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Meeting on eliminating damage to environment in Usolye-Sibirskoye

November 26, 2020, Sarov

The President held a videoconference on eliminating the accumulated damage to the city of Usolye-Sibirskoye in Irkutsk Region.

The meeting took place at the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre – the National Research Institute of Experimental Physics, which the President visited during his working trip to Sarov.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Last summer, I believe it was in July, we discussed the environmental situation in Usolye-Sibirskoye. Due to the chemical waste accumulated there for decades, since the Soviet times, the situation was very dangerous and posed a great threat to nature, and, most importantly, to the people, to the health of tens of thousands of people living not only in the city but also in the adjacent territories and settlements. The scale of the problem required the involvement of federal government bodies.

Following that meeting, we adopted a number of decisions – both urgent and system-wide, of a long-term nature. Priority was given to measures on decontaminating the dangerous facilities and protecting the people while ensuring the continuous operation of the municipal economy, preserving employment for the entrepreneurs working on this territory as well as workers, the people who live there.

As we agreed, later it will be necessary to conduct serious well-coordinated work on eliminating the dangerous facilities, thoroughly clean and reclaim the polluted lands and water sources and, what is very important, to create conditions for the sustainable long-term socioeconomic development of Usolye-Sibirskoye.

An interdepartmental working group headed by [Deputy Prime Minister] Viktoria Abramchenko has been created to this end, and the Defence Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry’s forces and resources have been mobilised. The National Guard has been brought in to guard the facilities as well. A roadmap for neutralising hazardous chemicals and structurally deficient storage facilities has been approved, and the necessary budget funds and resources have been set aside.

The key role in dealing with the aftereffects went to Rosatom; this is why the head of Rosatom is here with me in the office. Taking into account its expertise and unique competencies, Rosatom obtained the mandate as the sole contractor for all work in Usolye-Sibirskoye. Today, we are meeting in this format precisely because my colleagues and I are sitting in one of Rosatom’s most important and largest facilities.

To reiterate, we should not confine ourselves to decontaminating the grounds of the facility in Usolye-Sibirskoye. I am aware that Rosatom’s plans include creating a modern environmentally-safe production and industrial complex, which will be instrumental in opening modern enterprises and creating new well-paid jobs for the local residents. Overall, this should give a strong boost to developing Usolye-Sibirskoye.

I would like to emphasise once again that all of us present at this meeting must keep this situation under personal control at all times, and I plan to do the same, because this is an emergency situation. Almost each of you reported about the developments in your area of responsibility. This is a grave situation, and this project cannot be approached just as another project in progress.

Today, I would like to hear your reports on the current activities, as well as what additional measures you think should be taken in order for us to achieve our goals.

Let's get started.


Vladimir Putin: In conclusion I would like to say the following.

First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your contribution, primarily Ms Abramchenko for actively taking on this job and for properly organising all the necessary activities.

Indeed, over a short period of time all bodies of power have joined this project, with experts, researchers and ecologists being involved as well. This consolidated joint work is producing certain results. It boils down to localising and clearing up the most dangerous objects. This is the most important part, of course. The spread of the toxic patch and the movement of chemicals into water bodies have been stopped. Otherwise, the consequences would have been unpredictable. Essentially, you have prevented the risk of a real environmental disaster, if not catastrophe. This is the main thing.

As a result of these efforts, a direct threat to the lives and health of the people living here has been lifted. I hope that this is so. I can see that this is so from all the documents and reports, yet I would like to repeat what I said at the beginning: we must not slacken our efforts. I can see on the picture here that the barrier which Rosatom is erecting will cut the patch off from the river, but it has approached very, very closely. The situation is very serious.

At the least, a failure of the city’s life support systems has been prevented, which is very important as well.

I would like to once again thank all those who have been working on this, including the Defence Ministry, the Emergencies Ministry and, of course, Rosatom specialists.

We talked about this today as well, but I would like to say the following in conclusion of this meeting. There are problems, large-scale problems that must be addressed, which is obvious. I would like to ask Ms Abramchenko and the interdepartmental working group to keep the situation under control at all times. We must not slacken out efforts to settle the environmental problems and continue monitoring the situation there.

As for Rosatom, I would like to ask it to continue with its comprehensive rehabilitation efforts and to attract additional funds and resources, if necessary.

(Addressing Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev.) The proposal you have advanced here for creating an eco-tech park is, of course, a good idea, and it was logical that the mayor has taken notice of it. Additional funds and resources must be invested in the city to create conditions for a normal life and jobs for the people, who are waiting for us to do this. I hope that Rosatom’s experience and competencies will be used to attain this goal, to ensure an ethical use and recycling of the materials that have been accumulated in various industrial sectors.

I have no doubt that all these measures will allow us to create a safe and comfortable living environment for the people who live there, as well as the basis for the advanced socioeconomic development of Usolye-Sibirskoye. This is what the city mayor, Mr Maxim Toropkin, who certainly represents the opinion of city residents, has said just now.

I would like to wish all of you success in implementing your plans on schedule. If you come across any unexpected problems, please do not hesitate to raise them at the Government level, and I, of course, will be on hand and will get involved as soon as necessary.

I would like to thank all of you. See you at the next meeting on this issue.

All the best.

November 26, 2020, Sarov