Georgia — Up to 280 hectares (692 acres) of forests have been burnt or are alight in Georgia after its conflict with Russia, the WWF said Wednesday, warning that key conservation areas were under threat.
In a statement, it called on “all parties capable of helping put out forest fires in central Georgia to work together to extinguish them”.
The fires are centred in the Borjomi-Kharagauli area, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of the strategic city of Gori, some 60 kilometres from the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
Georgia’s foreign ministry had said Saturday that the Borgomi Gorge area had been targeted by Russian helicopters dropping firebombs in a dozen locations.
But a Russian defence ministry spokesman was quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti saying that Russia had “nothing to do with the forest fire in Borjomi”, and that they were ready to help the Georgians douse the flames if asked.
The WWF said the threatened areas were home to the rare Caucasian red deer and Caucasian salamander. Brown bears, lynx and wolves are also found here.
“Observers on the ground have indicated to WWF that 250 to 280 hectares of forest on both sides of the Kura River have been burned or are alight,” said the WWF.
Some fires have also been reported inside the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, about 125 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Tbilisi.
The source of Borjomi mineral water — one of Georgia’s top exports — is located in the park.