Over three thousand forest fires have already been recorded in Russia in 2003, covering an area of 130 thousand hectares of land. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced by Russian Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu at a meeting of the Federation Council yesterday. 70 thousand hectares of forest were destroyed by fire during the spring of 2003, a 100% increase on last year. This figure includes all the subjects of the Russian Federation except for the North West Federal District, Mr Shoigu pointed out. He said the most critical areas are currently Siberia and the Far Eastern regions. The main reasons for the spread of forest fires and their increasing destructiveness are the 'shortage of fire rescue services and poor quality fire-fighting equipment.' The minister added that about twenty thousand people in Russia are killed in fires every year. One quarter of all the fire victims in the world are Russian.