Random circumpolar news items almost daily since 26 November 2004.


Russia plans Arctic national park   

(Daily Telegraph (AU), 14 August 2007) -- RUSSIA is planning to create an Arctic Sea nature reserve, an official said, amid increasingly intense international competition to lay claims over the resource-rich territory. The ministry of natural resources has approved a proposal for a nature reserve called "The Russian Arctic" including territory around a group of far northern Russian islands in the Arctic Sea, a ministry spokesman said. The reserve would cover the archipelago of Franz Josef Land and Victoria Island, as well as 8.36 million hectares of surrounding sea, daily Vedomosti reported. Competing claims over Arctic territory by numerous countries, including Canada, Denmark, and the United States, have sharpened since a Russian expedition planted a Russian flag on the North Pole seabed on August 2. The Arctic Sea bed is thought to contain massive oil and gas reserves. The ministry spokeswoman denied the nature reserve initiative was in any way connected to Russia's territorial claims, saying: "This project started in 2001 and has nothing to do with the recent expeditions." The national park would have to be approved by the ministry of defence, which conducts naval manoeuvres in the area and has several outposts on the islands.

Posted 14 August 2007; 10:42:43 AM.  Permalink

Murmansk gets the world's first nuclear-powered oil drilling vessel   

(B-port.ru via BarentsObserver, 6 August 2007) -- The Murmansk Shipping Company will turn the nuclear-powered container carrier Sevmorput into a drilling vessel for the oil industry. The vessel will be ready for drilling operations in the Arctic within 18 months, the company announced this week. With the transformation, the world will see the first ever nuclear-powered oil and gas service vessel. The place of work for the vessel is likely to be the Arctic, and first of all the Barents Sea. General Director of Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO), Aleksandr Medvedev, says the transformation of the ship will be made at an unprecedented speed of 18 months. All construction works will be conducted at the Zvezdochka plant in Severodvinsk (Arkhangelsk Oblast), B-port.com reports. Mr. Medvedev says the transformation of the Sevmorput is part of his company's gradually stronger focus on the oil and gas industry. The Murmansk Shipping Company has for several years cooperated with oil major Lukoil about the development of terminal facilities in Varandey on the Barents Sea coast. The reconstruction of Sevmorput will put the MSCO in the position to become a substantial player in Arctic oil and gas industry. The Murmansk Shipping Company, which owns about 40 vessels with a deadweight of more than 0.75 million tons, is in charge of the state-owned Russian icebreaker fleet. The fleet totals nine vessel. The company also administrated the nuclear-powered Sevmorput. The Sevmorput was built at the Kerch ship building plant in the period 1982-1988. Since 1988, the Sevmorput has made 302,000 miles, carried more than 1.5 million tons of cargo with the nuclear reactor recharged only once.

Posted 6 August 2007; 6:33:14 PM.  Permalink

32-ton church bells reached Solovki   

(Newsru.com via BarentsObserver, 6 August 2007) -- A series of church bells with a total weight of 32 tons, all made by experts in Voronezh Oblast, are expected to arrive any day in the holy island of Solovki in the White Sea. The bells have travelled more than 2000 km, first by train and then by ship. The bells, the most heavy of which is 14 tons, will be installed in the Solovki monastery, one of the most holy places in the Russian North and a popular destination for pilgrims. With the shipment the monastery will have a total of 22 church bells. The Solovki monastery was built 570 years ago. It was closed by Soviet authorities in 1920 and subsequently used as a Comsomol camp site. It reopened as monastery in 1992.

Posted 6 August 2007; 5:58:36 PM.  Permalink

Russia to make to UN its stake to fix Arctic shelf limits   

(ITAR-TASS, 6 August 2007) -- MOSCOW - Russia plans to make a submission to the United Nations to fix the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean not earlier than in 2010, Sergei Fyodorov, the director of geology and use of subsoil resources department of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, said on Monday. If the UN commission supports the bid, Russia will get the right to develop oil-and-gas deposits on the Arctic Ocean floor. "According to our estimates and those of foreign colleagues, the potential of the continental part of the Arctic Ocean and of the extension of the continental part of the shelf is high," he said in a live broadcast of Radio Echo of Moscow. "Deposits have already been discovered in the Barents Sea, the Shtokman deposit, as well as deposits in the Kara Sea," he said. The eastern seas are not so well explored, Fyodorov said; because of difficult ice condition, wells were not sunk there to prospect for oil-and-gas deposits. But science develops, and it will become possible in near future to drill wells in the eastern seas of the Arctic shelf. "As to prospects, our assessment of them is very high," he added. Fyodorov said Russia made a submission to the United Nations commission on the limits of the continental shelf back in late 2001, but the commission then made remarks, also regarding the Lomonosov and Mendeleyev ridges, noting that it is necessary to supply more convincing geological and geophysical data confirming that these are the extension of the Russian continental shelf. Fyodorov said exploration was conducted in the Arctic region from 2005 to 2007. The latest expedition to the Lomonosov ridge ended in May-June 2007 and its data are now processed. He said a number of studies are to be carried out in 2008-2009 before the application is made to augment the application. "We hope that our submission will be satisfied as early as 2010," Fyodorov said. He said the Ministry of Natural Resources had already drafted a plan for the development of the shelf in the Arctic Ocean and referred it to the government.

Posted 6 August 2007; 1:31:10 PM.  Permalink

Derision greets Russian flag-planting exercise at North Pole   

(PM/RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 143, Part I, 6 August 2007 ) -- On August 3, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Manila that "the aim of the expedition," which planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, "is not to stake Russia's claim [to the North Pole] but to show that our shelf reaches [there]," news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 26 and August 3, 2007). President Vladimir Putin told members of the expedition by telephone that he is pleased with "the outstanding scientific project." State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov praised the expedition as "a new stage of developing Russia's polar riches. This is fully in line with Russia's strategic interests. I am proud our country remains the leader in conquering the Arctic." But U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters: "I'm not sure of whether they've put a metal flag, a rubber flag, or a bed sheet on the ocean floor. Either way, it doesn't have any legal standing or effect on this claim." Denmark, which also has claims in the area through Greenland, dubbed the Russian exercise "a meaningless stunt for the media." Canada has similarly ridiculed the Russian mission as a throwback to "the 15th century," when claims could be staked out by planting flags. Alaska's "Anchorage Daily News" quoted oceanographer Jamie Morison as saying on August 5 that scientists and tourists are frequent visitors to the area and "drop stuff down there all the time." The paper wondered mockingly if Moscow will next claim that Santa Claus is of Russian origin or seek to "take over" Christmas itself. Several Canadian dailies also suggested that Santa Claus might be Russia's next target, but also drew attention to the seriousness of the international competition for Arctic riches. Professor Harley Balzer of the U.S. Georgetown University jokingly wrote in "The Moscow Times" of August 6 that there are "10 reasons to go to the North Pole if you are a Russian leader." These include: "Putin will need a new job in March. If the crew of the Russian icebreaker remains at the North Pole until then, he could win the local election in a landslide" and "if the Russians don't claim the North Pole, [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez might beat them to it."

Posted 6 August 2007; 1:08:30 PM.  Permalink

US in denial about Russia’s planting flag on Arctic Ocean floor   

(Regnum, 6 August 2007) -- Representatives of the US State Department addressed members of the Russian Arctic expedition asserting that US authorities do not regard the Russian flag planted on the ocean floor under Arctic ice as signifying that the land under the ocean belongs to Russia, REGNUM correspondent reports referring to the management of the Murmansk Shipping Company. Alexander Begak, press secretary of the head of the expedition Artur Chilingarov, explained that nobody is asserting at this point with a 100-percent certainty that the land and fossil minerals under the Arctic ice are property of our country. The Russian tricolor flag planted at the depth of 4,200 meters is intended merely to indicate that Russian researchers were first to sample subsoil and microorganisms here in order to establish whether the shelf spreading from New Siberian Islands to the North Pole belongs to the territory of the Russia Federation. Earlier, representative of the US State Department Tom Casey made a statement that planting a flag is irrelevant from the legal point of view and cannot be viewed as a grounded claim for a territory. The REGNUM’s source in the Murmansk Shipping Company suggested that the US authorities issued such a loud statement since they were themselves interested in the natural resources in this part of the ocean floor. British The Times voiced the same sentiment, saying that planting of the flag could mark the beginning of the new war for resources.

Posted 6 August 2007; 11:59:06 AM.  Permalink

"Sovetskaya Arktika" ship wrecked on Yenisei River   

(Newslab.ru, Siberia News, 6 August 2007) -- The Sovetskaya Arktika ship was wrecked on the Yenisei River near the village of Kononovo, Sukhobuzimo District of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The private dry cargo carrier got stranded 100 km from Krasnoyarsk on Friday. The cause of the accident was that the steersman headed away from the fairway for some reason, the Yenisei River Steam Navigation press service reported. The ship was set afloat in 12 hours. Investigation of the cause of the accident is being undertaken by Krasnoyarsk Territory Directorate for State Marine and River Navigation Inspectorate (Gosmorrechnadzor). No damage was caused to the vessel, as Yuri Ryazanov, head of the regional department of Gosmorrechnadzor, said. It should only be found out why the steersman misled the vessel now, Ryazanov explained. Since the ship is privately owned, the Yenisei River Steam Navigation did not render assistance free of charge. The cost of the service will be assessed by the hour.

Posted 6 August 2007; 11:51:59 AM.  Permalink

Climate change threatens Siberian forests   

(University of Leicester press release via ScienceDaily, 5 August 2007) -- Catastrophic forest fire outbreaks in Siberia are happening more frequently because of climate change, new research suggests. In Central Siberia alone, fires have destroyed 38 000 km2 in the extreme fire year of 2003. In that year the smoke plumes were so huge that they caused air pollution as far as in the United States. An international team of scientists believes that Siberian fires are influenced by climate change. The study was led by the Professor Heiko Balzter of the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester. Professor Balzter said "Last century a typical forest in Siberia had about 100 years after a fire to recover before it burned again. But new observations by Russian scientist Dr Kharuk have shown that fire now returns more frequently, about every 65 years. At the same time annual temperatures in Siberia have risen by almost two degrees Celsius, about twice as fast as the global average. And since 1990 the warming of Siberia has become even faster than before." Global warming leads to warmer springs and causes plants to green up earlier. This has already been observed for the UK. Over Russia the scientists found similar trends towards an earlier spring.

Posted 5 August 2007; 1:49:58 PM.  Permalink

Russian Arctic expedition cost nearly four million dollars   

(AFP via Yahoo! News, 5 August 2007) -- MOSCOW - A Russian expedition to the Arctic, which ended with the national flag being planted in the seabed beneath the North Pole, cost nearly four million dollars (2.8 million euros), the organisers said Saturday. The expedition "cost nearly 100 million roubles," Ivan Frolov, head of the Russian Institute for Arctic and Antartic Research told the Moscow Echo radio station. He said the expedition was partly financed by Swedish businessman Frederik Paulsen and lasted 90 days. The six explorers reached the seabed in a mini-submarine at a depth of 4,261 meters (13,980 feet), to carry out scientific tests and leave a Russian flag. Billed as the first successful expedition to reach the ocean floor under the North Pole, the explorers hope to establish that section of seabed as an extension of Russia's landmass—a crucial claim if valuable natural resources are discovered there. But the assertion has been greeted with derision in much of the world, including in the United States and Canada.

Posted 5 August 2007; 3:04:19 AM.  Permalink

Russia claims Arctic seabed   

(NDTV.com, 4 August 2007)** -- MOSCOW - The first of two Russian mini-submarines that traveled to the Arctic Ocean floor at the North Pole has returned to the surface, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. The vice president of the Federation of Polar Explorers, Vladimir Strugatsky, said the Mir-1 mini-submarine has resurfaced safely after spending eight hours and 40 minutes under water, according to the news agency. Expedition organizers said the greatest risk facing the six crew members, three on each vessel, was being trapped under the ice and running out of air. Each sub had a 72-hour air supply. Strugatsky said the Mir-1 spent about 40 minutes near the surface before it found a patch of sea surface free of ice, the ITAR-Tass said. "That was difficult," expedition leader Artur Chilingarov, who was aboard the Mir-1 three-person sub, told a cheering crowd of colleagues who welcomed the crew with a loud "hurrah!" after the mini-sub was raised to the Akademik Fedorov research ship. In a perilous project mixing science, exploration and the scramble for potential oil and gas fields, crews of the Mir-1 and Mir-2 were engaged in what Russian authorities called the first dive to the ocean floor at Earth's northernmost point. The crew of the Mir-1 dropped a titanium capsule containing the nation's flag on the bottom, symbolically claiming almost half of the planet's northern polar region for Moscow.

Posted 5 August 2007; 2:58:17 AM.  Permalink

"Economic development will hinder conflicts in Arctic"   

(MurmanNews via BarentsObserver, 3 August 2007) -- The economical development of the Far North will remove the likelihood of armed conflicts in the region, State Duma deputy, Andrey Kokoshin says. The politician believes Russia now should step up investments in the Northern Sea Route and other infrastructure in the Arctic. According to Kokoshin, Russia has all chances to independently and efficiently conquer the Arctic shelf, using its unique experience within Arctic research. "We today have unique research in the field of Arctic climate, ice conditions, hydrology and the geology of the region […] The time has come for these riches to be used to the benefit for the whole country," he says. "It is terrible to think about the 1990s when we almost gave away [these riches] to a few foreign companies, which actively were interested in them," he adds. The State Duma deputy also says to Regnum that Russia now should do what it can to develop high-tech shipbuilding, including the construction of its own platforms for exploration, drilling and extraction of oil and gas. Also modern supply ships and ice-protected vessels should be built and navigation technology adjusted the requirement of the Arctic should be developed, the politician says to Regnum. "It can be said with confidence that Russia in the near future will possess the very up-to-date specialised fleet for shelf operations," Mr. Kokoshin stresses. Andrey Kokoshin is State Duma deputy from the United Russia party. He is chairing the Committee of the CIS.

