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Norilsk mayor charged with negligence for failed response to massive Arctic fuel spill

Norilsk Mayor Rinat Akhmetchin has been charged with negligence in connection with the 20,000 ton diesel fuel spill that took place at the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company’s Heat and Power Plant Number 3 at the end of May.

The Russian Investigative Committee reported the charges against Akhmetchin, but did not clarify whether or not he has been arrested. According to the investigation, Akhmetchin was aware of the scale of the fuel spill, but did not take proper measures to respond to the emergency situation. 

Under the Russian Criminal Code, negligence is punishable by either a fine of up to 120,000 rubles (approximately $1,730), or a maximum of one year community service, or up to three months detention.

The massive spill in question took place when a damaged fuel tank at the power plant began leak on May 29. Diesel fuel spread into the surrounding soil, as well as the Daldykan and Ambarnaya rivers, contaminating an 180,000 square meter area in the Russian Arctic.

Officials in the region, Krasnoyarsk Krai, took two days to respond to the accident, claiming that experts led them to believe that there was no significant environmental damage. The region declared a state of emergency on June 3. Greenpeace Russia estimates that there is at least $86.3 million in damage to bodies of water in the region alone. Nornickel is planning to pay for the cleanup in full, and estimates that the costs will exceed $146 million.

Multiple criminal cases have been opened in connection with the accident; the head of the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company was arrested on June 10, along with several other employees. 

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