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Russian Whistleblowers are risking everything to expose the scale of the disaster of the Arctic oil spill

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Vasily Ryabinin

“It still burns really well,” Ryabinin said. “It’s very possible this puddle stretches across the river and will pollute it for a very long time.”

The factory owner, metal giant Nornickel, said the spill was quickly contained, and damage was limited. Ryabinin has sacrificed his work and the future of his family at Norilsk in an effort to lift the lid on what environmentalists call the worst ecological disaster in the Arctic.

It was 2 o’clock in the morning in the Arctic summer. Half the light illuminates a fast-moving river as it flows through the endless tundra to the Arctic ocean. A layer of rainbow oil covers the surface; puddle of diesel that is sandwiched under our feet.

Ryabinin took us there on foot along the railroad tracks. Since the spill, the area around the site has been guarded by security officers, making them difficult to access.

He is a rare creature in Russia today – a reporter who quit his job with the state environmental agency Rosprirodnadzor and announced to the public about the extent of the disaster.

Ryabinin said he was first told about the scale of the crisis on May 29 with photos posted on Instagram. He was immediately surprised: Daldykan and other rivers were polluted by the flow of spills into Lake Pyasino. From there, contamination can spread to the Arctic Ocean.

Only a few hours later he was in the river, taking photos that would immediately provoke public anger. He and his boss tried to enter the Nornickel factory, but he said they were refused entry by the police.

More than 20,000 tons of diesel was poured into rivers from storage tanks, according to Nornickel.

Foamy red mud mixes with water and sucks life from the river and its banks.

“It looked terrible when we got there and it wasn’t even the worst because several hours had passed,” Ryabinin said. “You can smell diesel half a kilometer away … my boss is even afraid to smoke there in case it explodes.”

What he saw was very different from what was later reported by officials and the media: that the spill was quickly controlled. Russian state television ran a report showing aerial photographs of an oil spill boom that was guarding the diesel red coating.

“That is truly a childish lie, I cannot wrap my head,” Ryabinin told CNN.

“Obviously I think we should at least investigate the lake but my lake [agency] have different views, which correspond to one of them [Nornickel] plants – that the spill does not spread further than the river. “

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Ryabinin said the last straw for him was when Rosprirodnadzor told him to stop looking into the disaster after he found a helicopter to fly to the lake. At that time, on June 7, he announced to the public, taking a 45-minute account of what he had found – concluding that the fuel volume and flow rate must have spread contamination even further.

Rosprirodnadzor did not respond to requests for CNN comments. In an e-mail, Nornickel told CNN that spill clearance was in progress, and that the company was “guided by official Rosprirodnadzor data and the Ministry of Emergency Situations,” as well as satellite imagery showing “fuel limits” distribution. “

Samples were collected by Ryabinin on the day of the spill.
A layer of gasoline is seen on the surface of the Daldykan River.

Back in Moscow, YouTube blogger and environmental activist Georgy Kavanosyan made the same calculations as Ryabinin.

“All you need to do is look at satellite imagery, determine the area of ​​this red dot and divide it with thousands of tons that are told to pour it into the water,” Kavanosyan said. “And you will know that the diesel must run 50 meters to stop there – so that is clearly impossible.”

“They only caught the tail of this spill and no one even mentioned what was under the film, state TV continued to show spills that said there was nothing underneath and it was only on the surface,” Kavanosyan told CNN. “And under this layer, hydrocarbons dissolve and infiltrate all life – fish, eggs, mud, everything.”

After watching Ryabinin’s video, Kavanosyan decided to travel to the region to take independent samples from Lake Pyasino – and find out whether pollution had reached the lake.

Norilsk is a difficult place to operate. This is a remote ‘mono-city’ where one company and one industry dominates the economy – as a result, enjoys considerable influence. More than 2,800 kilometers northeast of Moscow, the city was founded during Stalin’s reign as a place of gulag prisoners. There is no land connection with all of Russia: to get there and back, you have to fly. Foreigners need to get special permission from the Federal Security Agency, or FSB, to enter.

