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11 Jun, 2020 11:24

Criminal case opened against Norilsk mayor following massive Siberian oil spill that threatens Arctic Ocean

Criminal case opened against Norilsk mayor following massive Siberian oil spill that threatens Arctic Ocean

Nearly two weeks after an ecological disaster that has shocked environmental activists both in Russia and abroad, the top local official in Norilsk is to be prosecuted for ‘negligence.’

Mayor Rinat Akhmetchin is the subject of a criminal case over the oil spillage. According to investigators, Akhmetchin knew about the amount of fuel leaked but failed to take the necessary measures to tackle the initial damage. He is being charged with “non-fulfillment of his official duties during an emergency.”

Specifically, prosecutors allege that he neglected to properly coordinate the work of the city administration and didn’t organize sufficient environmental monitoring.

On May 29, about 20,000 tons of fuel was spilled after an accident at the Norilsk-Taimyr energy company, which belongs to the Norilsk Nickel company – owned by billionaire Vladimir Potanin. The diesel seeped into the soil and also contaminated nearby reservoirs that supply water to the local population. New data suggests oil has also been found in the already heavily polluted Pyasino glacier lake, some 20km from the city.

Norilsk, a former center for Gulag labor camps, is the world’s northernmost large city, lying inside the Arctic Circle. It’s home to the largest-known nickel-copper-palladium deposits in the world. While this makes the area economically viable, the side effects have created huge pollution and the locality is notorious for acid rain and smog.

Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service lists Norilsk as the most polluted city in the country. It has no rail or road connections to the rest of Russia, and lies 1,500km from the regional capital Krasnoyarsk and almost 3,000km from Moscow.

Also on rt.com Prosecutors probe major fuel spill in Russia as Arctic incident becomes federal-level emergency

On June 3, a visibly angry President Vladimir Putin demanded that the incident be dealt with as a federal-level emergency. According to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, the clean-up will take at least 10 years. Potanin told Putin that his company will cover all expenses (estimated at over $150 million).

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