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17 May, 2021 15:21

Russia begins complex clean-up operation after huge 100-ton oil spill in remote Far North as authorities initiate criminal case

Russia begins complex clean-up operation after huge 100-ton oil spill in remote Far North as authorities initiate criminal case

Russia’s environmental watchdog, Rosprirodnadzor, has sprung into action after around 100 tons of oily liquid leaked from a pipeline into soil and a river in the Komi Republic, a hydrocarbon-rich area in the north of the country.

The liquid, around 40-50% of which is made up of oil, leaked last Tuesday near the town of Usinsk. Writing on social media, watchdog head Svetlana Radionova explained that an estimated 100 tons spilled overall, of which nine tons went into the Kolva River. The rest was absorbed into the soil. The pipeline is owned by Lukoil-Komi, a subsidiary of one of the country’s largest energy companies.

Since Wednesday, the day after the disaster, Rosprirodnadzor has been working at the site, spraying sorbents in an attempt to mitigate the disaster, which happened over an estimated area of 1.3 hectares; 230 Lukoil employees and contractors are also helping with the clean-up operation.

“Nature has suffered again. We will calculate damages and move forward to punish the guilty,” Radionova wrote on Instagram, noting a criminal case had already been started for the “violation of environmental protection rules.”

The village of Usinsk is located in Russia’s Far North, around 1,500km away from Moscow. It is one of the biggest settlements in Komi, a large, sparsely populated area. On Thursday, two days after the disaster, the republic’s head, Vladimir Uiba, arrived at the scene and said it could take “two or even three weeks” to eliminate the pollution.

By Sunday, the oil in the water had spread a few hundred kilometers to the village of Charkabozh, polluting two other rivers en route.

Speaking to radio station Echo of Moscow, local Communist Party member Oleg Mikhailov slammed the government’s response as “extremely insufficient,” noting that the authorities had failed to contain the spread of oil.

“Despite the assurances of the republic’s leadership… this oil continues to spill… and the villages of the Pechora District are under the threat of oil pollution,” he said.

Russia has been no stranger to serious oil spills in recent years. In May 2020, over 20,000 tons of diesel leaked into water and soil in Norilsk, also in the Far North. The leak was described by Russia’s first deputy minister of emergency situations, Alexander Chupriyan, as the worst in the “history of mankind.” As punishment, mining giant Norilsk Nickel was fined 145.5 billion rubles ($1.96bn).

Also on rt.com Mining giant owned by Russia’s richest man pays record $2 billion fine after fuel spill damages swathes of pristine Arctic land

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