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Putin arrives in Franz Josef Land to size up Arctic environmental cleanup

The president will talk to employees of the Russian Arctic National Park who will brief him on the environmental cleanup of the archipelago’s six islands

ALEXANDRA LAND /Franz Josef Land, Arkhangelsk region/, March 29. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Alexandra Land of the Franz Josef Land Archipelago. The island is located in the Barents Sea about 1,000 kilometers away from the nearest coast of continental Russia. Today’s temperature on the island is minus 26 degrees Celsius with strong, icy winds.

The president will get acquainted with the results of the efforts to eliminate environmental damage to Russia’s Arctic zone and talk with environmentalists. According to the Kremlin’s press service, Putin issued instructions on dealing with its aftermath after his previous trip to the island in April 2010.

"The head of state will talk to employees of the Omega field base in the Russian Arctic National Park who will brief him on the environmental cleanup of the archipelago’s six islands that have been affected most, efforts to preserve biodiversity in the Arctic zone and the prospects for developing tourism," the press service said.

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday announcing the trip that it would take place "if weather conditions allowed it," adding that they are "rather unstable."

Long-standing invitation

Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Sergey Donskoy, suggested Putin visit Franz Josef Land in September 2016. At a meeting with cabinet members chaired by the president he elaborated on efforts to fulfill the directives on the Arctic environmental cleanup. The Franz Josef Land archipelago was chosen as the territory to clear up environmental damage. According to a geo-ecological survey, the mass of accumulated waste amounted to about 90,000 tonnes.

Donskoy noted at the meeting that 39,000 tonnes of waste had been prepared for disposal and removed from 2012 to 2015, which is almost half of the total volume. The Alexandra Land island was completely cleaned up. He also invited Putin to visit the archipelago.

The president pointed out that it is bitter cold in the region during the winter months (with temperatures hitting icy lows of minus 50 degrees Celsius). However, he did accept the invitation to visit the islands in 2017, when the Year of Ecology is held in Russia.

Earlier this month, Donskoy confirmed his invitation to Putin to visit the archipelago. In his view, the Russian leader’s trip will make it possible, in particular, to attract attention to ecotourism.