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Moscow grateful for Washington's offer to help with oil spill

By REN QI | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-09 10:05

Russia has expressed its appreciation to the United States for offering to help clean up an oil spill in the Arctic town of Norilsk.

Specialists take part in recovery works following a diesel fuel leak at a thermal power station outside Norilsk in Krasnoyarsk Region, Russia in this handout picture released June 6, 2020. Picture released June 6, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The accident, on May 29, was caused when a diesel tank at a thermal power plant owned by mining giant Norilsk Nickel collapsed near Norilsk, spilling 15,000 tons of fuel into the nearby Ambarnaya River and 6,000 tons on to surrounding land.

The spill, which covers 180,000 square meters and is visible from space, is the worst ecological disaster of its kind in the region.

Efforts by Russia's emergency services to mitigate the disaster have been complicated by logistical challenges: the area is hard to reach, the river is shallow, which hampers operations by boat, and the ground is swampy in spring.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an emergency and said he expected the mining company to pay for the cleanup, which could take years.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter: "Saddened to hear about the fuel spill in Norilsk, Russia.

"Despite our disagreements, the United States stands ready to assist Russia to mitigate this environmental disaster and offer our technical expertise."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia is "certainly thankful to the US side".

"It is another goodwill gesture that proves that we can work for the good and can demonstrate this cooperation," Zakharova said.

"We can also point out that the company [Norilsk Nickel] and state bodies have figured out the technology and set a time limit to solve the issue. So we will thank Mr Pompeo.

"I believe it is a very constructive discussion. There was an attempt at least. I feel that such things should be highlighted and thank you should be said. Therefore, it will be done so."

Complicated mission

According to Russian media, the cleanup has been complicated by the marshy ground amid a springtime thaw and the shallow depths of the Ambarnaya River, which prevents boats from reaching the scene.

Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a probe into the cause of the incident and inspected facilities considered potentially hazardous in the permafrost areas.

Andrei Ivanov, a spokesman for the Russian Office of General Prosecutor, said a preliminary finding for the cause of the accident was soil subsidence, undermining the stability of the fuel tank's concrete platform.

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