Updated at 16:23,20-06-2018

Putin thanks Belarusian, other foreign pilots for help in battle against wildfires


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on August 17 handed out gifts to members of Russian and foreign air crews who were involved in efforts to fight the country’s devastating forest fires.

Belarusian firefighters were among those honored.

The ceremony took place at the Ramenskoye Airport 40 kilometers southeast of Moscow that is used by the Russian emergency management ministry, RIA Novosti reported.

Mr. Putin gave the pilots watches featuring "On behalf of the chairman of the Russian Federation’s government" and thanked them for the assistance.

At least 53 people lost their lives in the fires in Russia, while the mortality rate in Moscow doubled to more than 700 a day.

More than 166,000 people, as well as 62 planes and helicopters were involved in the battle against the blazes. A number of foreign countries, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Italy, France and Turkey, sent teams and firefighting equipment to Russia.

On August 5, the Belarusian emergency management ministry sent a 150-strong team with more than 20 fire engines and a Mi-8 helicopter to the Ryazan province. The helicopter was expected to be flown back to the country on Tuesday after it was used in firefighting efforts in Russia`s Tambov province for more than a week. Other members of the team are to stay in the neibhoring country until August 22 or 23.