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9 Apr, 2019 14:53

‘I pity the bears’: Putin calls on Arctic developers to respect climate and wildlife

‘I pity the bears’: Putin calls on Arctic developers to respect climate and wildlife

Russian President Vladimir Putin has highlighted the growing threat to the Arctic region’s flora and fauna, warning that Arctic development must take into account “the poor bears.”

“Of the most important threats in the Arctic, the biggest, I think, is environmental,” Putin told leaders at the International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

“I pity the bears, polar bears in this case,” he added. “But I speak figuratively, for all the fauna. Because in connection with warming, and in connection with the possible economic development of the Arctic zone, of course, the risks increase. We have to take this into account.”

Managing development and conservation in the Arctic region is a delicate balancing act. 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon resources sit below the frozen ground there, but the Arctic is also home to more than 20,000 species of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms.

Putin himself has gotten up close and personal with polar bears before, traveling into the Arctic Circle with the Russian Geographical Society in 2010 to fit a tracking collar to one of the 500-pound (230kg) beasts. Declaring the bear “the real master of the Arctic,” Putin called for a cleanup of the region, which he said “turned into a garbage dump” after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

“The reduction in the surface of the ice sheet, the melting of the ice, all this adds to the complications in the conditions of life” of the polar bears, he said at the time.

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