WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama told his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev that he was sending firefighting equipment and other aid to help Russia battle wildfires that have ravaged parts of the country, the White House said Friday.

"President Obama called President Medvedev yesterday to express his deepest condolences for the tragic losses that Russia has suffered in the recent wildfires," the White House said in a statement.

"USAID, the Department of Defense, the US Forest Service, and the state of California are mobilizing firefighting equipment and airlift to assist Russia in combating the wildfires."

The brief White House statement did not specify exactly what equipment would be sent to Russia, or whether teams of personnel would travel to the country, but stressed that the United States was "responding to Russia's request for technical assistance in combating the fires.

"The American people stand with the people of Russia in this difficult time."

Ties between Washington and Moscow have improved substantially since Obama took office in early 2009, after open discord between the countries over the war in Georgia the previous summer.

In April the two presidents signed a new START treaty for the mutual reduction of strategic nuclear weapons.

Medvedev's June visit to the White House was seen as particularly cordial, although the arrest 10 days later of 10 Russian spies in the United States revived concerns over lingering elements of the two nations' Cold War rivalry.

The US Agency for International Development said on its website that last week USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance provided 50,000 dollars for immediate humanitarian assistance and deployed two disaster management specialists to help "determine the need for any further assistance to support fire management efforts."

Russian authorities say more than 50 people have died in the fires, in the midst of a heat wave described by experts as the worst in the thousand-year history of the country.

According to Russian officials nearly 50,000 people were battling the fires, which may cost the country one percent of gross domestic product, or 15 billion dollars.