İrem UZUN -TDO- Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state of emergency after 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel spilled into a river inside the Arctic Circle. Putin dedicated federal resources to the clean-up effort, saying local officials had been inefficient in dealing with the disaster. "A portion of the petroleum products have spilt into the Ambarnaya River, a significant portion," Putin said in a meeting with senior officials, according to a Kremlin transcript.
The spill occurred when a fuel reservoir at a power plant near the city of Norilsk collapsed on Friday. The plant is operated by a division of Nornickel, whose factories in the area have made the city one of the most heavily polluted places on Earth. During a video conference on Wednesday that was broadcasted on television, Putin lambasted the head of the Nornickel subsidiary that owns the power plant, NTEK, after officials said the company failed to report the incident. The power plant's director Vyacheslav Starostin has been taken into custody until 31 July, but not yet charged.
The incident has prompted stark warnings from environmental groups, who say the scale of the spill and geography of the river mean it will be difficult to clean up. Oleg Mitvol, former deputy head of Russia's environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, said there had "never been such an accident in the Arctic zone". He said the clean-up could cost 100 billion roubles and take between five and 10 years. Alexei Knizhnikov from the World Wildlife Fund's Russian branch said the effect on fish and other resources could result in more than 1 billion rubles of damage.