MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia’s military to join efforts to fight forest fires that have engulfed nearly 30,000 square kilometers (11,580 sq. miles) of territory in Siberia and the Russian Far East.
The order was reported Wednesday by state news agencies, which did not specify what actions the military would take.
The fires, whose total area is equivalent to the size of Belgium, have cast a pall of smoke over much of Russia’s eastern half and the smoke reportedly has crossed into Mongolia.
Avialesookhrana, Russia’s agency for aerial forest firefighting, said Wednesday that about 28,000 square kilometers (10,800 sq. miles) of the fires are in difficult-to-reach areas and are not being fought because the costs and risks of doing so are higher than the potential damage that could be caused to the unpopulated areas.