Forest fire smoke drifts into Russian capital amid heatwave

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian firefighters worked to tackle blazes burning through forests southeast of Moscow on Thursday as residents of the capital complained of sweltering heat and the pungent smell of smoke.

Smoke has drifted into Moscow this week from the Ryazan region, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, where officials have been scrambling personnel to put out the fires.

The region's acting governor, Pavel Malkov, said helicopters had been flown in to tackle the blazes and that more than 300 firefighters were working on the ground.

Although the smell of smoke in Moscow had noticeably dissipated later in the day, Malkov said he feared strong winds pushing smoke into other regions could continue.

"Precipitation is not expected, and fairly strong winds are still forecast," Malkov said.

Temperatures are expected to reach as high as 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 Fahrenheit) next week in Moscow, where an orange weather warning is in place due to the hot weather. Moscow recorded its hottest temperature, 38.2 degrees, in 2010 when a massive forest fire covered the city in a thick layer of smog.

Separately, authorities in the Russian Baltic coast exclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between Poland and Lithuania, have reported grass fires amid abnormally hot weather.

Wildfires have intensified in Russia in recent years due to hotter weather caused by climate change.

Environmentalists fear that fires and high temperatures could thaw the Siberian permafrost and peatlands, releasing carbon that has long been stored in the frozen tundra.

(Reporting by Caleb Davis; Editing by David Holmes)

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