President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday warned Russia’s two top naval commanders and fired a string of other top officers for failing to prevent wildfires reaching a military base last week.
Mr Medvedev said he had taken a decision to formally warn the head of the Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky and his deputy Alexander Tatarinov over “incomplete professional responsibility.”
“I order the ministry of defence to fire a whole number of officers for the disciplinary infringements that were allowed to take place,” the president added in televised comments.
Officials also for the first time on Tuesday confirmed fires from the countryside had ripped through a naval logistics base in Kolomna, southeast of Moscow, last week and destroyed office buildings and warehouses and equipment.
The damage was colossal: the staff headquarters, financial department, 13 warehouses containing aeronautical equipment and 17 storage areas containing vehicles were destroyed in the blaze.
“If something similar happens in other places and departments, I will act in the same way, without any pity,” Medvedev added.
Meanwhile, hundreds of new forest fires today thwarted efforts by Russia to contain the worst blazes in its modern history as President Medvedev interrupted his holiday for emergency crisis talks.
The area ablaze expanded by several thousand hectares in the past day as hundreds of new fires started in a disaster that has already claimed 48 lives, the emergencies ministry said.
Mr Medvedev, who was on his traditional summer break in the southern resort of Sochi, was returning to Moscow to chair an emergency meeting of the national security council on the fire situation.
The president has already imposed a state of emergency in the seven regions worst hit by the fires in European Russia. The heaviest death toll has been in the Nizhny Novgorod region east of Moscow.
“The main aim of the meeting is agreeing and adopting additional anti-fire measures for the security of important objects and strengthening their protection,” the Interfax news agency quoted the Kremlin as saying.
The authorities have been particularly concerned by wildfires burning around Sarov in central Russia, the location of the country’s top secret nuclear research facility and a city still closed to foreigners.