Posted 5 August 2007; 1:44:14 AM.  Permalink

Russia defends 'scientific achievement' of Arctic flag has no legal significance, says US   

(The Independent, 4 August 2007) -- The Kremlin has praised the scientific achievement of a team who planted a Russian flag on the ocean bed under the North Pole, suggesting the West's reaction smacked of sour grapes. "This is nothing to be criticised. This is not an issue for a political story," said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, after Western countries with claims on the territory that is suspected of holding vast oil reserves, accused Russia of a land grab. On Thursday, the Canadian Foreign Minister, Peter Mackay, told the Russians: "You can't can't go around the world and just plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory'." Tom Casey, a US State Department spokesman, said: "I'm not sure whether they put a metal flag, a rubber flag or a bedsheet on the ocean floor. Either way, it doesn't have any legal standing." But Mr Peskov retorted: "We were all proud when the Americans planted their flag on the Moon. After all we are adding to the treasury of mankind ... It's a very good scientific achievement." Mr Putin telephoned the team after it successfully dropped a Russian flag on to the sea bed from a mini-submarine 2.5 miles under water on Thursday. "He congratulated them on an excellent job, and on the ... completion of the most dangerous part," said Mr Peskov. Russia plans to resubmit a claim to the 1,240-mile Lomonosov Ridge with new data from the mission - the UN rejected an earlier submission in 2001. Russia claims that the ridge is an extension of its own continental shelf. If recognised, the claim would give Russia control of almost half of the Arctic seabed. "Russia is acting in full compliance with international law," Mr Peskov added. "We've done nothing illegal. This is a continuation of our work." The other states with a territorial claim on the Arctic seabed, which has become accessible because of the shrinking ice cap, are the US, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

Posted 4 August 2007; 9:53:30 PM.  Permalink

Reindeer herding -- a prospective industry in Kola Peninsula?   

(Rosbaltnord via BarentsObserver, 3 August 2007) -- The Russian presidential administration has shown interest in a proposal to make reindeer herding a priority industry in the Kola Peninsula. The proposal was presented to the Kremlin by Murmansk businessman Andrey Levin, whereupon presidential representatives approached him with positive interest, Rosbaltnord reports. The proposal, originally promoted by representatives of the regional Sámi community, includes a plan for how to give a boost to the reindeer industry in the Kola Peninsula. The Sámi community wants reindeer herding to be included as a priority field in the federal prestigious so-called National Projects. According to businessman Andrey Levin, the man who presented the ideas at a recent conference in Moscow, representatives of the presidential administration after the conference called him to get more information about the project.

Posted 3 August 2007; 1:40:04 PM.  Permalink

Up close in the Arctic, Beluga whales under threat   

(Conor Sweeney/Reuters, 3 August 2007)** -- BOLSHOI SOLOVETSKY ISLAND - Summer doesn't last long on the edge of the Arctic circle, but on the remote Solovetsky Island on Russia's White Sea it marks the remarkable return every year of Beluga whales just meters from the shore. Scientists say it is the only place in the world where the whales come so close. Like many whales worldwide, these belugas are threatened -- not by hunting but by the quest for energy and people's gradual encroachment on their habitat through shipping. The whales come most days in good weather. Highly gregarious, the adult white mammals frolic and twist together with their calves, sometimes in schools of 50, lazily breaking the surface with their long backs, before diving underwater again at a location now known as Beluga Cape. Described by environmentalists as one of Russia's national treasures, the beluga -- which resemble large dolphins -- will be fighting for survival as the Arctic develops and shipping, energy projects and pollution threaten their natural habitat, Russian scientists say.

Posted 3 August 2007; 10:19:04 AM.  Permalink

Leaving the Murmansk region for warmer places   

(Siku Circumpolar News, 3 August 2007) -- Sixty one families are this and next week being resettled from Murmansk Oblast to more climatically friendly places in the South, reports Euroarctic. The resettlement is part of a federal program. All the 61 families come from the city of Severomorsk, Regnum reports. Their new homes will be in Rostov and Voronezh Oblasts. According to the Severomorsk city administration, up to local 250 families will be resettled to the South this year. These families will have to turn their apartments over to the city administration, which will take over property rights. In Soviet days, thousands of families were tempted to go north by generous support programs and promises to return home south when reaching retirement age. The current Russian resettlement program is a remnant of the Soviet policy.

Posted 3 August 2007; 10:14:39 AM.  Permalink

Russian explorers plant titanium flag at North Pole ...   

(PM/RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 142, Part I, 3 August 2007) -- On August 2, two Russian mini-submarines dove 4,200 meters beneath the iced-over surface of the Arctic Ocean and planted a Russian flag made of titanium on the seabed directly under the North Pole, Russian and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 26, 2007). While it was largely a symbolic gesture, the massive scientific undertaking captured the world's attention and opens questions over the legal status of the land and the riches of the Arctic. The head of the Russian expedition, Artur Chilingarov, who is a polar explorer, Hero of the Soviet Union, and deputy State Duma speaker, said that "every descent is heroic. It is the heroism of the people who go down to the deep. We're doing it for science and, of course, for Russia's presence [at the North Pole]." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Manila that "the goal of this expedition is not to plant a border post and assert Russia's rights, but to prove that our shelf stretches to the North Pole. There are concrete scientific methods for that. And I think this expedition, including the mini-submarine reaching the bottom of the Arctic Sea in the area of the North Pole, will supply additional scientific evidence for our aspiration." Under international law, Russia, Canada, Norway, the United States, and Denmark (through Greenland) each control a 320-kilometer economic zone in the Arctic Ocean extending from their coastline. But the law also allows a country to claim control of additional area if it can define the outer limits of its continental shelf. The state-run daily newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta wrote on August 3 that Russia has now "opened up the North Pole for the first time in history." The paper added that Russia's achievement marks "the start of a new redivision of the world."

Posted 3 August 2007; 10:10:03 AM.  Permalink

Another Russian polar mission taking off today   

(B-port.ru via BarentsObserver, 2 August 2007) -- A Russian research expedition today sailed off from Arkhangelsk towards Arctic waters with the main aim to study climate changes in the area. The more than 30-man big group will spend 100 days on the research vessel Ivan Petrov in the Barents, Kara, Laptev Seas. The expedition, named Baraklav-2007, is organised by the Russian Arctica and Antarctica Institute. According to B-port.com, the expedition will be a major contribution to new knowledge about the area. The research results will become available for international science environment. The expedition is financed over the federal budget. [In Russian.]

Posted 2 August 2007; 4:17:49 PM.  Permalink

Russian Arctic expedition to explore underwater oil deposits in disputed territories nears North Pole   

(Charles Digges/Bellona, 1 August 2007) -- On Wednesday, the convoy, comprised of the Russian nuclear ice-breaker Rossiya and the Russian research vessel Akademic Fyodorov were some 72 kilometers from the North Pole, and members of an advance party flew by helicopter to the pole spent some 11 minutes on the ice scouting the ice breaker’s route, according to the government owned Russian news agency ITAR-Tass. The convoy is expected to reach the pole late Wednesday. Once there, Russian scientists plan to dive in two mini-submarines beneath the pole to more than 3.5 kilometres deep, and drop a metal capsule containing the Russian flag and a message to posterity on the seabed. The mission is also expected to set up atmospheric measurement posts in the Arctic to gauge the effects of global warming – a phenomenon that Russian officialdom is ambivalent about combating, even though it is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol. Many economic and trade circles in Moscow see global warming not as a threat but a welcome boon to open Arctic Sea shipping and more use of Russia’s northern ice-bound ports. The symbolic Arctic mission, along with geologic data being gathered by expedition scientists, is intended to prop up Moscow's claims to more than 460,000 square miles of the Arctic shelf - which by some estimates may contain 10 billion tons of oil and gas deposits.

Posted 2 August 2007; 3:49:24 PM.  Permalink

Russia plants flag at North Pole to claim Arctic seabed riches   

(Conor Humphries/AFP via Yahoo! News, 2 August 2007) -- MOSCOW - A Russian expedition planted the country's flag on the seabed under the North Pole on Thursday, capping a mission to claim the mineral riches of the Arctic and drawing ridicule from abroad. "The Mir-1 submarine successfully reached the bottom of the Arctic Ocean... at a depth of 4,261 metres (13,980 feet)," veteran Arctic explorer and expedition leader Artur Chilingarov told the Vesti television channel. A Russian flag made of rust-proof titanium was deposited on the seabed as a symbol of Russia's claims over a vast swathe of Arctic territory, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has called for greater efforts to secure Russian interests in the Arctic, congratulated the explorers by phone late Thursday, news agency ITAR-TASS reported. But the foreign minister of Canada, which has also talked up the need to defend its national interests in the Arctic, ridiculed the flag-planting. "Look, this isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory'," MacKay told Canadian broadcaster CTV. Chilingarov, who is also a member of parliament, was joined by five others for the mission, including fellow parliamentarian Vladimir Gruzdev, Swedish pharmaceuticals tycoon Frederik Paulsen, and Michael McDowell, an Australian explorer. The six explorers made the descent in two Mir mini-submarines.

Posted 2 August 2007; 3:42:43 PM.  Permalink

Canada rejects Arctic flag-planting as a 'just a show by Russia'   

(AFP via Yahoo! News, 2 August 2007) -- OTTAWA - Canada's top diplomat ridiculed Russia's flag-planting at the North Pole on Thursday, saying the "15th century" stunt does not bolster its disputed claim to the resource-rich Arctic. "Look, this isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory'," Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told broadcaster CTV. Earlier, according to reports, a Russian mini-submarine reached the bottom of the Arctic Ocean under the North Pole at a depth of 4,261 metres (13,980 feet), to carry out scientific tests and leave a Russian flag. The dive is believed to be the first of its kind and is part of a voyage that started on July 24 and aims to advance Russian claims to a vast swathe of the Arctic sea bed thought to be rich in oil and gas. "Our claims over our Arctic are very well-established," MacKay commented. "There is no threat to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic and as you know, we've made very strong commitments, the prime minister has been there recently, may be there again (soon), so we're not at all concerned about this. "It's basically just a show by Russia." A spokesman for Canada's foreign affairs department added: "Canada's sovereignty over the lands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is longstanding, well established and based on historic title." There is growing international rivalry in the region as energy reserves grow scarce in other parts of the world and the melting of the polar ice caps makes the area more accessible for research and economic activity.

Posted 2 August 2007; 3:40:34 PM.  Permalink

Russia plants flag staking claim to Arctic region   

(CBC News, 2 August 2007) -- A mini-submarine dropped a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole Thursday, in a symbolic claim of the polar region's oil and minerals. If recognized, the claim would give Russia control of almost half of the Arctic seabed, an area as large as the Prairie provinces that could be abundant in natural resources such as oil and gas. The region is currently divided among Canada, the United States, Norway, Russia and Denmark. Russia is claiming a larger area, saying that the Arctic seabed and Siberia are linked by the same continental shelf. The UN rejected the claim, citing lack of evidence, but the country is set to resubmit the application in 2009. The Russians are not the only ones eyeing the Arctic seabed. Denmark hopes to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of the Danish territory of Greenland, not Russia. Canada, meanwhile, plans to spend $7.5 billion to build and operate up to eight Arctic patrol ships in a bid to help protect its sovereignty. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said planting a flag will not change the claim to the region.

Posted 2 August 2007; 3:18:54 PM.  Permalink

License watchdog approves Alrosa diamond deposit find   

(RIA Novosti, 1 August 2007) -- MOSCOW - Alrosa [RTS: ALRS], Russia's largest diamond producer, said Wednesday its discovery of a major diamond deposit in northeastern Russia had been certified and could yield at least $3.5 billion. The Verkhne-Munskoye deposit in the west of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is located 130 kilometers from an integrated mining and processing plant affiliated with Alrosa. It will take at least 25 years to exhaust the mine, producing 1.2-2 million metric tons of diamond ore annually, and deeper prospecting could reveal larger reserves. The certificate issued by the license-issuing regulator, the Federal Agency for the Management of Mineral Resources, entitles Alrosa, as a future license holder, to develop the deposit without the requirement of going to tender. The licensing procedure is underway. Alrosa, which accounts for 97% of Russia's raw diamond production and for 25% of global output, saw its net profits go up 3.2% in 2006, to 15.6 billion rubles ($599 million). The state-owned company and its subsidiary Nyurba produced $2.3 billion worth of diamonds, surpassing the target level by 2.4%.

Posted 2 August 2007; 11:23:46 AM.  Permalink

Russian experts will visit US missile defense bases in Alaska   

(Regnum, 1 August 2007) -- Russia has given its consent to send its experts to the US missile defense base in Alaska, announces US Assistant Secretary of State John C. Rood. “I think there is a significantly better understanding on the Russian side about why we are pursuing a missile defense capability,” Rood is quoted as saying by the International Herald Tribune. The United States plans to deploy a radar station in Czechia and antimissiles in Poland explaining it by a threat coming from Iran. Moscow thinks the arguments are not convincing. (See also RIA Novosti, "Russian experts to visit missile defense base in Alaska," 1 August 2007.)

Posted 1 August 2007; 4:31:17 PM.  Permalink

Gazprom says it hopes for major Arctic hydrocarbon discoveries   

(RIA Novosti, 1 August 2007) -- MOSCOW - A Gazprom spokesman said Wednesday that the Russian energy giant expected "major new discoveries" of oil and gas reserves under the Arctic Ocean, and had large-scale prospecting plans for the region. Press secretary Sergei Kupriyanov discussed the company's plans in a radio interview, the day before a Russian exploration vessel is to send mini-submarines on the first-ever dive below the North Pole, a symbolic move as Russia attempts to claim a vast section of the Arctic. The United States' geological survey data suggest the Arctic seabed contains up to 25% of the world's oil and natural gas reserves, and other mineral riches, made accessible by the retreating of the polar ice due to global warming. Sergei Kupriyanov told Ekho Moskvy: "We have approved a program of work on the Arctic shelf, which includes a great deal of prospecting." The spokesman stressed the potential vastness of the Arctic shelf's reserves--the Shtokman field alone in the Barents Sea holds an estimated 3.8 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, he said. "This is more than we have supplied to Europe over the past 30 years. Less than 5% of the Arctic shelf has been explored, and we are sure that major new discoveries will follow," the official said.

