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Russia: Fires bring rage and disbelief

Villagers who lost loved ones and homes turn on the government.

Lidia Luchkina, 60, spoke through tears.

“Everything burned down, everything we had. This is all I managed to take,” she said, holding up a purse. “Putin said he would give every family a house, that he would personally take care of it. We hope he won’t cheat us.”

Luchkina, like many of Mokhovoye’s residents, had lived in the village for nearly her entire life. Just a three-hour drive from traffic-filled, neon-lit Moscow, the region looks like another world. Cows wade in the river, while goats and chickens waddle on the streets.

Ivlev’s eyes shine for a brief moment as he tells how the village came together to mark his 50th anniversary of moving there. “They gave us 4,000 rubles ($135), 100 grams of Champagne and chocolate.”

Now everything is gone. People here tend to be deeply religious, and on Wednesday afternoon an Orthodox priest visited the dormitory in Beloomut to provide comfort.

“Of course, [the fire] happened because of our sins,” Father Vladimir said. “We have people who don’t go to church, who don’t treat the forests with respect. This is the punishment. God sees everything.”

In Mokhovoye, an eerie silence covered the village’s charred grounds. There were no signs of life, aside from one man who had come to recover some possessions from one of the buildings that remained standing. When asked if he felt lucky to have survived, he said: “Yes. As lucky as a dead man.”