Last reviewed 10 June 2020

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has declared a state of emergency after an estimated 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil from a power plant spilled into a river in the Russian Arctic region, causing significant environmental damage.

Emergency teams have been working for several days to try and contain the oil leak, which has now travelled over 20km down the Ambarnaya River north of Norilsk, contaminating water courses and subsoil in the region.

Investigators believe oil storage tanks, close to the Norilsk power plant, collapsed because of melting permafrost, which weakened support structures. Siberia, together with the Arctic region as a whole, is warming at a much faster rate than other regions — a pattern that scientists say is linked to global warming.

So far, clean-up teams have removed about 23,000 cubic metres (812,000 cubic feet) of contaminated soil, Ria Novosti news reports.

Environmentalists and officials have declared the latest oil spill as the worst of its kind in modern times in Russia’s Arctic region, comparing it to the much larger Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 in Alaska, in terms of potential environmental damage.