Posted 1 August 2007; 4:30:04 PM.  Permalink

Russia prepares for offshore gas pipeline from Yamal   

(Regnum.ru via BarentsObserver, 1 August 2007) -- A group of researchers from the State Ocean Geographical Institute have this summer spent 24 days on studying a projected gas pipeline, which is to run offshore from the western shore of the Yamal Peninsula to the mainland. The studies are part of Gazprom’s huge planned investment projects in the area. According to Regnum, the expedition is considered successful by the organisers. Gazprom has made the Yamal peninsula one of its top priorities and is now looking for new transport routes for the abundant natural gas. The Bovanenkovskoe field is the first main investment object. Gazprom board member Aleksandr Medvedev last fall said the Russian gas major the next 25 years plans to invest about 40 billion USD in the field, which by year 2015 is to produce an annual 150 billion cubic meters. Preliminary studies have concluded that it will be most favourable for Gazprom to build a 2500 km long new gas pipeline from the Bovanenkovskoe field towards the existing pipeline grid in the Komi Republic. This route includes 72 km of pipeline to be laid from the western shore of the Yamal peninsula and across the Baydaratskaya Bay. According to project plans, two parallel pipelines will be built across the bay, one main pipeline and one reserve pipeline. The water depths in the area are about 22 meters and ice covers the waters up to 10 months per year.

Posted 1 August 2007; 4:28:08 PM.  Permalink

Russian subs near Arctic target   

(BBC News, 1 August 2007) -- Submarines accompanying a Russian naval mission aimed at boosting Moscow's claim to Arctic territory are shortly expected to dive below the North Pole. The two Mir submarines plan to dive to the ocean floor, 4,200m (14,000ft) below the pole, to carry out tests and plant a capsule with a Russian flag. A Russian official said the "risky and heroic" mission was comparable to "putting a flag on the Moon". Melting polar ice has led to competing claims over access to Arctic resources. Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic, thought to contain oil, gas and mineral reserves, has been challenged by other powers, including the US. The Russian expedition set off last week from the port of Murmansk and is looking for geological evidence to back up Moscow's claims to the resource-rich Arctic seabed. Russian media reported last week that the ships were briefly tailed by foreign aircraft, but this claim was played down by the expedition leader. The expedition is being led by two members of parliament - Arthur Chilingarov, a seasoned polar explorer, and fellow MP Vladimir Gruzdev.

Posted 1 August 2007; 10:04:45 AM.  Permalink

Big plans for the Yamal   

(Siku Circumpolar News, 1 August 2007) -- Gazprom wants to run a pipeline from the western shore of the Yamal Peninsula to the mainland. The studies are part of Gazprom's plans for huge oil and gas projects in the area. A group of researchers from the State Ocean Geographical Institute spent 24 days this summer studying a projected gas pipeline. This pipeline would run offshore from the western shore of the Yamal Peninsula to the mainland. The studies are part of Gazprom’s plans for huge projects in the area. Gazprom has made the Yamal peninsula one of its top priorities and is now looking for new transport routes for its abundant natural gas, in the Bovanenkovskoe field. Prelimininary studies say Gazprom should build a 2,500 kilometre-long new gas pipeline from the Bovanenkovskoe field towards the existing pipeline grid in the Komi Republic. This route includes 72 km of pipeline to be laid from the western shore of the Yamal peninsula and across the Baydaratskaya Bay. According to project plans, two parallel pipelines will be built across the bay, one main pipeline and one reserve pipeline. The water is about 22 metres in the bay and ice cover is present upto 10 months per year. A report written by Sergey Miryonok, a representative of the Piter Gaz company, says the geological land formations in the area are complex. He also writes that the laying of the pipeline will be complicated by the ice conditions. The Baydaratskaya Bay does not have a well developed fishing industry. The area still has rich fish stocks and unique Arctic ecosystems. Miryonok says the gas pipelines will so little harm to the environment in the area, but that there are certain risks linked with the process of laying the pipes. A total of 11 gas fields and 15 condensate fields, with as much as 10.4 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves, 228.3 million tons of condensate and 291.8 million tons of oil have been opened in Yamal. Together with the Kharasaveyskoe and Novoportskoe fields, the Bovanenkovskoe field contains an estimated 5.9 trillion cubic meters of gas, 100.2 million tons of condensate and 227 million tons of oil. Nearly all the Yamal fields are under the control of Gazprom.

Posted 1 August 2007; 9:57:58 AM.  Permalink

Russian billionaire Abramovich eyes new gold reserves   

(Thomson Financial via AFX News, 27 July 2007) -- MOSCOW (Thomson Financial) - The holding company controlled by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich is looking to buy a second gold mine in the Far Eastern province of Chukotka where he is governor, his spokesman said. Millhouse Capital plans to bid for the Vodorazdelnaya Ploshchad gold field in the region, located 6,000 kilometres northeast of Moscow, spokesman John Mann said. The mine's reserves have been estimated at 65 tonnes of gold, the RBK business daily reported, citing the federal subsoil agency, which is organizing the auction on August 8. An official with Sibir Mining, which also plans to participate in the auction, told RBK that the licence would likely cost no more than 4 mln USD, but that the mine could cost over 200 mln USD to develop. Earlier this month, Millhouse bought the Dvoinoe mine in the north of the Chukotka region, which has estimated reserves of 2.79 tonnes of gold. Asked whether gold was a growing priority for the company, Mann said Millhouse was 'very interested in the economic development of Chukotka.' Abramovich, known to many as the billionaire owner of Chelsea football club, has poured hundreds of million of dollars into the region since he took over as governor in 2000. The administration of the region, which is estimated to hold some 10 pct of Russia's gold reserves, says it plans to boost gold output from about five tonnes annually at present to between 15 and 20 tonnes by 2010.

Posted 1 August 2007; 9:55:50 AM.  Permalink

Russia's Arctic exploration demands response, Ottawa urged   

(Randy Boswell, CanWest News Service/Canada.com, 31 July 2007)** -- As a Kremlin-backed Arctic expedition led by a Russian legislator closed in Monday on the North Pole—with plans to send a submersible craft and a flag to the ocean bottom to assert Russian sovereignty over an Ontario-sized swath of the polar sea floor—a leading Canadian expert on the Arctic urged Canada's leaders to at least get busy with a pen and draft a diplomatic note voicing this country's objections. "The smart thing to do would be to make a political statement that we politely disagree," Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, told CanWest News Service. And two of Canada's leading voices from the North—national Inuit leader Mary Simon and Northwest Territories Premier Joe Handley—also expressed concerns Monday over Russia's impending act of bravado, and what it reflects about this country's capacity to assert sovereignty over its Arctic territory. "I am not amused at what the Russians are doing in our Inuit back yard," said Simon, president of the national Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami." "Inuit are a proud people. We are Canadians first and foremost. There are more Inuit living in the Arctic than any other people. We are very concerned when other nations claim title to the Arctic and that includes the seabed."

Posted 1 August 2007; 9:28:16 AM.  Permalink

U.S. ready to fight for Arctic wealth   

(Kommersant.com, 31 July 2007) -- Expedient ratification of 1982 treaty that establishes guidelines for maritime boundaries “is a top priority for us,” said the State Department’s top lawyer John Bellinger, The U.S. Today reported. ”We’ve been watching as other countries are actively pursuing their own interests,” Bellinger announced specifying that the United States may claim coastal area of Alaska extending to the Arctic Ocean by 600 miles. But to stake the claim, the United States first has to ratify the UN convention on maritime law, Bellinger pointed out. Admiral Thad Allen, who is the Coast Guard commander, confirmed that the treaty is “absolutely critical” for the country and will boost its efforts for law enforcement by specifying rules and jurisdiction. According to U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic seabed holds up to 25 percent of global crude oil/natural gas reserves and decreasing ice of the Arctic and subsequent emergence of new economic opportunities led to the fierce competition of bordering Russia, the United States, Canada, Island, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. What’s more, Moscow claims 460,000 sq miles in the Arctic, saying the area continues Russia’s continental shelf. Senator Richard Lugar cautioned that if the Congress refuses to ratify the treaty, Russia could grab potential reserves of the Arctic, the access to which will be easier along with global warming of the Earth’s climate.

Posted 1 August 2007; 9:19:44 AM.  Permalink

Russians to dive below North Pole August 1-2   

(RIA Novosti, 30 July 2007) -- Russian researchers plan to dive 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) in two mini-submarines to explore the ocean floor below the North Pole August 1-2 and back the country's claim to Arctic, a research institute spokesman said Monday. "This is a serious, risky operation," Sergei Balyasnikov, press spokesman for the St. Petersburg-based Arctic Research Institute, said. "It is an extremely important act for Russia, which will demonstrate our capabilities in the Arctic. It is like hoisting a flag on the Moon." Russia claims a vast maritime territory stretching from its New Siberian Islands, between the Laptev and East Siberian Seas, up to the North Pole, which is believed to contain mineral resources. The claim has been challenged by other countries. But Balyashnikov said "a one-time dive would not naturally prove anything," and "continuous, regular work is needed" to substantiate the territorial claim. Researchers will also take soil and fauna samples on the ocean bed and will leave a Russian flag in a capsule. Russia has to prove the structure of the continental shelf is geologically similar to its territory. Moscow has said the underwater Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of its continental territory. The UN has yet to rule on the claim. The area around the Pole is currently an international territory administered by the International Seabed Authority. Russian Veteran explorer Artur Chilingarov will take part in the first ever dive below the North Pole. The Akademik Fyodorov research vessel, carrying Mir 1 and Mir 2 mini-submarines, is heading for the Nansen-Gakkel and the Lomonosov Ridges, where the dive will take place, following the trail of the icebreaker Rossiya. The ship left Murmansk, on the Barents Sea, July 24. ... As a second phase of the Akademik Fyodorov's expedition, a new floating polar station with equipment to monitor climate changes in the region will be set up and opened in mid-September.

Posted 30 July 2007; 2:26:42 PM.  Permalink

Russia minisubs dive in Arctic Ocean   

(ITAR-TASS, 29 JUly 2007) -- AKADEMIK FYODOROV SHIP (Barents Sea) - Two Russian minisubs for the first time in history submerged at Arctic high latitudes 47 kilometers north of Emily Franz Iosif archipelago, the vice president of the Association of Arctic Explorers, Vladimir Strugatsky, told ITAR-TASS on Sunday. The minisubs dived from the research ship Akademik Fyodorov. The ship approached a huge ice hole with coordinates 82 degrees, 29 minutes north latitude and 64 degrees 28 minutes east longitude. The Mir-1 submersible dived first with crew commander Anatoly Sagelevich, and Mir-2 commanded by Yevgeny Chernyayev half an hour later. Both minisubs touched the bottom of the Arctic Ocean at a 1311-meter depth. The temperature of the Arctic Ocean was minus one degree centigrade. The Mir submersibles began surfacing at midday. "Today's dives are only a dress rehearsal before diving at the North Pole, where depths are over four kilometers," the expedition’s chief, Hero of the Soviet Union Artur Chilingarov said. He said "we are doing a job connected with safety of diving and surfacing. We are trying to obtain samples to see if there is anything living there," Chilingarov said. "This is a third and risky work – indeed, nobody could reach the ocean bottom and stand on it. This is an old dream of mankind," he said.

Posted 29 July 2007; 6:21:21 PM.  Permalink

First seminar on wind energy in Murmansk   

(Anastasia Yakonuk/Euroarctic.org, 26 July 2007) -- Ecological organizations from the Murmansk region oppose an idea of scaled development of atomic power engineering on the Kola peninsular and suggest usage of alternative energy sources. They are sure that wind energy—is a perspective direction, especially on the coastal territories. Ecological organizations ”Nature and Youth” and ”Bellona” in cooperation with Norwegian Barents Secretariat have opened the first youth camp in Russia. All the seminars and discussions are devoted to the same topic—wind energy potential on the Kola peninsula. Scientists, specialists of energy sector, representatives of different companies and organizations were invited to take part in the discussions and present their point of view on the problem. During several days they will review the situation. Up to now those who have taken the idea of wind energy development on the Russian North seriously were in minority. The most attention and efforts are paid to the development of the nuclear power energy. There are more real plans ahead—to build up the second turn of the atomic power station not far from the Kola plant. But nevertheless scientists admit that the Kola peninsular possesses high potential for wind energy usage. Some places with constant wind strength are discovered along the coasts of the Barents and White seas. They could become an ideal place for wind turbine park construction, say the followers of this theory. Ecologists in Murmansk make an example of the Netherlands where wind is the main source of energy, and Norway where it's prestigious to use so called ”green energy”. Russian wind is an energy which can be sold at a profit. Opponents of this idea produce their own calculations: one wind kilowatt-hour will cost 3.5 times more than usual.

Posted 26 July 2007; 3:01:52 PM.  Permalink

Russian Arctic stunt prompts demand for 'proper icebreakers'   

(Randy Boswell/CanWest News Service via Canada.com, 26 July 2007)** -- Russia's bid to plant its flag on the North Pole seabed in a startling symbolic move to assert control over a vast stretch of the Arctic has renewed calls from Canada's leading expert on Arctic sovereignty for the federal government to purchase two "proper Arctic icebreakers" rather than the reinforced patrol vessels recently announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, told CanWest News Service on Wednesday that the latest Russian move should also prompt Canada to immediately announce a fresh infusion of funds into this country's effort to map its northern continental shelf in support of future Canadian territorial claims in the Arctic. Byers urged Canada to take the lead in convening a summit of leaders from all polar nations, including the Inuit, to draw attention away from headline-grabbing acts like the Russian submarine mission and toward "diplomacy, co-operation, and the legal processes" that will ultimately determine each country's rights over Arctic resources - and responsibilities for environmental stewardship in a region increasingly seen as ground zero of a global climate change crisis.

