Putin takes to the skies to tackle fires

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Putin takes to the skies to tackle fires

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken to the air in a firefighting plane to tackle wildfires sweeping through western Russia.

It was broadcast on television as Putin tried to show strong leadership during the crisis to boost his flagging poll ratings.

The fires could also take their toll on the Russian economy with the damage expected to wipe off one per cent from the country’s gross domestic product.

A dip in agricultural exports and lower productivity will add to up to an loss of some 10 billion euros, analysts say.

The hottest summer in decades has scorched more than a third of Russia’s wheat crop and prompted the government to ban wheat exports.

The acrid smog that has engulfed Moscow for a week continues to plague the city’s resident as pollution levels remain high.

Health authorities have set up one hundred special centres where Muscovites can come to cool off.

The city’s daily mortality rate has doubled to 700 deaths in recent days, while ambulance callouts have risen by a quarter.