Kavanosyan said he and the cameraman pretended to make a personal visit and lived in rented apartments, avoiding the main streets. At night they sneak into the river hoping to find a boat to take them to the lake.

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“It’s difficult, half the people here work for Nornickel and that would clearly be a risk for them,” Kavanosyan said.

When they finally reached the lake, they found that the level of contaminated hydrocarbon contamination was 2.5 times higher than what was officially permitted, Kavanosyan said. He was the only one who managed to take an independent sample from the area.

The others are not so lucky. Reporters from Novaya Gazeta said they faced ongoing harassment from guard Nornickel when they investigated other areas with Vasily Ryabinin, finding a place where wastewater was pumped directly into the tundra. Nornickel then admitted the violations in the tailings pond and suspended local staff. The Russian Investigation Committee launched an investigation into this incident.

Greenpeace Russia also spent two weeks trying to get samples from Lake Pyasino but said authorities were constantly trying to block their work – a police helicopter put them in a jungle hut and had their ship’s fuel confiscated.

A Moscow MP, who agreed to bring samples collected by Greenpeace journalists and activists back to the capital, said he confiscated them at the local airport last week.

In a video posted by Novaya Gazeta, airport staff said that the airport was “also Nornickel” and taking water samples required company permission.

When asked to comment on this accusation, Nornickel said that “an emergency regime had been installed on the site and access to many locations was restricted.”

This spill is by no means the first environmental disaster in this part of Siberia, some of it rivers flowing red with poisonous waste from factories amid weak environmental regulations. Local residents complain of acid gas that pollutes the air; Norilsk’s edge resembles a large rusty junkyard with dead trees as far as the eye can see.

“Everyone is dying here,” said Andrey, a local driver who did not want to reveal his last name. “People are mostly worried about gas, sometimes it gets so bad that we don’t get children out.”

But the spotlight is scarce in the city and Nornickel has encouraged companies to provide an explanation to the public, accept full responsibility for the spill and accept cleaning fees. Last week it was said that more than 90% of fuel from spills had been collected.

In the initial assessment the company blamed the melting permafrost for affecting the foundation of the fuel tank but said the investigation was still ongoing.

Arctic Russia is heating up, and melting permafrost has the potential to damage infrastructure in the region. More than 60% the vast state land surface is supported by permafrost. Summer in Norilsk is also very hot.

But both Kavanosyan and Ryabinin doubt that the sudden collapse of the tank was caused by climate change. They say Russia has enough experience building on ice and can artificially freeze land if needed. They believe that poor maintenance or lack of supervision is to blame.

A river bank dump next to a pre-processing plant on the outskirts of Norilsk.

The scandal, and Ryabinin’s accusations, also prompted Rostekhnadzor, the state body that oversees the maintenance of industrial infrastructure, to reveal that its specialists could not gain access to the tank at the Nornickel plant for five years.

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The spill even attracted President Vladimir Putin, who chaired a television meeting with Nornickel’s head, Vladimir Potanin, in early June. Potanin said the company expects to pay around $ 140 million to cover the damage.

“A ship containing fuel is much cheaper, far cheaper,” Putin answered. “I say that if you replace one tank on time there will be no damage to nature, and the company will not have to bear such costs.”

Beyond the rare public spotlight on environmental problems in Russia, the Nornickel spill has provided an example of dissent and protest that is increasingly rare in Russia. A few weeks after the discovery by Ryabinin and Kavanosyan, the state agency Rosprirodnadzor acknowledged that Lake Pyasino had been contaminated.

On Wednesday it estimated the damage to be 14 times greater than Nornickel’s initial assessment and asked him to pay a record $ 2 billion in compensation.

The company denied the assessment, saying that the agency had based its calculations “on principles that had distorted the results and needed to be adjusted.” He also added that he remained committed to his obligation to eliminate the consequences of spills at his own expense.

Kavanosyan called Rosprirodnadzor’s action “revolutionary” and said it sent a signal to all companies that chose to “dump waste into rivers and lakes and save on wastewater treatment plants.”