Posted 26 July 2007; 2:57:52 PM.  Permalink

Money for the Nenets   

(Siku Circumpolar News, 26 July 2007) -- The regional administration in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug has allocated 400 million RUB (about $15 million) for the support of its indigenous peoples. The sum will cover the period 2008-2010, the administration reports. The support money will be allocated first of all to people who are engaged in traditional industries like reindeer herding, fishing and hunting. "This programme is unique," Aleksandra Lomankina from the Nenets AO regional administration says. "The indigenous peoples make less money and are more sick than the average." She said tuberculosis rates among the Nenets are two times higher than the average in the region. 200 million RUB of the sum will be spent on improving housing conditions for the Nenets. About 8,000 of the Nenets AO populaton of 41,000 are ethnic Nentsy.

Posted 26 July 2007; 2:17:23 PM.  Permalink

Russia stakes out claim to North Pole   

(PM. RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 136, Part I, 26 July 2007) -- The research ship Akademik Fyodorov, which began an expedition from Murmansk to the Barents Sea earlier this week to lay claim to the North Pole, resumed its voyage on July 26 after the crew fixed an engine problem, Interfax reported. State Duma deputy Artur Chilingarov of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, who is leading the expedition, said recently on state-run television that "the Arctic is Russian. We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian coastal shelf." The Arctic seabed is believed to be rich in mineral wealth. Under international law, Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark (through Greenland) control an economic zone within 320 kilometers of their continental shelf, but the exact size of that shelf is disputed. Russian polar exploration has a long and heroic tradition dating from the Soviet era. If Russia were to press its claim to the sea bed, it is not clear whether it has the technology to extract the mineral wealth, including oil. It is currently unable to develop some potential fields on its own territory without foreign assistance.

Posted 26 July 2007; 1:51:46 PM.  Permalink

Akademik Fyodorov ship engine breakdown [fixed]   

(Itar-Tass, 26 July 2007) -- MURMANSK - Malfunction of the marine propelling screw’s electric motor on the Akademik Fyodorov motor ship due to which it had to drift in the Barents Sea has been removed. The vessel is continuing the voyage to the North Pole, a duty officer of the Murmansk port supervision service told Itar-Tass.  According to the port supervision service, the ship’s crew has coped with the engine breakdown on their own before the Rossiya nuclear-powered icebreaker that was called for help approached it. The Rossiya is supporting the expedition in its work in the Arctic ice. At 02:00 a.m., Thursday, the icebreaker met with the Akademik Fyodorov and together with it started a voyage towards the Franz Josef Land archipelago. According to the plan, they will make a stopover there in order to make a training dive on the Mir deep-submergence vehicles at a depth of 1.5 kilometres. Neither the regional emergencies service nor the traffic control room of the Murmansk Shipping Company have provided any information as of 07:00 a.m. The motor ship and the icebreaker have also given no reports. The weather is favourable for the expedition’s crew work. According to the Murmansk meteorologists, the wind in the expedition area has subsided, there is fog, but it is not an impediment to the expedition. The voyage continues.

Posted 26 July 2007; 12:16:22 PM.  Permalink

Expedition to stake Arctic claim delayed   

(Vladimir Isachenkov/Associated Press via Yahoo! News, 25 July 2007)** -- MOSCOW - An ambitious Russian naval expedition that set off for the North Pole to explore the bottom of the Arctic Ocean and stake Moscow's claim to oil and natural gas riches under the seabed ground to a sudden halt Wednesday when a ship broke down. The research ship Akademik Fyodorov suffered engine failure a day after it sailed from the northern port of Murmansk and was drifting in the Barents Sea about 60 nautical miles from the shore, state-run Rossiya television reported. The Rossiya nuclear-powered icebreaker, which was leading the expedition, turned back to help and was expected to reach the stricken vessel Thursday. "We are heading back to Akademik Fyodorov to give it technical assistance," expedition leader Russian lawmaker Artur Chilingarov, who is on board the icebreaker, said in televised remarks. Another assistance team was sent from Murmansk, Rossiya reported. It was not immediately clear how long it would take to fix the problem. The engine failure dealt a blow to the mission, which is aimed at finding evidence that the seabed is geographically linked to Russia and thus part of its territory. "The Arctic is Russian," Chilingarov, a member of parliament and Russia's most famous explorer, told state-controlled NTV before setting sail. "We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian coastal shelf." Two mini-submarines were expected to be launched from Akademik Fyodorov on Sunday to confirm the work of an earlier Russian expedition, which said it found the link between the Eurasian continent and the underwater Lomonosov Ridge that runs across the North Pole.

Posted 25 July 2007; 4:13:05 PM.  Permalink

Russian sub-sea explorers launch epic North Pole probe   

(AFP via Yahoo! News, 24 July 2007)** -- MOSCOW - A Russian expedition in which two parliament members will explore the North Pole seabed in a mini-submarine set out from the northern port of Murmansk on Tuesday, an expedition organiser said. The unprecedented expedition is part of Russia's efforts to assert territorial claims well north of its Arctic coast in territory thought to contain significant oil, gas and other reserves. "The Arctic is ours and we should demonstrate our presence," the expedition's 67-year-old leader, the explorer and member of parliament Artur Chilingarov, said on television earlier. Chilingarov, fellow parliamentarian Vladimir Gruzdev and scientist Anatoly Sagalevich aim to descend in the Mir submersible vehicle 4,200 metres (14,000 feet) to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean beneath the pole. Organisers even have a tentative plan for a telephone link-up with the International Space Station from the seabed. On Thursday the nuclear-powered ice-breaker Rossiya, designed to cut through heavy ice at speed, set off for the pole from the Barents Sea port of Murmansk. It was to be followed just after midnight by the expedition's "flagship," the Akademik Fyodorov, expedition organiser Vladimir Strugatsky told AFP. Once on the seabed the three men on board the Mir will carry out scientific experiments and probes and will leave behind a Russian flag and a capsule containing a message for future generations, Sagalevich said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper. The descent is expected to begin on Sunday.

Posted 25 July 2007; 3:38:13 PM.  Permalink

First human-trafficking case brought in Arctic republic   

(PM/RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 133, Part I, 23 July 2007) -- Prosecutors in Syktyvkar in the far northern Komi Republic have completed investigations for the republic's first criminal case involving human trafficking, regnum.ru reported on July 23. The case stems from the alleged forcible detention and trafficking of two underaged women by unidentified perpetrators earlier in 2007.

Posted 25 July 2007; 3:29:51 PM.  Permalink

Salmon protection is poor   

(Elena Belkina, Elena Larionova/Euroarctic.org, 20 July 2007) -- After a control visit to the regional reserve park Varzuga on the Kola Peninsula inspectors of the Murmansk regional environmental committee concluded that measures to protect salmon are not sufficient. Inspectors have controlled over one hundred kilometers on the rivers Pana, Idel and Varzuga. "There is practically no control on the rivers," said Nikolay Bichuk, head of the regional environmental committee. Commission members have noticed a lot of traces of illegal fishing. It is especially dangerous under the breeding period. Poachers take only fish roe but throw away the fish. Poor control is caused by the mess among different control organs: the recourses are disseminated. New law regulation presumes the control over the regional reserve parks will be fulfilled by the regional authorities. Inspectors hope that it will help to make protection more sufficient.

Posted 20 July 2007; 11:28:02 PM.  Permalink

Drifting by ice floe to the North Pole   

(Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research press release, via Science Daily, 20 July 2007)** -- An eight-month voyage through the Arctic Ocean, without ship or travel route: the North Pole drifting station NP-35 represents an unusual project of the International Polar Year. At the end of August the expedition, under Russian leadership, will leave for the Arctic Ocean. One of the participants is Jürgen Graeser of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, one of the research centres of the Helmholtz Association. For the first time in the history of Russian research using drifting stations, a German researcher will take part in the North Pole drifting station NP-35. With his data recordings of the atmosphere, Graeser will supplement measurements carried out by the Russian project partners, who will be focusing their investigations on sea ice, primarily performing measurements close to the ice. Through this collaboration, the project partners intend to advance the currently patchy data situation in the Arctic and hope to gain a better understanding of these key regions for global climate change.

Posted 20 July 2007; 9:57:47 PM.  Permalink

"The most modern town in Russia"   

(Rosbaltnord.ru via BarentsObserver, 18 July 2007) -- The town of Mirny will become the best and most modern town in Russia, Arkhangelsk regional governor Nikolay Kiselyov says. A new 26 billion RUB development is to completely change the small town, located just nearby the important Plesetsk space centre. The Plesetsk space centre is a site of major priority for both the Russian civil and military space industry. The new 26 billion RUB development programme is to turn the town of Mirny and the nearby Plesetsk site into a highly modern complex. Governor Kiselyov spoke in connection with the space centre's 50-years anniversary last week.

Posted 18 July 2007; 2:04:37 PM.  Permalink

Suspended treaty creates insecurity up north   

(Euroarctic.org, 16 July 2007) -- The fact that Russia has suspended the CFE treaty can create insecurity up in North according to a member of the Norwegian Defence committee. Russia has suspended the CFE treaty, an agreement considering disarmament which regulates how the military forces and heavy weapons are deployed in Europe. Only a month ago Russian officers were on a visit in Tromsø. Then they talked about the importance of a personal relation between Russian and Norwegian officers in the future. Norwegian inspectors have also been to Russia. After Vladimir Putin's decision to suspend the treaty, these inspections and relations can no longer continue as before, as for some is a part of a political game between Russia and the US, these kinds of inspections and personal relations can't go on as before. One of the reasons to Vladimir Putin's decision can be based on the fact that Putin wants to have a heavier missile defence system in the future. [See also BarentsObserver's "Russian abandonment of CFE Treaty spurs uncertainty," 18 July 2007.]

Posted 18 July 2007; 1:49:17 PM.  Permalink

"Arctic shelf development threatens environment"   

(Bellona, 16 July 2007) -- The development of oil and gas industry on the shelf could have catastrophic consequences for nature, the environmental organizations Bellona Murmansk and Nature and Youth say. In a recently published brochure, the organizations warn about changes in the regional eco-systems and disappearing species following spills of oil and harmful substances. "The rehabilitation of marine organisms after oil stress in the cold Arctic waters can last for decades," says Natalya Belkina, oil and gas specialist of Nature and Youth. The environmentalists believe that the harmful influence of oil and gas complexes on the environment is exerted in all stages of field development. It can have temporary character or lead to permanent changes in the ecosystem and to final total disappearance of species, they say. The brochure has been sent to regional oil and gas companies, local municipalities, libraries and resource centers in the Murmansk region.

Posted 17 July 2007; 2:08:55 AM.  Permalink

Academician Fyodorov research vessel starts new voyage   

(ITAR-TASS, 16 July 2007)** -- ST. PETERSBURG - The Academician Fyodorov research vessel has begun a new voyage. It will circle Scandinavia for Murmansk, Arctic expedition supervisor Vladimir Sokolov told Itar-Tass. The vessel, which has taken aboard the Mir deep-water manned vehicles, will reach Murmansk on July 22. "Oceanologists, sea geologists, geophysics and Arctic explorers will also arrive in Murmansk by the same day," he said. The Mir dive in the North Pole zone is planned for the end of July. "President of the Russian Polar Explorers' Association Artur Chilingarov will be in charge of the dive," Sokolov said. The Mir vehicles will be reloaded from the Academician Fyodorov onto the Academician Mstislav Keldysh in the first half of August. Then the North Pole 35 expedition will be launched. Russian researchers will be the world’s first to dive near the North Pole and reach the depth of over 4,000 meters. "That would be a truly historic dive, as the human eye has never seen the North Pole from the depth of 4,300 meters," expedition team member and laboratory chief from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Oceanology Institute Anatoly Sagalevich said. The expedition members will take samples of soil and make geothermal and hydro-chemical studies. They will also test hydrographs and navigation equipment designed in Russia specially for the North Pole conditions.

Posted 16 July 2007; 1:15:44 PM.  Permalink

Nuclear storage in Gremikha waits for French money   

(Elena Belkina, Elena Larionova/Euroarctic.org, 13 July 2007) -- Former president in France, Chirac, promised to allocate 750 millions Euro for radioactive waste handling in the north of Russia. Now it's uncertain whether the new president Sarkozy will keep this promise and that makes the Russians worried. After the presidency changing in France the Russian participants of the Global Partnership Program are concerned over the French support to the former Northern Fleet base in the city of Gremikha on the coast of the Kola Bay. Last week the French delegation visited Gremikha. Alen Matieux, head of the Global Partnership Program in France, then said in the interview to TV Murman [that] "France is ready to continue the cooperation and allocate means but you have to wait. Presidency has been changed just for two months ago and we have to fix some organizations technical questions with the new government." Gremikha is the biggest storage for used nuclear fuel from the submarines. The fuel is keeping in very poor conditions dangerous for the environment. France is a country which possesses the best knowledge in nuclear waste handling, esteem experts from the Russian nuclear concern Rosatom.

Posted 15 July 2007; 1:26:58 AM.  Permalink

Developing: Norway reports dramatic spike in atmospheric sulfur levels in Northwest Russia   

(Bellona, 13 July 2007) -- MURMANSK - The Norwegian Institute for Air Research has registered a shocking leap of sulfur levels in the atmosphere above Russia’s Northwest city of Nikel in the Murmansk Region, which have jumped to 20 percent above permissible concentration in just the last three weeks. Concentrations of nickel production in Northwest Russia are responsible for the dramatic change, and Norwegian State Television NRK reports that air along Norway’s border with Russia has increased in sulfur concentration twofold over measurements taken in recent years. Norwegian authorities have issued public statement of concern for the inhabitants of Nikel. “To see similar emissions levels, we have to look back at the period right after the collapse of the Soviet Union (in 1991),” said Lars Robert Hole, senior researcher for the Norwegian Air Institute. “If this had happened in Norway, the whole region would have been evacuated.” Long-term exposure to airborne sulfur dust can cause irritation to human mucous membranes, bronchiopulmonary disease, which can further be complicated by emphysema and brochiectasis. Symptoms include a wet cough with mucous often containing sulfur dusts, which is a result of upper respiratory tract irritation that can lead to asthma and sinus irritation, the US Center for Disease Control said in an interview with Bellona Web.

