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Putin alarmed over ‘unprecedented’ natural disasters in Russia

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / Sputnik / AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said the scale of natural disasters that have hit Russia this year has been “absolutely unprecedented”.

Speaking at a video conference with officials on the effects of Siberia’s record-setting forest fires, he said it was “important” to work on the climate agenda “systematically.”

While Siberia sees an annual wildfire season each summer, the fires have burned with an increasing intensity in recent years, which Russian weather officials and environmentalists have linked to climate change.

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The leaders of Siberian regions affected by the fires, as well as of a southern Russian region affected by floods, took part in the conference.

“In the south (of Russia), the monthly norm of rainfall now falls in a few hours and in the Far East on the contrary, forest fires in drought conditions are spreading rapidly,” Putin said.

He called on authorities to be ready to evacuate more people living in areas affected by the fires, as well as provide economic support for them.

He also called on officials to calculate the effects of the fires and make plans to reconstruct houses.

The Russian leader said it was important to do everything to “save the forest riches” and “minimise damage for animals of the taiga”, a word used to describe northern Russian forests.

This week Russia launched a national response centre and deployed additional firefighters to battle the devastating Siberian fires.

In Yakutia, one of the hardest-hit regions this year, fires have already burned through more than 9.4 million hectares (23.2 million acres) — an area larger than Portugal.

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