EU, neighbours assemble firefighting brigade for Russia

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Some 500 firefighting soldiers have been assembled by seven European Union nations and six more near-Russian neighbours in an offer of aid as Moscow battles wildfires amid its worst ever heatwave.

A spokesman for the European Commission, the EU's day-to-day executive, said an international brigade had been pooled from individual initiatives drawn from EU member states Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton was also due to hold telephone talks with Russia's foreign affairs minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

The non-EU contingents come from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine.

Between these 13 countries, 471 soldiers and military experts with firefighting expertise have been sent to Russia alongside seven helicopters and other firefighting equipment.

© 2010 AFP

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