Posted 13 July 2007; 12:02:20 PM.  Permalink

Arctic Maritime Safety Information (AMSI) system to expand   

(U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency via ArcticInfo, 12 July 2007) -- Numerous international maritime agreements, among them the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Agreement and the International Rules of the Nautical Road, mandate the reporting and distribution of maritime hazard information. The responsibility to report any maritime hazard, observed or created, is vested in the Master of the vessel involved. PI's and Marine Superintendents, however, should be similarly sensitive to this requirement. Research in the Arctic Ocean continues to grow, stimulated by two factors: (1) greater ability of vessels of all types to gain safe access to the Arctic Ocean, and (2) the initiation of the International Polar Year (IPY) during 2007-2009. This heightened research interest is reflected in greater numbers of ocean research sensors, which are more sophisticated, physically larger, and certainly more expensive. Concurrently, the easier access to the Arctic has also allowed more vessels to ply the ocean's waters. These factors, in turn, have created a higher probability of an undesirable collision between a vessel (ship, submarine) and a sensor (a mooring, buoy, AUV or ROV - all viewed by the mariner as a "maritime hazard"). The international governing bodies for the WWNWS, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have recently drafted an amendment to the WWNWS to formally expand the WWNWS to include the Arctic Ocean. The draft amendment is currently undergoing review and approval by member nations. The draft amendment includes five new Navigation Areas (NAVAREAs) in the Arctic Ocean that have been defined. These areas will be administratively managed by Canada (2), Norway, and Russia (2). Full and final approval is anticipated in 2009. In the interim the AMSI system will be available to promulgate reported hazards.

Posted 12 July 2007; 4:41:50 PM.  Permalink

Gazprom picks Total as Shtokman partner   

(Alex Nicholson/AP via Yahoo! News, 12 July 2007) -- MOSCOW - OAO Gazprom of Russia will partner with France's Total SA to develop the Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea, the oil giant said Thursday, a decision that should accelerate development one of the world's biggest and most challenging natural gas deposits. Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said Total would receive a 25 percent stake in an operating company that will plan, finance and build the first stage of the development project, and that another foreign partner could be given a 24 percent stake in the future. "The agreement that has been reached is the latest important step in developing mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership relations between Gazprom and the world's biggest energy companies," Miller said in a statement. The announcement came days after Gazprom said it might soon offer foreigners an equity role in the Shtokman field after some indications last year that foreigners would only be hired as contractors. Miller said that Gazprom would keep at least a controlling 51 percent stake in the company — in line with an unwritten government policy under which state energy companies maintain control of all strategic deposits. He added that Gazprom would have 100 percent ownership of a separate company that has the actual license to the field.

Posted 12 July 2007; 4:17:39 PM.  Permalink

Russian strategic aircraft fire missiles in Arctic exercise   

(RIA Novosti, 12 July 2007) -- MOSCOW - The Russian Air Force said Thursday a group of four strategic missile aircraft achieved their objectives in a major Navy and Air Force exercise off Russia's Arctic coast. "Four Tu-22M3 strategic missile aircraft made over 20 sorties, firing air-to-surface missiles and successfully hitting their targets in the Barents Sea," said Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, an Air Force spokesman. He said the exercise involved only young pilots who had not earlier trained with live missiles. The spokesman highlighted increasing NATO air surveillance activity in the area. "Right now, we see two to three Orions, or Atlantics, or RS-135s, every day where we have normally detected only one such [surveillance] plane," Drobyshevsky said. The Defense Ministry told RIA Novosti that the exercise was ongoing, and said that information on Navy activities and broader results would be released soon. The Tu-22M3 (NATO codename Backfire-C) is a strategic aircraft carrying one to three Kh-22M (NATO codename Kitchen) air-to-surface missiles with a range of up to 500 km (over 300 miles).

Posted 12 July 2007; 3:52:51 PM.  Permalink

Krasnoyarsk Territory governor to go to the North   

(Newslab.ru, 12 July 2007) -- Krasnoyarsk Territory Governor Alexander Khloponin will visit the North of the region. As Alexander Makarov, a press secretary of the governor, reported on July 12. The governor is on a working visit in Moscow now and will be back in Krasnoyarsk on July 14. He intends to take part in the celebration of the Day of Metallurgist, where he will sign an agreement about social and economic cooperation with OJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel. After that Khloponin will visit Severo-Yeniseisky District and the northern town of Kodinsk.

Posted 12 July 2007; 1:58:05 PM.  Permalink

Strange lake needs more protection according to WWF   

(Anastasia Yakonuk/Euroarctic.org, 10 July 2007) -- A new expedition has started by the Mogilnoye lake on the island of Kildin in the Murmansk region. Specialists from WWF and St Petersburg State University hope to solve the riddle of this famous three-layered reservoir and protect it from pollution. Scientists have been working on the phenomenon of this lake for more than two hundred years. It's famous for its three layers: its top-layer is sweet without any salt, the bottomwater is poisoned with hydrogen sulfide and in the middle there is salt oxygenated water. Still it's a living place for many marine animals and plants. Even if the lake has strange water it has many new unique kinds of plants and animals who have inhabited the lake such as kildinskaya cod. "The island is inhabitant now. It's not protected by any federal structures, only operations against poachers are organized from time to time," say the members of the Barents Sea WWF office. Mogilnoye lake has now the status of the monument of nature, but it's not enough according to WWF. Members of the organization believe that the results of their research work will convince authorities to create a protected area there.

Posted 11 July 2007; 1:21:50 PM.  Permalink

Russia and Norway sign Arctic border deal   

(Reuters via Yahoo! News, 11 July 2007) -- MOSCOW - Russia and Norway signed a deal on Wednesday demarcating the sea border between the two countries in an Arctic region that could hold significant oil and gas deposits. Russia's Foreign Ministry said the agreement sets out in more detail the border, originally established in 1957, as well as the limits to Russia's and Norway's areas of jurisdiction in the swathe of sea around Varangerfjord. Norway hopes the partial deal will be a step towards resolving a decades-old border dispute between the neighbours over an area in the Barents Sea half the size of Germany that geologists say could hold significant oil and gas resources. Officials have said the Barents Sea could become an important new source of petroleum to supply Europe, but development has been hindered by the unresolved dispute. So far the only petroleum development in the Barents is Norwegian group Statoil's Snoehvit gas field, which is set to come on stream towards the end of this year and supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) mainly to the U.S. east coast. In the Russian sector of the Barents Sea lies the undeveloped Shtokman gas field, one of the world's biggest.

Posted 11 July 2007; 1:16:47 PM.  Permalink

Kamchatka volcano blows its top   

(University of Alaska Fairbanks press release, 4 July 2007) -- FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- Klyuchevskoy (pronounced Kloo-shef-skoy), a stratovolcano located in the north central region of the Kamchatka Peninsula, is blasting ash up to 32,000 feet in the air, and has diverted air traffic headed toward the Far East. This is the largest eruption to occur in the North Pacific in a decade, and is providing students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks a unique opportunity to collaborate with scientists, as well as state and federal agencies. Tracking the Klyuchevskoy eruption locally are a handful students and faculty from the Geophysical Institute and the Alaska Volcano Observatory (GI/AVO) who process data used to reroute air traffic around dangerous volcanic ash clouds. Information is collected by satellite, Web cam, and Puff, a three-dimensional volcanic ash computer model. Once these data are synthesized, they are then shared at large to ensure the safety of thousands of people living in, or flying through the North Pacific. Klyuchevskoy's been erupting since January, but the largest explosions in the eruption began June 28, 2007. These explosions created a 1,360-mile-long band of ash, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Aleutian Islands, clogging well-used air routes with volcanic ash that prove deadly to aircraft.

Posted 9 July 2007; 1:41:26 PM.  Permalink

Experts complete survey of Russian sunken submarine   

(RIA Novosti, 9 July 2007)** -- MOSCOW - Russian and foreign experts have finished monitoring radiation levels at the site of a 2003 incident involving a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, the Russian Northern Fleet press service said Monday. The K-159, a November class nuclear submarine with 800 kilograms (about 1,700 pounds) of spent nuclear fuel onboard, sank in 2003 while being towed to Polyarny, in northwest Russia, for decommissioning. Nine members of the 10-man crew died. The radiation levels, according to preliminary monitoring results, are normal and pose no threat to the environment, the press service said. Vladimir Vysotsky, the commander of the Northern Fleet, said a decision on whether to raise the submarine will be made after six weeks or two months, when the monitoring data has been completely studied and analyzed. Subject to technical feasibility, Russia has committed itself to recovering the submarine and safely disposing of its reactors as part of an international agreement set up to assist with the safe disposal of Russian nuclear waste material.

Posted 9 July 2007; 1:19:18 PM.  Permalink

Russia's Gazprom says it may give foreign companies bigger role in Shtokman gas field   

(Alex Nicholson, AP Business via Yahoo! News, 8 July 2007) -- MOSCOW - Russian natural gas giant Gazprom is close to offering foreign companies a more substantial role in tapping its giant Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea, the company said Monday. Gazprom had previously suggested it would allow foreigners only a minor role, possibly only as contractors. The state-controlled company is in talks with foreign companies about a "new model" of cooperation that would allow "foreign partners to share in the economic benefits of the project, share the management, and take on a share of the industrial, commercial and financial risks," Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said in comments confirmed by its press service. The remarks initially appeared in an interview with the Financial Times. OAO Gazprom has been in talks on Shtokman with Norway's Statoil ASA and Norsk Hydro ASA, France's Total SA and U.S.-based ConocoPhillips. Medvedev said that a deal was "very close." A possible deal could see foreign companies take a stake in the company that will operate the project, rather than the Gazprom subsidiary that owns the license, according to a spokesman for the company.

Posted 9 July 2007; 1:14:06 PM.  Permalink

New nature reserve for the Russian Arctic   

(World Wildlife Fund press release via Science Daily, 6 July 2007) -- A new nature reserve has been approved for Vaigach Island in the western Russian Arctic by the Nenets Autonomous District administration. The new 243,000-hectare nature reserve will help protect threatened arctic species such as polar bears, Atlantic walrus, white-beak loon, and one of the region's largest mass nestings of waterfowls. The island is surrounded by the Barents and Kara seas and its coastal waters are frequented by a number of marine mammals including Atlantic walrus, grey seal, harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, humpback whale, northern blue whale, northern fin whale and sei whale. In recent years the numbers many of these species has become unstable. WWF assisted in the creation of the nature reserve, which took two years to complete. It is hoped that the new protected area status will help protect the island from increasing industrial development in the region. “We are satisfied that one of the most valuable places in the Russian Arctic is now under protection," said Oleg Sutkaitis, project coordinator of WWF's Barents Sea Ecoregion office. "We hope to continue our success and develop more protected areas in the Nenets Autonomous District.” Vaigach Island is also culturally significant for the indigenous Nenets people who have visited the island for thousands of years to worship their gods. The main Nenets sacred site is on Cape Dyakonov, where an idol depicting the seven-faced Vesako (the head of all Nenets deities) is surrounded by hundreds of small wood and stone idols.

Posted 6 July 2007; 12:46:31 PM.  Permalink

Old Russian sanctuary to be restored at last   

(Anastasia Yakonuk/Euroarctic.org, 4 July 2007) -- After a long bureaucratic delay it’s decided to restore the only monument of Old Russian wooden architecture in high polar latitudes – the Uspenskaya Church in the ancient village of Varzuga. The unique church was built in 1674 in the village of Varzuga in the south of the Kola Peninsula according to the ancient Russian architectural traditions without a single nail, but now it’s threatened by destruction. The church was closed in 2002 because of the alarmingly state. One could hardly believe that it’s possible to save this ancient monument. After a long bureaucratic delay it was decided to start an expensive renovation. Now the project of reconstruction is ready and the work is about to start. This operation is very complicated, expensive and somehow dangerous because restorers will have to change eighteen lower halos, and the height of the church is forty meters; in addition the weather in the north is not always favourable. Restoring works are committed to the restorers of the Pomor carpenter school. They are ready to work all year round without stop.

Posted 4 July 2007; 12:47:54 PM.  Permalink

New department appeared in Krasnoyarsk Territory administration   

(Newslab.ru, 3 July 2007) -- A new department has appeared in the Krasnoyarsk Territory administration. The department of foreign relations and investment policy was formed by the governor's decision, the regional executive office reported Tuesday. The new structure was formed by reorganizing the incumbent organs of executive power: the department of foreign relations and the agency of priority investment projects. According to a source in the regional administration, Deputy-Governor Anatoly Tikhonov, former head of the constant representation of the Krasnoyarsk Territory administration in the Russian Government, was appointed head of the new department. Who will be in charge of the regional representation in Moscow is unknown yet. On July 3 the regulation of Krasnoyarsk Territory Governor Alexander Khloponin about the appointment of his substitutes and the personnel of the Territorial Administration Council came into effect. As Newslab reported earlier, members of the Council: Gov. Khloponin and vice-governors Vasily Kuzubov and Alexander Novak, deputy-governors Edkham Akbulatov, Nikolay Glushkov, Andrei Gnezdilov, Olga Karlova, Sergey Kozachenko, Yuri Konovalov, Sergey Ponomarenko, Sergey Sokol, Anatoly Tikhonov, Anatoly Tuboltsev, Vladimir Shishmarev, and Leonid Shorokhov.

Posted 3 July 2007; 2:19:11 PM.  Permalink

Russia can claim more of Arctic shelf   

(St. Petersburg Times via BarentsObserver, 3 July 2007) -- Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute says Russia could lay claim to millions of square kilometres of territory under the Arctic Ocean. A research expedition has discovered a link between a major underwater ridge and Russia’s coastal shelf. The expedition had determined that the Lomonosov Ridge running across the North Pole was an extension of the Eurasian continent. The six-week expedition on a nuclear icebreaker measured 700 square kilometres of seabed and conducted a series of detailed scans and acoustic measurements of the relief, Russian daily Izvestia reports. The find means that Russia could potentially claim an area the size of Germany, France and Italy combined, which may contain up to 10 billion cubic meters of hydrocarbons, along with diamonds and metal ores. Russia has repeatedly claimed wide swaths of undersea Arctic territory, though four other polar countries — Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States — have objected to its bid, which was first presented to the United Nations in 2001.

