Category Archives: Russia

20,000 Ton Oil Spill in Russian Arctic Has ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ for Wildlife

The leaked diesel oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the site of the accident

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into a river in the Arctic Circle.

The accident is the second largest oil spill in terms of volume in modern Russian history, the Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) told AFP, as BBC News reported. The oil spread around 7.5 miles from the fuel site, turning the Ambarnaya river bright red, and contaminated a total of 135 square miles.

“The incident led to catastrophic consequences and we will be seeing the repercussions for years to come,” Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects for WWF Russia, said in a statement reported by CNN. “We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds, and poisoned animals.”

Russia’s environmental ministry Rosprirodnadzor is already reporting contaminant levels in the water that are tens of thousands of times higher than the safe limit.

“[T]here has never been such an accident in the Arctic zone, ” former deputy head of Rosprirodnadzor Oleg Mitvol told BBC News.

Greenpeace compared the disaster to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The spill occurred last Friday when a fuel tank at a power plant near the city of Norilsk in Siberia collapsed. The plant is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s No. 1 producer of nickel and palladium. Its factories are also the reason why Norilsk is one of the most polluted places on Earth, The Guardian reported.

The plant initially attempted to clean the spill on their own and did not tell authorities about the incident for two days, Ministry of Emergency Situations head Evgeny Zinichev said, according to CNN.

Alexei Knizhnikov of WWF said his group was the first to inform cleanup specialists of the spill, according to The Guardian.

“These are huge volumes,” he said. “It was difficult for them to cover it up.”

The governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, where the spill took place, told Putin he only learned of it Sunday from social media posts.

“Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy over there?” Putin scolded Sergei Lipin, the head of NTEK, as the subsidiary that owns the plant is called.

Norilsk Nickel countered that NTEK had alerted authorities in a “timely and proper” fashion.

https://www.ecowatch.com/oil-spill-russia-arctic-wildlife-2646152380.html?rebelltitem=6#rebelltitem6

In the shadow of strict protest laws, young Russians build a climate movement

Screenshot_2019-10-01 In the shadow of strict protest laws, young Russians build a climate movement(1)
Activists attend an environmental demonstration, part of the Global Climate Strike, in Saint Petersburg, Russia September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

MOSCOW, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At 15 years old, Margarita Naumenko is one of the youngest participants in Russia’s Fridays for Future climate protest movement.

Each week, she stands in downtown Moscow with other young activists chanting, brandishing posters and demanding the government take action on worsening climate change threats.

Her parents support her decision to protest, Naumenko said, but they are less convinced about the urgency of slowing the climate change.

“I tried talking to them and changing their opinion,” she said. “But that is not easy.”

Led largely by young people, Russia’s nascent climate protest movement has taken on the challenge of changing minds in a country where, not long ago, both the public and politicians were sceptical about the need to act quickly on climate change.

The protests may be having some effect. Earlier this month, Russia announced it would join the 2015 Paris Agreement to fight climate change – one of the last countries in the world to do so.

The country is the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and was the biggest emitter not to have agreed to the landmark global climate deal.

Before the announcement, activists in Moscow held about 50 individual protests, after previously having been denied a permit to demonstrate as part of a large-scale global climate strike last week.

On Friday, as young climate campaigners again marched around the globe, about 85 protesters in Moscow held up red and white fabric to spell out the words “Act Now” in front of Russia’s main government building.

Naumenko joined the movement five months ago, inspired after attending a lecture on improving sustainability in the education system and after seeing Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old figurehead of the youth climate movement, speak on television.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I take any action?,'” Naumenko told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have just one planet. If we do not care about it, who else will?”

GROWING PROTESTS

Since the first mass eco-protest in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park in March – a day students around the world walked out of their classes to call for action on climate change – other Russian cities such as St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Irkutsk, have joined the climate campaign.

For Arshak Makichyan, it was the March protest in Moscow that sparked his involvement in climate activism.

Since then, the 25-year-old violinist has become one of the faces of Russia’s youth protest movement, demonstrating every week, often on his own.

He also acts as one of the coordinators of the movement, and part of his job is to apply for official permission to protest, which can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

New rules adopted after mass protests in Moscow that followed President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 election made it a criminal offence to stage some forms of non-violent protests without a permit.

Single-person protests, on the other hand, do not require a permit, Makichyan explained. But they do have restrictions – for example, in Moscow, protesters must not stand closer than 50 metres (160 feet) from each other.

Makichyan said that, so far, Russia’s climate activists have succeeded in getting permits for two large-scale environmental protests.

And the crowds at protests have been getting bigger over the past few months, he added. These days, an organised climate demonstration in Moscow attracts between 20 and 40 participants.

The number may be small compared to the thousands who come out for protests in other cities around the globe, but it is a big increase from when Russia’s activists first started, Makichyan said.

“The numbers have been growing,” he said. “Ten weeks ago, I was very often protesting on my own. Now every week we get more participants and new cities join in.”

Russia’s government has a history of cracking down on protests that it has declared illegal.

In a case in July that triggered global condemnation, police in Moscow detained more than 1,000 people for taking part in a protest calling for opposition members to be allowed to run in a local election.

Makichyan, who took part in that protest and was detained for three hours, said so far there have been no arrests during any of the climate protests.

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org//item/20190927111020-yhl2b/

Russian parliament approves bill to isolate country’s internet

Russian photoThe bill passed its first reading by 334 votes to 47 in the Russian parliament [File: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters]

Russian legislators have given tentative approval to a draft legislation that could cut off Russia from the global internet.

The bill, co-authored by Andrei Lugovoi – one of the main suspects in the 2006 murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in the UK – passed its first reading in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday by 334 votes to 47.

A heated debate preceded the vote with many legislators from minority parties criticising it as too costly and argued that it was not written by experts.

Authors of the initiative say Russia must ensure the security of its networks after US President Donald Trump unveiled Washington’s new cybersecurity strategy last year, which threatened to respond to any cyber attack both offensively and defensively.

Russia’s new bill proposes creating a centre to “ensure and control the routing of internet traffic” and requires that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) install “technical measures to withstand threats”.

It also mandates regular “drills” to test whether Russia’s internet can function in an isolated mode.

Taking questions on the floor, the authors were unable to estimate the long-term costs, what threats it would repel or even how it would work. They, however, said expert opinions could be incorporated into the bill for its second hearing.

One of the authors dismissed all criticism, citing the scale of the potential threat from Washington.

“This isn’t kindergarten!” shouted Lugovoi. “All of the websites in Syria” have been turned off by the US before, he claimed.

Internet freedoms
Critics say the bill shows the authorities’ continued efforts to limit internet freedoms despite the huge public and private cost.

“This is very serious,” said Andrei Soldatov, who co-authored a book on the history of internet surveillance in Russia. “This is a path towards isolating Russia as a whole… from the internet.”

Russian internet providers have reportedly been tasked by April 1 to come up with a way that the country could reliably shield itself from cyberattacks.

The concept appears similar to China’s Great Firewall, which regulates internet operations in view of reinforcing national sovereignty.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/russian-parliament-approves-bill-isolate-country-internet-190212134228143.html