As for Ryabinin, he was preparing to leave Norilsk and move his family to another place.

“It’s very sad because I really love my city, North and I don’t want to go,” he said. “But I do this knowing that I won’t be able to live and work here after all this.”

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The expedition will explore “an area still little known”: the Portuguese Sea.

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The expedition will explore "an area still little known": the Portuguese Sea.

The Oceano Azul Foundation has joined the municipalities of Cascais, Mafra and Sintra and set off together this Saturday on the ship “Santa Maria Manuela” for a scientific expedition that will last until 12 October.

On board will be 50 researchers from institutions such as the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), the Hydrographic Institute or the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA). During this time, scientists will embark on what they consider to be an “essential” process of “investigating the region’s natural values” that will allow for a “global assessment of the marine biodiversity” that exists in that region of the ocean.

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Every Portuguese wastes 183 kg of food a year, and this is “inconceivable”.

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Every Portuguese wastes 183 kg of food a year, and this is "inconceivable".

President of the Portuguese Federation of Food Banks Against Hunger Isabelle Jonet considers food waste unacceptable and absurd, as every Portuguese wastes 183 kg of food a year.

As World Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day is celebrated, speaking at a conference on the subject in Lisbon, the official recalled statistics released by the National Statistical Institute and said the situation was “worse than expected.”

The data, official and published for the first time, refers to 2020 and shows that 1.89 million tons of food was wasted in Portugal this year, so each Portuguese wasted an average of 183.6 kilograms of food.

INE statistics show that families spend the most. The figures show that over 1.2 million tons of food was wasted by families this year, followed by catering with over 237 thousand tons, trade and distribution with 214 thousand tons, primary production with over 101 thousand tons and food . industry, about 61 thousand tons.

“We buy too much, we buy bad, we let it go bad. It is unacceptable that a third of what is produced ends up in the trash,” the official said, speaking at a debate organized by the United Movement Against Waste.

Ana Cristina Carrola of the Portuguese Environmental Protection Agency (APA), who also took part in the debate, stressed that the average amount of waste per year per inhabitant in the European Union is 173 kg, less than the 183 kg that is thrown away by the Portuguese.

“This is unthinkable in our day,” he lamented.

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Thanks to goals from Evanilson and Pepe, Porto beat Braga in Portuguese; Sporting wins too

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Thanks to goals from Evanilson and Pepe, Porto beat Braga in Portuguese;  Sporting wins too



Evanilson scored four goals in eight matches in the 2022/23 Portuguese Liga (Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP)

Photo: Lance!

After the draw in the last round Portuguese Championship, Porto won again. This Friday, the defending champions thrashed Braga 4-1 at the Dragau Stadium. Goals came from Evanilson, Eustaquio, Pepe and Galeno. Defender Pepe, against, got to the opponent.

Ex-Fluminense Evanilson opened the scoring in the 32nd minute of the opening stage. Eustaquio tried to make a cross and the Brazilian forward appeared on the second post to prop up his chest. Two minutes later, Pepe filed Eustaquio, who sent the ball into an empty net.

In the final stage, the Portuguese-Brazilian defender Pepe tried to cut off a low cross, but sent him into his own net. Pepe, the former Gremio who assisted, got it from Taremi after a beautiful move that extended the game in the 18th minute. In addition, the Brazilian Galeno closed the account in the north of Portugal.

– I am very happy to score again and, above all, for this victory. A match we knew would be difficult, against a strong opponent who was in good sequence, but in which we managed to impose our rhythm and win three points in front of our fans. Now it’s time to rest and get back to work, already thinking about the next challenge, which is also very important for us, – said Evanilson after the match.

SPORTING TOO WINS

Another great player to take the field this Friday is Sporting CP. In Lisbon, on José de Alvalade, the Lions beat Gil Vicente 3-1. For Rubén Amorim’s side, Morita, Pote Gonçalves and Rocinha scored. Fran Navarro scored in stoppage time.



Sporting CP are the vice-leaders of Portugal (Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

Sporting CP are the vice-leaders of Portugal (Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

Photo: Lance!

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