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Smog veils city as Red Square is hit by red heat

Moscow sweltered through its hottest day since records began 130 years ago yesterday, as temperatures hit 37.4C, sparking peat fires that blanketed the city in smog.

A heatwave has engulfed central parts of Russia and Siberia since June, destroying crops covering an area the size of Portugal. Green groups, including Greenpeace, say the temperatures are evidence of global warming.

“The all-time record has been broken. We have never recorded a day this hot before,” said Gennady Yeliseyev, of Russia’s state weather agency.

“The new record could be broken by Wednesday,” he said.

Muscovites have struggled to deal with the heat, with most electronics retailers selling out of fans and air conditioners.

Russian grain prices soared last week as the drought took hold. The Agriculture Ministry said on Friday that by July 22 drought had killed crops over 38,600 square miles.

Muscovites’ discomfort was compounded by a blanket of smog, whose sharp, cinder-filled smell permeated the city and crept into offices, homes and restaurants.

The emergencies ministry said 34 peat fires and 26 forest fires were blazing yesterday in the area surrounding Moscow, covering 59 hectares.

“Muscovites will have to inhale smoke for another two to two-and-a-half months,” said Alexei Yaroshenko, head of the forest programme at Greenpeace Russia.

The Moscow government agency overseeing air pollution, Mosekomonitoring, told Reuters the amount of harmful impurities in Moscow’s air exceeded the norm by up to eight times.

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