Posted 3 July 2007; 2:17:33 PM.  Permalink

House collapsed on Taimyr   

(Newslab.ru, 2 July 2007) -- A house collapsed partially in the village of Khatanga, Taimyr's municipal district of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Four apartments, 168 square meters in area, were damaged as a result of the collapse of a wall and the corner of the apartment building at 32 Sovetskaya St., the regional agency for civil defense and emergencies reported. Ten residents of the damaged apartments were evacuated and are staying in the hotel of Polar geological and intelligence expedition. Rescuers were on duty round the clock near the house. One more crack was found in the wall of the second entrance at midnight. The rest 30 residents were evacuated with personal documents and belongings and placed in the hotel too. No injured were reported. Financial damage is being estimated. The house was built in the 60s and has been used as a hostel of an air company for more than 30 years. It was reconstructed not long agointo a 16-apartment block, where 40 people lived.

Posted 2 July 2007; 5:11:35 PM.  Permalink

Plesetsk Launch Site continues to cripple local people   

(Bellona, 2 July 2007) -- The Arkhangelsk Environmental Information Agency “ECOnet” believes that this updated contract, which does not in any way compensate for years of destruction, is nothing new for the people of the region, who have been suffering from falling rocket debris. The highest population death rate from cancer has been in the Mezenski Region where the Plesetsk State Launch Site has been used as a dump for falling rocket debris. A retrospective study was run on the Mezensky district’s population from 1955 to 2002 to look at the fluctuations in cancer deaths in the Arkhangelsk region. In an interview with “ECOnet,” Doctor of medical sciences Svetlana Sovershayeva reported that “the study showed that the death rate increased at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s when rockets began to use heptyl fuel mixtures, and then began to stabilise itself later on. Sovershayeva noted that the poor development of the digestive system is the main reason for the Mezensky district’s cancer deaths. Cancer deaths are put at 94.6 percent of the region’s population of 100,000, while the rest of the Arkhangelsk District rounds out at 59.6 percent.

Posted 2 July 2007; 4:44:57 PM.  Permalink

Radiation monitoring of sunken sub begins in Barents Sea   

(ITAR-TASS, 29 June 2007) -- MOSCOW - An environmental radiation monitoring has begun in the Barents Sea, where Russia’s B-159 nuclear-powered submarine sunk in 2003, the head of the Russian Navy’s press service, Captain First Rank Igor Dygalo told Itar-Tass on Friday. “The operation began on Thursday within the framework of the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation,” he said. “The AMEC brings together Russia, Britain, the United States and Norway.” “Taking part in the operation are Russian Northern Fleet’s ship and Britain’s ship that will examine the sunken submarine and the control area to prepare for raising,” Dygalo said. “Unmanned underwater vehicles will conduct the monitoring. The previous monitoring in 2003 exposed no violations of the radiation background in the area, where B-159 sank,” he said. B-159 sank in August 2003 while being tugged for scrapping. Nine crewmembers, including a captain, died, and only one survived. Before tugging the submarine’s reactors were turned nuclear safe.

Posted 2 July 2007; 4:42:03 PM.  Permalink

Russia to claim Arctic expanse on Canada's doorstep   

(Randy Boswell/CanWest News Service via The National Post, 28 June 2007)** -- Russia is poised to claim a 1.2-million-square-kilometre expanse of polar seabed on Canada's northern doorstep, a move that would be the biggest challenge yet to Canadian Arctic sovereignty. A team of Russian scientists returning from a six-week Arctic research expedition aboard a nuclear icebreaker has reportedly found proof that the Lomonosov Ridge - a rugged, undersea mountain chain that runs some 1,500 kilometres past the North Pole between Canada's Ellesmere Island and central Siberia - is an extension of Russia's continental shelf and, therefore, a natural part of its territorial possessions. Russian media have trumpeted the find as key to claiming control over a disputed area extending from the ridge that's about one-tenth the size of Canada's entire landmass. Parts of it are coveted by Canada, the United States, Denmark and Norway, the other countries with an Arctic Ocean coastline and an eye on the possible resource riches lying below the polar ice cap. Under a new international treaty that has sparked a scientific and diplomatic scramble among polar nations - a race that's been described as the Earth's last great land grab and Canada's own "moon mission" - countries face a strict time limit on submitting geological evidence to justify their claims to a piece of the Arctic Ocean seafloor, where a vast oil-and-gas treasure potentially worth trillions of dollars is believed to be locked beneath the ice.

Posted 28 June 2007; 10:26:21 PM.  Permalink

Poaching feeds and bleeds Russian Kamchatka   

(Olesya Dmitracova/Reuters AlertNet, 27 June 2007)** -- UST-BOLSHERETSK, Russia - For a rare visitor to the volcanic Kamchatka peninsula in Russia's Far East, no other custom reveals more about the local economy, lifestyle and environment than salmon poaching. Widespread illegal fishing in Kamchatka, home to a quarter of all Pacific wild salmon, exploded in the post-Soviet breakdown of economic and legal systems and harms the abundant wildlife in one of the world's last great wildernesses. "Everybody poaches, everybody is a criminal," says Sergei, a self-confessed poacher, who declined to give his second name, in the drab town of Ust-Bolsheretsk near Kamchatka's western coast. "There are no jobs," he added, speaking reluctantly from the doorway of his riverside cabin. His neighbour, Igor, agrees: "If you don't catch any fish, you go hungry." Fishing industry experts estimate that more than 100,000 tonnes of salmon is poached in Kamchatka every year, and much is fished only for its red caviar. Poaching is one of the biggest threats facing Kamchatka salmon, with two kinds of the fish already included in Russia's Red Book of species at risk. Poaching is as central to the economy of this region, 12,000 km (7,500 miles) east of Moscow, as fishing is to its culture.

Posted 27 June 2007; 11:05:17 PM.  Permalink

Last bodies recovered, Russia mine blast toll at 10   

(Reuters AlertNet, 27 June 2007) -- MOSCOW - Rescue workers recovered on Wednesday the bodies of the two missing miners after a methane gas explosion at an Arctic colliery, bringing the final death toll of Monday's accident to 10, the Emergencies Ministry said. "All the dead bodies have now been recovered. The rescue operation is over," said ministry spokesmam Viktor Beltsov. The blast at the Komsomolskaya mine in the town of Vorkuta, some 2,000 km (1,250 miles) northeast of Moscow, was the third major accident since March in Russia's coal industry. A total of 149 miners were killed in two other similar accidents in the Siberian region of Kemerovo. The Komsomolskaya mine is operated by Vorkutaugol, a division of steel industry major Severstal's raw material division, Severstal Resurs.

Posted 27 June 2007; 10:43:59 PM.  Permalink

Arctic nuclear secrecy on the agenda   

(The Moscow Times via BarentsObserver, 26 June 2007) -- Norwegian media this May flooded with information about a reported chance of a nuclear explosion at the Andreeva Bay storage site for spent nuclear fuel. Russian experts rebuffed the information, saying that it was all a “provocation”. In fact, the risk of a nuclear accident at the Andreyeva Bay base is very small but not nonexistent, senior research associate Cristina Chuen writes in the Moscow Times. Although a lot of work has been done and there are more data on Andreyeva available than for any other nuclear site in Russia, foreign experts assisting at the site still do not have enough information to be sure that projects are being undertaken in the safest possible way and risks minimized to the maximum possible extent. The recent Atomic Energy article, though, appears to be based on additional data to which Russia's partners have not had access. Asking for this information is not a "provocation," but the result of genuine concern, Ms Chuen, a senior research associate at the Monterey Institute Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, writes. Assurances by State Duma Deputy Valentin Luntsevich that control systems "provide a 99.9 percent guarantee that no explosion can take place" are cold comfort when the 0.1 percent remainder represents the chance of a grave nuclear incident.

Posted 27 June 2007; 4:18:05 PM.  Permalink

Eight dead in Russian gas mine blast   

(Reuters via The Australian, 27 June 2007) -- AT least eight miners died on Monday in a methane gas explosion in a coal mine owned by Russian steel maker Severstal in the Arctic town of Vorkuta. Two miners are still missing and a rescue operation is under way, Emergencies Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov and company officials said. “The blast struck at 18:55 Moscow time (14:55 GMT),” Mr Beltsov said. "According to our information, there were a total of 277 miners underground at the Komsomolskaya mine when it happened." He said 263 miners had been safely evacuated to the surface. Four had been taken to hospital, including one who was in a serious condition. “The fate of the three missing ones is unclear.” Methane gas blasts at two coal mines in the Siberian region of Kemerovo killed 149 people earlier this year. The accidents were blamed on safety breaches. The Komsomolskaya mine in Vorkuta mine is operated by Vorkutaugol, a division of Severstal's raw materials division, Severstal Resurs. ... Coal from Vorkuta is supplied to Severstal's main plant in Cherepovets, the second-largest steel plant in Russia, as well as to other Russian steel makers.

Posted 27 June 2007; 4:08:58 PM.  Permalink

Russia can claim additional 1.2 mln sq km in Arctic - oceanologist   

(RIA Novosti, 25 June 2007) -- MURMANSK - Russia can claim an additional 1.2 million square kilometers (0.46 million square miles) outside its economic zone in the Arctic, an area with expected hydrocarbon reserves of about 10 billion tons of fuel equivalent, the director of the Institute of Oceanology at the Russian Academy of Sciences said Monday. "I am talking about Russia being able to claim territory outside its economic zone," Valery Kaminsky said. He said a just completed expedition to the Arctic Ocean was undertaken in line with a state order from the Natural Resources Ministry and the Federal Agency for the Management of Mineral Resources in order to obtain additional materials to establish the border of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic. Kaminsky told journalists onboard the Rossiya nuclear-powered icebreaker that although materials obtained during his scientific expedition would require a year to be thoroughly studied and processed, it was already certain that Russia could claim additional territory in the Arctic. "All these complex results will give us new data and strengthen Russia's position with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS)," he said. "All these strengthen Russia's economic, political and international positions in the Arctic." Kaminsky said the expedition to the Arctic Ocean, which ended Monday, took 43 days. [See also BBC News, "Russia eyes vast Arctic territory," 26 June 2007.]

Posted 27 June 2007; 3:59:58 PM.  Permalink

Methane explosion kills at least seven in Arctic mine   

(RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 11, No 117, 26 June 2007) -- A methane-gas explosion in the Komsomolskaya coal mine near Vorkuta in the Komi Republic on June 25 left at least seven miners dead and four injured, RIA Novosti reported, citing an unnamed spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. This is the latest in a series of disasters to hit Russia's coal mines in 2007. Inspectors for the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological, and Atomic Monitoring (Rostekhnadzor) said in Novokuznetsk in Kemerovo Oblast in western Siberia on May 29 that inspections of 58 coal mines in the area turned up 1,842 violations of safety regulations. Some of the violations apparently were carried out deliberately in the interest of securing higher profits and wages. The inspections were launched following the March 19 explosion at the modern Ulyanovsk coal mine, which left 110 miners dead and was the country's worst mining disaster in 60 years. On May 24, a methane-gas explosion at the Yubileynaya mine took 39 lives (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 30, 2007). PM

Posted 27 June 2007; 3:30:21 PM.  Permalink

Børge Ousland and Thomas Ulrich cross from the North Pole to Franz Josef Land   

(ExplorersWeb, 24 June 2007) -- On June 15 Norwegian Børge Ousland and Swiss Thomas Ulrich reached the coasts of Franz Josef Land, in Russian territories. The two explorers completed the kite-supported trip from the North Pole, with no re-supplies, in just 45 days, covering a distance of nearly 900km. Ousland and Ulrich often achieved long mileages by kiting up to 12-14 hours a day. However, open water out of the Archipelago forced them to paddle in their kayak-sleds earlier last week. The explorers reached Eva-Liv Island on June 14, but needed one extra day until they found an accessible place, out of the steep glacier slopes occupying most of the coastline. Since then, they've moved to neighboring Freedom Island. Following in the footsteps of a previous expedition done by Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen back in 1895, Ousland and Ulrich's next stage will take them across Franz Josef Land archipelago to its southernmost point, Cape Flora, where they will be taken by ship to Norway's North Cape. Once there, they will trek all the way to Oslo.

Posted 27 June 2007; 12:36:54 AM.  Permalink

Russia won't waive lawful rights in Arctic region - Chilingarov   

(Interfax, 21 June 2007) -- MOSCOW - Russia will defend its lawful rights to the Arctic shelf, Presidential Special Representative for the International Polar Year, State Duma Deputy Speaker and United Russia member Artur Chilingarov told Interfax on Thursday. "Russia won't waive its lawful interests in Arctic areas adjoining its territory," he said. First and foremost, Russia needs to legalize its rights to the Arctic shelf. "Recent research confirms that these claims are well- founded," Chilingarov said. The National Arctic Council led by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, which was established this May, "is bound to define fundamentals of the Russian polar policy," he said. More than 200 international projects will be implemented in Arctic and Antarctic areas within the framework of the International Polar Year, which began on March 1, he said. "Russian scientists and experts will take part in 180 of them," he said.

Posted 21 June 2007; 4:39:46 PM.  Permalink

Alain and Dixie are back in Belgium   

(EducaPoles, 21 June 2007) -- Thursday June 14, Alain Hubert and Dixie Dansercoer pitched their tent along the northern coast of Greenland. Friday, the two men were able to rest a little and enjoy some of the extraordinary landscapes that these uninhabited regions offer. On Saturday June 16, meteorological conditions were particularly good both in Resolute Bay, where the Twin Otter was to take off from, and at the Arctic Arc campsite. After over 7 hours of flight, the plane landed on the marked out runway that Alain and Dixie had prepared. After several months of solitude, they met up with their spouses and the film crew. On the way back, the Arctic Arc team stopped over in Thule, Greenland, to take care of some paper work. Wednesday June 20, in the late afternoon, Alain Hubert and Dixie Dansercoer were greeted at the Zaventem airport in Brussels by their families, their friends, their admirers and the press. By accomplishing this expedition, connecting Siberia to Greenland, Alain Hubert and Dixie Dansercoer have achieved a historical crossing. As seen throughout the expedition, Alain and Dixie performed a truly athletic feat. Indeed, to be able to progress in such extreme conditions, it is necessary to be in extremely good physical shape and to have a strong spirit. It is difficult to realize the level of this feat. Let's remind you that Alain and Dixie have, for 106 days, walked 10 hours a day on irregular sea ice, while pulling sledges of over 100 kg in temperatures nearing -40°C. And this is without mentioning the storms and blizzards which occurred almost daily.

