Russia's neighbors - Finland and Estonia - said smoke from fires in western Russia was drifting over their territory.

The Finnish Meteorological Service said it had detected smoke in southern Finland, including the capital Helsinki, most likely from fires around Lake Ladoga in western Russia.

Estonia said a cloud of smoke was hovering over its southeastern corner and offered Russia $18,000 in aid, including fire crews and equipment, to help put out blazes near the Estonian-Russian border. Thirty firefighters with expertise in fighting fires in marshy conditions could be sent to Russia immediately.

``It's also threatening us because the smoke's unhealthy and it's difficult for some people in the border area to breathe,'' said Daniel Vaarik, an Estonian government spokesman.

(Original Len: 1910 Condensed Len: 2232)

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