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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Air quality levels in Moscow tumbled to an eight-year low on Wednesday as the Russian capital was blanketed in thick smoke from forest and peat fires, said Moscow's state agency for monitoring air pollution.

A heatwave has engulfed central parts of European Russia since mid June, pushing temperatures to the highest levels since records began and sparking forest fires that have killed at least 48 people.

"Air pollution surged four to ten times (above the maximum safe levels) in the early morning hours, which is an new high," Elena Lezina, an expert at the Moscow state agency that monitors air pollution, told Reuters.

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