Posted 21 June 2007; 3:49:09 PM.  Permalink

Yamal will take part in the Days of the Arctic   

(SeverPress, 20 June 2007) -- On the 21st of June the measure “The Days of the Arctic in Moscow”, dedicated to opening of the third International Polar Year of 2007-2008, will take place in the capital of Russia. Representatives of Yamal will take part in the measure: the deputy of the governor of Yamal, the chief of the Department of international and interregional communication Alexander Mazharov, employees of the Department and representatives of the Museum-exhibition complex of Shemanovskiy. The exhibition, dedicated to development of the North, will be opened in the House of Unions. The part of the exposition is prepared by Yamal specialists. In particular, the stand of the Edge of the Earth will tell about history of polar researches and about the project of development of cooperation between Yamal educational establishments and the Arctic University, as the press-service of the governor of Yamal informs. By the initiative of Russia since the first of March of 2007 the third International Polar Year is the global project with participation of several thousand of scientists, presenting more than 30 countries of the world. The given project is directed to defining of current changes and evaluation of future changes of climate of the Earth. The International Polar Year as the full-scale experiment, the aim of which is forming of practical recommendations on stable social-economic development of polar regions, is of big interest for the Okrug. [Title link is to an archived copy of this non-static news page.]

Posted 20 June 2007; 6:39:22 PM.  Permalink

What’s there on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean?   

(Russia Information Centre, 19 June 2007) -- Russian oceanologists plan to perform first ever submersion to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean somewhere near the North Pole. Scientists intend to study environment at depths over 4000 m, taking soil and fauna samples and investigating geothermal and hydrochemical phenomena. Preparations for the expedition are finished already. Submersion will be performed by means of deep-diving manned vehicles “Mir-1” and “Mir-2”, able to examine 98% of World ocean’s bottom, reaching depths of 6000 meters.

Posted 20 June 2007; 5:38:57 PM.  Permalink

Russian, Norwegian auditors favor standardization of fishing legislation   

(Interfax via RedOrbit, 18 June 2007) -- MOSCOW - The Russian Audit Chamber and the Office of Auditor General of Norway support the standardization of legislation on overseeing fishing and preserving fish resources in the Barents and Norwegian Seas. "We have the same objective - our countries should have a common approach to preserving fish resources, to the environment, to the prevention of poaching and the sale of illegally caught fish," Audit Chamber chairman Sergei Stepashin told the press on Monday after a joint session of the boards of the Audit Chamber and the Office of Auditor General. The sides discussed the results of a parallel audit of the use of quotas for catching water biological resources issued in 2004-2005 to Russia and Norway under decisions of the mixed commission for fishing. The audit was conducted in January through December 2006. A memorandum signed by both the sides states that the audit demonstrated a significant difference in the oversight systems in fishing in the Barents and Norwegian Seas between the sides. It indicates that not all measures of controlling fishing are carried out in full. For instance, the sides agreed that cod fishing in the Barents Sea significantly exceeds total quotas. However, Russia and Norway cannot measure the exact amount of overcatch due to differences in methodology. Stepashin said that the advancement of Russian national legislation will also promote the solution of common problems. "If it were more profitable for our ships to take the catch to Murmansk instead of Kirkenes [in Norway], there would probably be no need for overcatch," he said.

Posted 19 June 2007; 2:42:16 PM.  Permalink

Russia has green idea for growing Arctic cucumbers   

(AlertNet - Reuters, 18 June 2007) -- MOSCOW - Russia's environment minister has a novel suggestion for natural gas from its Arctic north oilfields that is usually wasted -- harness it to heat greenhouses for growing cucumbers. Oil wells often produce so-called associated gas which then has to be burnt, or "flared", if there are no gas pipelines. "We need to think about how to use associated gas," the minister, Yuri Trutnev, was quoted as saying on Monday by the RIA Novosti agency during a visit to the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiisk. "If it costs too much to link it up to the pipeline network, that means we need to look at the possibility of using it on the spot: build greenhouses and grow cucumbers in the far north." The minister did not say who would buy the cucumbers, which are staples of the Russian diet but not known for their scarcity.

Posted 19 June 2007; 11:59:29 AM.  Permalink

Legendary submarine becomes museum   

(BarentsObserver via Murman.ru, 15 June 2007) -- The Nerpa shipyard in Murmansk Oblast has started the final reconstruction of the legendary K-19 submarine. The sub will be turned into a memorial museum and stationed outside Moscow. The historical submarine will have a 22 meter demonstration hall and several other facilities, newspaper Vecherny Murmansk reports. The reconstruction of the sub is scheduled to be completed by end of summer. Several private funds and private persons have sponsored the reconstruction of the vessel. The K-19 was called the "Hiroshima" because of the accidents and technical problems experienced. A least 36 sailors died in the accidents, among which was a major leak in the reactor coolant system, a fire and a collision with the "USS Gato". The film K-19: The Widowmaker from 2002 is based on one of the accidents with the sub.

Posted 18 June 2007; 2:20:33 AM.  Permalink

Solar cells replace nuclear powered beacons   

(Anastasia Yakonuk, Elena Larionova, Stig-Arne Nordstrom/Euroarctic.org, 16 June 2007) -- Radioactive batteries in beacons along the northwest Russian coast have been replaced by solar cells in a project financed by Norway. Along the coast of northwest Russia a beacon reference system powered by radioisotope thermo electric generators (RITEG) has been renewed. Solar cells are now the main energy source in the lighthouses on the Kola Peninsula. The combined radioactivity of all 153 RITEGs was 10 million curie. Adventurous metal thieves were severely affected by radiation sickness when they destroyed a nuclear energy generator near Kandalaksha town a few years back. Though one of them died, people forget the danger and accidents have been repeated in the Murmansk and Archangelsk Regions. In 2001 Norway suggested assistance and financial support to the Russian Navy to remove nuclear energy sources from the beacons. This work partly supported by the Norwegian means has been going on for several years. All RITEGs are removed from the Murmansk Region for recycling, but there are still 34 in operation in the Archangelsk Region and 4 on the Novaya Zemlya islands. Last week the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg visited Murmansk on his way to St Petersburg. Meeting Yuri Evdokimov, Governor of the Murmansk Region, he agreed to continue supporting the work in making the radioactive sphere safer. Yuri Evdokimov promised the control of Andreeva Bay “nuclear dump” and other dangerous areas will be made seriously by Russian and international experts.

Posted 18 June 2007; 2:14:32 AM.  Permalink

Shtokman field threatened by global warming   

(Moscow Times via BarentsObserver, 14 June 2007) -- The huge Shtokman field in the Barents Sea is under threat by climate changes, a senior scientist say to the Moscow Times. The higher temperatures in the north unleashes vast icebergs into the Arctic waters, thus putting the development of the field in hazard. Even if icebergs are unlikely to halt the world's largest single energy development as the global hunger for resources grows, they would make the 30 billion-plus USD project by Gazprom yet more expensive, Alexander Frolov, deputy head of the Federal Meteorological and Environmental Monitoring Service, says to the Moscow Times. "When we talk about such a large project as Shtokman, we can not just ignore these risks," he adds. According to the scientist, the icebergs can be more than 100 kilometers long and equal the size of Jamaica. Frolov says Russia has no experience from dealing with such problems, which should not be underestimated. The highly complex Shtokman field is located about 600 km north of Murmansk and has an estimated 3,7 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves.

Posted 14 June 2007; 12:43:49 PM.  Permalink

Drastically increasing salaries for civil servants   

(Elena Larionova/Euroarctic.org, 13 June 2007) -- Civil servants in the Murmansk Region will have a 20-25 percent payrise in average this year. They will earn almost more than an average citizen could dream of. The payrise decision has recently been approved by the deputies of the regional Duma (parliament). 100 million roubles (25 million NOK) will be used for these purposes from the regional budget. Many people in the Region are disappointed with the increase because they say an average salary and pension is not high enough. While an average monthly salary of a regional civil servant is forty thousand rubles, thousands of people in the Region earn no more than four-five thousands. "They feel unhappy facing that bureaucrats earn ten times more than 'ordinary' people," regional media reports. An average salary in the Murmansk Region is 15 thousand roubles a month. Statistic says that the Murmansk Region stays on second place in northwest Russia when salaries for civil servants are compared. Number 1 belongs to the Nenets Autonomus Okrug where bureaucrats earn about forty five thousand roubles a monthly.

Posted 13 June 2007; 8:35:22 AM.  Permalink

Russia prepares for oil pipeline to Barents Sea   

(BarentsObserver, 12 June 2007) -- The Russian state-owned company Transneft confirms that it is getting ready for the construction of an oil pipeline to the Barents Sea coast. The project will be implemented if the government gives its consent, company CEO Semyon Veinshtok says. The company, which has monopoly rights over the Russian oil pipeline grid, says the project investment plan is in the process of getting approved by government. The pipeline is to stretch from the Kharyaga field in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug to the village of Indiga on the coast of the Barents Sea. Mr. Veinshtok spoke on the issue during the Sankt Petersburg Economic Forum, Rosbaltnord.ru reports. The projected 467 km long pipeline will have an estimated capacity of 12 million tons, all of which will be exported across the Barents Sea to western buyers.

Posted 13 June 2007; 7:34:11 AM.  Permalink

363 forest fires registered in Krasnoyarsk Territory this year   

(Newslab.Ru - Siberia News, 13 June 2007) -- Six forest fires have broken out in the Krasnoyarsk Territory over the last 24 hours. Four of them have been put out, two have been localized, as the regional forestry agency reported. Two helicopters and two planes were involved in the fire extinguishing. 363 forest fires, 14,589 hectares in area, have been registered in the Krasnoyarsk Territory since the beginning of 2007, the forestry agency informed. For reference, 343 fires, 19,919 hectares in area, had been registered for the same period in 2006.

Posted 13 June 2007; 7:22:03 AM.  Permalink

Norway reaches new border agreement with Russia   

(Xinhua, 10 June 2007) -- Norway and Russia have reached an agreement on the disputed borderline between the two countries in the Varangerfjord, which opens into the Barents Sea, said reports from Oslo on Saturday. This was announced by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Moscow on Friday, according to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Stoltenberg, who is on an official visit to Russia, made the announcement after his meeting with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov. "The agreement is both important and very gratifying," Stoltenberg told NRK. The two nations have disagreed about this borderline for 50 years. Stolteberg hopes the agreement will have a positive impact on the negotiations about a final demarcation line between Norway and Russia in the Barents Sea. The Norwegian prime minister is scheduled to have talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

Posted 10 June 2007; 10:26:05 PM.  Permalink

Norway, Russia to sign Arctic border deal --reports   

(Reuters, with additional reporting by John Acher in Oslo, via Yahoo! News, 8 June 2007) -- MOSCOW - Norway and Russia will within days sign a deal demarcating the sea border between the two countries in the outer Varangerfjord in the Arctic, Russian and Norwegian news agencies reported on Friday. Reuters had reported on May 18 that Norway and Russia were nearing agreement to define ownership of a swathe of sea near the coast. "We have agreed in principle to sign a deal on Varangerfjord within the next few days," Russian news agencies quoted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov as saying after meeting his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg in Moscow. Norway hopes the partial deal will be a step towards resolving a decades-old border dispute between the neighbours over an area in the Barents Sea half the size of Germany that geologists say could hold significant oil and gas resources. "The last time Norway and Russia signed a border agreement was in 1957. That deal comprised the inner parts of the Varangerfjord," Stoltenberg said, according to Russian Interfax and Norwegian NTB agencies. "I think that our further work will take us to a stage where we will be able to sign an agreement setting down a demarcating line in unresolved regions of the Barents Sea," Stoltenberg added, Interfax reported. Officials have said the Barents Sea could become an important new source of petroleum to supply Europe, but development has been hindered by the unresolved dispute. So far the only petroleum development in the Barents is Norwegian group Statoil's Snoehvit gas field, which is set to come on stream towards the end of this year and supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) mainly to the U.S. east coast. In the Russian sector of the Barents Sea lies the undeveloped Shtokman gas field, one of the world's biggest. Stoltenberg is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday and Sunday on the sidelines of the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. [See also The Moscow Times, "Norway, Russia to Sign Deal on Arctic Border"** (9 June 2007).

Posted 9 June 2007; 3:07:29 PM.  Permalink

Meteorite stolen from museum in Magadan, Russian Far East   

(RIA Novosti, 9 June 2007) -- VLADIVOSTOK - A chunk of a meteorite has been stolen from a museum in the remote Magadan Region in Russia's Far East, a local Interior Ministry spokesperson said Saturday. Anna Chak said thieves broke into a history museum in the village of Seimchan during the night and stole a part of the Seimchan meteorite. "A check is now being conducted," the spokesperson said. She said the offenders may have been inspired by a recent TV program, which discussed the high value of meteorites on the country's black market. The first pieces of the Seimchan meteorite, which weighs over 7 kilograms (15 pounds), were found in 1967 near the Seimchan gold mine in the Magadan Region.

Posted 9 June 2007; 2:01:38 PM.  Permalink

Andreeva Bay nuclear dump frightens Sámi   

(Kent Valio, Stig-Arne Nordstrom/Euroarctic.org, 6 June 2007) -- The president of the Norwegian Sámi Parliament wants to have a say about the nuclear dump in the Andreeva Bay in Russia. She is invited to join Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to Murmansk next week. What makes the Sámis worried is the report published by Russian Rosatom last week about the amounts of nuclear waste at the Andreeva Bay in northwest Russia. ─ Our concern about the nuclear waste will be communicated if the Andreeva Bay dump will be an item at the meeting in Murmansk. The dump is a threat to the whole of Sápmi, says Aili Keskitalo, President of the Norwegian Sámi Parliament.

