Russia’s Emergencies Ministry dismissed on Tuesday reports on planned massive cuts of its firefighting personnel.
“We do not plan any cuts. This information is false,” a ministry spokesperson told journalists.
A source close to the ministry told RIA Novosti earlier on Monday that the Emergencies Ministry was planning to cut 20 percent of its firefighting personnel, or about 40,000 people, in the near future.
Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov later confirmed the ministry was carrying out personnel cuts, but said they were only affecting administrative stuff, while the number of rescuers and firefighters was increasing.
“There is a plan approved by the Russian president. It stipulates, among others, the optimization of the number of firefighters, military and federal officials,” he explained.
The overall number of Emergencies Ministry officials to be affected by cuts is “about 30 percent,” he said.
“We are not talking about any additional decisions [regarding personnel cuts],” he added.
Russia has an appalling fire safety record. Some 12,000 people died in fires across the country in 2011, according to Emergencies Ministry figures. The United States, with twice the population of Russia, saw around five times fewer fire-related fatalities.