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Russia turns down offers of firefighting assistance
Rajamäki: just one third of fires put out
Finland's Minister of the Interior Kari Rajamäki (SDP) says that Finland has been in constant contact with Russian officials over the forest fires burning near Finland.
Speaking at a press conference in Turku on Tuesday, Rajamäki said that while some of the forest fires on the Russian side of the border have been put out, satellite pictures indicate that 146 are still burning in areas close to Finland.
He also said that it had been confirmed the thick smoke in the Helsinki region on Monday came from forest fires in the Narva region, and not from a burning landfill. Rajamäki added that it was agreed during discussions involving three government ministries on Tuesday morning that the Meteorological Institute should monitor the smoke situation more closely, and issue warnings when necessary.
He reiterated previous statements according to which Finland has repeatedly offered its help in fighting the fires, but that Russia has not seen any need for it.
Finland and Russia have an agreement that makes it possible to provide such help.
"Unfortunately, it is not possible to act, if despite numerous attempts and offers, the Russians do not feel that there is a need for concrete help."
Rajamäki added that new guidelines need to be set up to improve communications and cooperation among officials in the two countries. He said that he has initiated preparations to meet Sergei Shoigu, Russia's Minister of Emergency Services, in Moscow as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) said on Monday that the Finnish government has been in contact with Russia several times over the fires burning in forests near Finland, and the Ministry of the Interior has offered its help in putting out the forest fires.
"We have been told that they have more than ten firefighting aircraft and enough personnel."
"Finland could offer only marginal help. The Finnish government hopes that Russian officials would understand the concerns of the Finns and would try to put the fires out."
Vanhanen adds that the fires are located in the middle of thick forests, making them difficult to access and put out.
The Finnish Prime Minister feels that logistical problems would make broader assistance from the European Union unfeasible.
"There is no precedent, and the use of the firefighting equipment of several countries, and working together, would require practice."