Posted 7 June 2007; 11:18:27 PM.  Permalink

Andreyeva Bay is a ticking bomb, Bellona’s documents prove   

(Rashid Alimov, translated by Maria Kaminskaya/Bellona, 7 June 2007) -- Representatives of Russia’s top atomic authority Rosatom show diametrically different reactions to Bellona’s reports on the situation at Andreyeva Bay, the former naval base of the Russian Northern Fleet and the largest site of storage for radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel (SNF) in Europe, located just 100 kilometres from Murmansk and 45 kilometres from the Russian-Norwegian border. On the one hand, Andrei Gagarinsky, deputy director of the famous Russian Igor Kurchatov Scientific Centre, which took part in the research performed at Andreyeva Bay, said in an interview to the Russian daily Noviye Ivestiya: “The problem with nuclear waste storage at Andreyeva Bay has remained unsolved for a very long time for a number of objective reasons… Bellona’s statement that a threat of a new Chernobyl is imminent is essentially correct.” On the other hand, several Rosatom representatives accused Bellona of indulging in provocations and wild speculations. In light of such polarised reactions, Bellona is publishing a PDF version of the report on the research carried out at Andreyeva Bay by Russian scientists, experts with the Dollezhal Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering, the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Nuclear Safety Institute and the Kurchatov Centre.

Posted 7 June 2007; 9:01:00 PM.  Permalink

Kola Peninsula rated as ecologically dangerous   

(Anastasia Yakonuk/Euroarctic.org, 6 JUne 2007) -- American non-commercial research organization “Blacksmith Institute” publishes a list of the 35 most polluted industrial centres of the world. The Murmansk region is included. The list is topped by Chernobyl, Kabve (Zambia) and La Oroia (Peru), “b-port.com” portal informs. Three Russian cities are mentioned – Norilsk, Dzerzhinsk (Nizhegorodskaya region) and Rudnaya Pristan (the Primorye). Ecologically dangerous and polluted are also Komi and Magnitogorsk, the island of Karachay in Tchelyabinsk, Kola Peninsula and Volgograd considered to be. The criteria used by the specialist are nearness of contaminated areas to large cities. The main polluters are considered to be heavy metals.

Posted 6 June 2007; 9:17:27 PM.  Permalink

Mudslide destroys Russian geyser valley: report   

(Reuters, 3 June 2007) -- MOSCOW (Reuters) - A powerful mudslide has destroyed Eurasia's only geyser valley in the remote Kamchatka peninsula in Russia's Far East, RIA news agency reported on Sunday quoting local sources. "A torrent of mud, trees, snow and stones covered two-thirds of this unique nature park," RIA quoted an unnamed witness as saying. Twenty five tourists and personnel were evacuated from the area, it said. Kamchatka, a 1,250 km (780-mile) long peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk, is one of five places in the world where geysers -- springs ejecting hot water and steam into the air -- can be found. There were about 90 geysers in the valley. "The biggest springs may still come through the debris but most of the others are probably lost forever," RIA quoted an unnamed scientist at a local institute as saying. ... Scientists told RIA the slide had also destroyed deposits of siliceous sinter, or geyserite, a rare stone that takes many years to form. The geyserite cements the rock around the geyser and prevents erosion. "Even a smallest dent in geyserite deposits in the geyser's crater can change the eruption's character," the scientist said. About 3,000 tourists come to the geyser valley every year.

Posted 3 June 2007; 10:47:20 AM.  Permalink

Salekhard central library celebrates 75th anniversary   

(Sever-Press, 31 May 2007) -- Librarians of Yamal are marking the 75th anniversary of library servicing of population of the town Salekhard on the 31st of May. By the information given in the interview to the correspondent of IA “Sever-Press” by the chief of the Central library Natalia Kaneva, the basis of the fond [collection] of the Central library is the books of Yamal enlightener Ffather Irinarkh (Ivan Shemanovskiy). The official opening of the town library took place in 1932. Since last year the Central library has headed the Central library community of the town Salekhard and serves about 5 thousand readers. Today it is a storage place of unique funds of local lore, leisure and informational establishment with the library fund of more than 60 thousand books. Besides servicing departments there are departments of completing and processing of literature, the department of local lore, reference-bibliography, methodic and information-editorial departments. The following centers and clubs work in the library: the Center of legislation information, the Center of ecology and local lore, clubs on interests “The local lore scientist”, “Inspiration” and “The young family”. The library is a participant of the regional programs: “Culture of Yamal”, “Children of Yamal” and “The youth of Yamal”. Within these regional projects, librarians take part in the Yearly International conference in Crimea, the International congress of IFLA in Seoul (South Korea), and also in professional library measurements in France. Specialists mount projects to promote reading, conduct sociologic research, contests and presentations of literature works of art. [The source page changes daily; this item is linked to a permanently archived copy.]

Posted 2 June 2007; 1:05:19 PM.  Permalink

Russian volcano explodes   

(Doug O'Harra/Far North Science, 2 June 2007) -- The 15,580-foot Klyuchevskoy Volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula has been blasting ash into the sky and burbling lava down its flanks, producing a well-monitored hazard to air traffic along the North Pacific Rim. Scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory say the “explosive-effusive eruption” has slightly eased this week, but another blast could send ash more than five miles high at any time. One of the most active volcanoes in the North Pacific, Klyuchevskoy erupted May 27 with splattering lava and floes of molten rock and explosive bursts into the sky. Ash plumes rose more than 29,000 feet into the atmosphere and extended up to 370 miles over the Pacific, according to the dispatch posted online by AVO. The eruption continued, with ash rising up to 23,000 feet on May 29 to 31. “New lava flow was noted on the eastern flank of the volcano on May 31,” the most recent dispatch reported. “Strong phreatic bursts were observed on the front of this lava flow. Clouds obscured the volcano in the other days.”

Posted 2 June 2007; 12:04:12 PM.  Permalink

Lawmakers in two Russian Far East regions elect new governors   

(RIA Novosti, 1 June 2007) -- KHABAROVSK, June 1 (RIA Novosti) - Legislators in the Amur Region and the Kamchatka Territory in Russia's Far East voted in new governors Friday. ... Under federal laws, Kamchatka peninsula will be united into a single territory on July 1. The Kamchatka Region, which accounts for most of the peninsula, will incorporate the northern Koryak Autonomous Area into the new region. Legislators in the Kamchatka peninsula's Koryak Autonomous Area approved Alexei Kuzmitsky for the post of governor of the future Kamchatka Territory, replacing regional governor Mikhail Mashkovets, who resigned before the expiry of his term. Local legislators proposed that the new governor assume power the day after unification, on July 2. Lawmakers in the Kamchatka Region gave their backing for Kuzmitsky Wednesday. The Koryak legislature has 11 members, including three representatives of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, one Liberal Democrat, a member of the Party of Pensioners and five Communists. Although the Communists blocked the vote Thursday saying Kuzmitsky lacked knowledge of the Koryak area, the president's nomination received the necessary seven votes.

Posted 1 June 2007; 6:56:51 PM.  Permalink

Russia rejects report of Arctic nuclear waste risk   

(Reuters via Yahoo! News, 1 June 2007) -- OSLO/MOSCOW - Russian nuclear authority Rosatom rejected a report by Norwegian environmental group Bellona that tanks of spent nuclear fuel in Russia's Arctic were leaking and risked setting off an uncontrolled chain reaction. Bellona, a whistleblower on Soviet and Russian nuclear dumping activities, quoted a Rosatom publication as saying that degradation of cement that encases nuclear waste tanks on the Kola peninsula has already allowed salt water to seep in. It said the salt water was mixing with radioactive rods in tanks at the Andreeva Bay facility, and could set off a chain reaction whose fall-out could spread across northern Europe in a worst-case scenario. "I can state officially that there have been no situations which might threaten the environment," a Rosatom official told Reuters on Friday. Nils Boehmer, an atomic physicist and head of Bellona's Russian section, said the report in Rosatom's Atomnaya Energiya publication warned that salt water was causing uranium particles to fall off rods and settle on the bottom of tanks. The concentration of such particles was not known, he said, but according to the Rosatom report if it topped 5-10 percent, it could trigger an uncontrolled chain reaction.

Posted 1 June 2007; 6:38:01 PM.  Permalink

Kola "a nuclear bomb"   

(Ole Mathismoen and Jonathan Tisdall/Aftenposten, 1 June 2007)** -- The vast amount of radioactive waste that is the legacy of Russia's nuclear-powered submarines has been known to be a looming environmental disaster - now it can be far worse. Research now indicates that the enormous tanks holding discarded submarine fuel rods in the Andreeva Bay may explode at any time, creating a nuclear nightmare for Northern Europe. Norway and other Western authorities have argued for years that the stockpile of highly radioactive nuclear waste on the Kola peninsula poses an environmental hazard to the local population and for Norway. A new report from Rosatom, the Russian government's highest nuclear authority, shows that there is a grave danger that the stockpile can explode. For Norway the consequences could exceed the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and no one knows how imminent the danger is - if it is a question of years - or hours. "In the best case a small, limited explosion in just one of the stored rods can lead to radioactive contamination in a five-kilometer (three-mile) radius. In the worst case, such a single explosion could cause the entire tank facility to explode. We have no calculations for what that could lead to," Aleksandr Nikitin of environmental group Bellona told Aftenposten. "It will at least, at a careful estimate, hit Northern Europe. There are enormous amounts of radioactivity stored in these tanks," said Nils Bøhmer, nuclear physicist and head of Bellona's Russian division.

See also "Nuclear dump in Russian Arctic in danger of exploding, Norwegian group says" (International Herald Tribune, 1 June) and "Norway concerned about possible nuclear explosion at Andreyeva Bay" (Bellona, 1 June 2007).

Posted 1 June 2007; 6:23:00 PM.  Permalink

Valgach will become a reserve   

(Siku Circumpolar News, 31 May 2007) -- The Nenets Autonomous Okrug has made a decision on the establishment of regional nature reserve on Vaigach Island and 33 adjacent islands. The decision might preserve the vulnerable nature environment of the area against growing industrial pressure on the area. Located south of the Novaya Zemlya between the Pechora Sea in the west and the Kara Sea in the west, the Vaigach island is likely to experience growing industrial pressure from shipping along the Northern Sea Route and the exploration of oil and gas in the surrounding sea areas. Both the Pechora and Kara seas have huge offshore oil and gas reserves. A total of 242,778 hectares of land will be included in the new reserve, Pravda Severa reports. The department of the Natural resources and Environment in the Nenets Autonomous administration spearheaded the establishment of the reserve, the regional press service informs. The “reserve” status will help to safe flora and fauna, historical and cultural heritage of the Far North island. The Nenets living in the Vaigatch will keep their traditional businesses as reindeer farming, hunting and fishing, Pravda Severa reports. Vaigach island is historically a sacred place for the Nenets people. According to Nenets legends their gods’ abode was located here. Reindeer-herders and hunters annually visited the island to make sacrifices to the mighty deities and to pray for protection from enemies and good luck in hunting. There are today four minor settlements on the island, as well as a polar research station.

Posted 31 May 2007; 10:47:49 AM.  Permalink

Norwegian and Russian life at Svalbard   

(Reuters via The Moscow Times via BarentsObserver, 30 May 2007) -- In the Spitsbergen archipelago, the Norwegian mining town of Longyearbyen is located only 40 km from the Russian mining community of Barentsburg. The Norwegian and Russian miners are separated by a snow-covered mountain range that marks one of the greatest wage divides in the world for doing the same job, the Moscow Times reports. Norwegian miners can earn up to 100,000 USD per year, more than 10 times the pay of a Russian miner, Norwegian officials say. Norway administers Svalbard, but other nations can exploit natural resources under a 1920 treaty. Still, miners in Barentsburg, operated by state firm Arktikugol, say they also enjoy Arctic life, even if expectations are lower. The islands are bathed in the midnight sun for almost half the year, with darkness for most of the rest, the Moscow Times reports.

Posted 31 May 2007; 12:26:22 AM.  Permalink

New alphabets for small peoples in Russian North   

(Nezavisimaya Gazeta via Barents Observer, 28 May 2007) -- The regional government in the Republic of Karelia has approved the new alphabets for the Karelian and Veps peoples, as elaborated by regional scientists in cooperation with the national minority organisations. For the Karelian people, the new alphabet could serve the basis for a revival of literature, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. The Karelians and Veps are to indigenous minority peoples living mainly in the Republic of Karelia. The two peoples count respectively about 70 000 and 5000 individuals. Officially, the new alphabets have been elaborated in order to adjust the languages to the demands of the computer age. However, according to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the alphabets could, at least for the Karelian people, have far-reaching consequences also with regard to the formation of a united literature language. While the Cyrillic alphabet previously was used in the Veps language, the new alphabet is based on Latin letters.

Posted 28 May 2007; 11:49:21 PM.  Permalink

Arctic port at heart of Norilsk’s empire   

(Robin Paxton/Reuters, 28 May 2007)** -- DUDINKA, Krasnoyarsk Region — Every spring, the cranes in this Arctic port are shifted several hundred meters away from the banks of the Yenisei River. With good reason. The river rises 8 meters when it thaws, tossing chunks of ice into anything blocking its path. Annual repairs cost more than $1 million. Dudinka, 320 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle, is the gateway to Russia’s ice-bound northern shipping lanes, taking metals from the heart of Siberia up the Yenisei to the Arctic Ocean, and from there to destinations all over the world. “And it’s probably the only port in the world where the cranes have to be moved every year,” said Nikolai Kostetsky, head of administration at the port. About 4.5 million tons of goods pass through the port every year, mostly from the smelters of Norilsk Nickel, which supplies one-fifth of the world’s nickel and more than half its palladium. Norilsk, which owns the port, is building five $110 million ships. The first was launched last year and the last will be ready by 2009. A settlement has existed at Dudinka for 340 years, but its modern existence began in 1935. Among the first arrivals were 1,000 political prisoners exiled to Russia’s frozen north by Stalin to exploit mineral resources and build a smelter in Norilsk, 80 kilometers to the east.

Posted 28 May 2007; 11:38:50 PM.  Permalink

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