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With war still raging in Ukraine, Russian leader Vladimir Putin faces a “second front” in the east with massively destructive wildfires breaking out across Siberia.
Towering flames reach into apocalyptic black skies across three vast regions of Siberia – Omsk, Tyumen and Krasnoyarsk.
As Putin’s war reached a new intensity 1,700 miles away in the Donbas, a woman in Tyumen asked: “Why are the gods so angry?”
Terrified wild animals fleeing the inferno were captured on video as the fires tore across acres of permafrost.
It’s an unusually early start of 2022 wildfire season in Russia, with massive fires raging across vast spaces of Western, Central, Southern and Eastern Siberia.
In Krasnoyarsk region, 1,400 miles east of Tyumen, more than 60 houses were destroyed in the blaze.
Choking smoke engulfed the major cities of Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk.
Greenpeace Russia said that the alarming wildfires are covering double the area compared with this time last year.
But the burning is more widespread than officials have registered, with some forests out of control, said spokesman Aleksey Yaroshenko.
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Many are believed to have been caused by people illegally burning grass, with the flames fuelled by strong winds.
Putin’s regional governments across Siberia put in emergency measures to handle the raging wildfires.
A UN climate report in February warned that the climate crisis, combined with land use changes, is driving larger and more erratic wildfires across many regions.
Siberia, along with the US West, central India, Australia, and southern Europe are just some of the areas that have seen massively destructive fires in the past few years.
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According to recent data sourced from the Russian Forestry Agency by Greenpeace, Russia is experiencing its worst forest fire season in modern history,
Jessica McCarty, a fire ecologist at Miami University in Ohio, told National Geographic: “Siberia has always been burning,”.
“It has extreme fire seasons. But when I talk to my colleagues who live in Siberia, they don’t talk about this as if it’s normal or indicative of the past.”
Fires destroyed more than 70,000 square miles of Russian forest in 2021, a record since records began.
“For the past several years, when the area of the fires has surpassed 15m hectares (58,000 sq mi), it has become, in all likelihood, the new normal in the conditions of the new climate reality,” Greenpeace Russia said.
As wildfires rage in Siberia, they thaw permafrost, releasing carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere and increasing the risk of further fires. Methane in particular has particularly potent greenhouse heating impacts in the short-term.
Unlike the forest fires that raged across Australia and the US, which depend on dry vegetation for their fuel, the Arctic fires are burning the Earth itself.
Some experts believe that “zombie fires’ which have been smouldering underground since last summer could be partly responsible for a recent outbreak of new fires in Siberia.
- Vladimir Putin
- Russia Ukraine war
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