“Isn’t it going well in your head?” In front of his giant screen, Vladimir Putin is fuming. He rolls his shoulders, clenches his jaws, delves into his notes. He is facing him, visible on one of the windows of his videoconference, the manager of the accused company. “So, Sergei Valerievitch Lipine, how is it that we hear such news two days later? Are we now going to discover emergency situations through social networks? “We sent the notification on time,” replied the other. “You hear me, Lipine, I’m going to order an investigation to find out who transmitted what and how we reacted,” says Putin.
That day, Putin decides to let the Kremlin cameras film his anger. In question ? Fuel spill in an arctic river. An ecological disaster caused by the collapse of the diesel tank of a thermal power plant. Or 20,000 tonnes of oil released into the wild, near Norilsk. One more curse for this city considered to be the most polluted in the country due to the presence of the metallurgical company Norilsk Nickel, the world’s leading producer of nickel. However, it is one of its NTEK subsidiaries which is today being indicted.
An event comparable to that of Exxon Valdez in terms of impact on the environment.
“It is the first time that such a disaster has taken place in Russia beyond the Arctic Circle,” said Vassili Yablokov of Greenpeace in Moscow. In this season, during rising sea levels, pollution will extend over several thousand kilometers. The NGO representative goes even further. “It’s an event comparable to that ofExxon Valdez in terms of impact on the environment, “he said, referring to the oil spill triggered in 1989 by the stranding of an American oil tanker on the Alaska coast. A consequence linked to the nature of the product. “Diesel is more toxic to wildlife and spreads more easily. “
Yet you are the governor!
The day of the videoconference with Putin, the region’s governor, Alexander Ouss, even admits his helplessness. “I don’t know how long the cleaning operation can take,” he says. “Yet you are the governor! Retorts Putin.
The Minister of the Environment, Dmitri Kobilkine, is also struggling to find a solution. He did suggest burning the escaped fuel before changing his mind. “I cannot imagine a huge fire over such an area,” he said. The only certainty: if the authorities seriously start cleaning up the area, the cost promises to be high. Up to 1 billion euros, estimates Greenpeace.
Read also Arctic Circle Ravaged by “Unprecedented” Fires
For the time being, the origins of the leak remain unknown. We are pointing to climate change. Under the effect of the permafrost melt, the pillars of the reservoir would have collapsed. We also talk about the collision of a car which would have resulted in a fire. Finally, the dilapidated infrastructure dating back thirty years would have played a role. In 2016, Norilsk Nickel had already negligently sinned by dumping its chemicals into a river in the Far North, which suddenly turned red.
Read also The Arctic soon at the heart of military tensions
This time, however, the matter is more serious. Putin has declared a national state of emergency and three criminal investigations are under way.