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Russia Bans Wheat Exports as Drought Worsens, Wildfires Rage

Russia - one of the world's largest wheat exporters - has imposed a ban on grain exports due to an extended drought, wildfires and record-high temperatures ravaging much of the country.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the ban Thursday, as part of a push to control domestic prices for wheat products and livestock feed. The ban begins August 15 and is scheduled to end in December.

Russia slashed its grain harvest forecast last week by 20 percent, as drought and high temperatures spawned hundreds of wildfires that destroyed entire villages and at least one key military base near Moscow.

Fifty people have been found dead in the smoldering ruins of rural homes in western and central Russia.

Temperatures in Moscow have hovered near 40 C for more than a week, as parched residents battle choking smog and smoke from peat fires burning just outside the city.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.