In Brief

Russia battles to clean up ‘worst ever’ oil spill in Arctic

State of emergency declared following leakage of more than 21,000 tons of diesel in Siberia

Russian officials battling to contain a massive oil spill in the Arctic Circle have warned that the clean-up operation may take years. 

President Vladimir Putin has declared a state of emergency over the leakage of more than 21,000 tons of diesel in northern Siberia - “one of the largest oil spills in Russian history”, says Deutsche Welle.

According to the authorities, the spill originated from a storage tank at a thermal power station that “burst last week after settling into permafrost that had stood firm for years but gave way during a warm spring”, The New York Times reports.

Environmental groups are comparing the spill - at a plant operated by a subsidiary of metals giant Norilsk Nickel in the city of Norilsk - to the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska. 

The diesel has spread to a freshwater lake near the Arctic Sea “that is a major source of water for the region”, says The Guardian.

And efforts to prevent the spilled fuel from reaching the ocean are being hampered by strong winds, Euronews reports. 

Aleksey Chupriyan, Russia’s first deputy emergency minister, said: “Today we clean up the spot at one place, tomorrow at another one. We have to move constantly, and it means moving both people and equipment.”

Meanwhile, investigators have detained the director of the power station and two engineers on suspicion of breaching environmental protection rules.

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Norilsk Nickel is owned by the wealthiest man in Russia, Vladimir Potanin, who is worth an estimated $25bn (£19.75bn).

Potanin has said that his company will pay for the clean-up, which is expected to cost an estimated $146m (£115m). 

But enviromentalists have warned that the spill may have devastating consequences for local wildlife. 

“We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds and poisoned animals,” said Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects for WWF Russia.

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