The explosion in the fourth reactor at the nuclear power plant in April, 26, 1986 left swathes of Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus badly contaminated and led to the creation of a no man’s land within a 30-kilometre (19-mile) radius of the station.
Dozens of villages and towns were evacuated, turning the area into a giant reserve unprecedented in Europe by its size.
More than three decades after the incident there has been an influx of visitors to the area, spurring officials to seek official status — and protection — from UNESCO.
– A ‘unique’ chance to save biodiversity –
Since the disaster, the area has become a haven for elk, wolves — and the stocky endangered breed of wild horse native to Asia, Przewalski’s horse.
“Paradoxically, this is a unique opportunity to preserve biodiversity,” Vyshnevsky said.
Under the right conditions, the Ukrainian herd could eventually increase to 300 or even 500 animals, said Sergiy Zhyla, Senior Researcher, Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve.
Researchers at the Prague zoo participating in the conservation efforts now say the global population of Przewalski’s horses has grown to some 2,700.Play VideoWild horses flourish in Chernobyl 35 years after explosionClick to expand
Following the success in Chernobyl, there is discussion over introducing other endangered species to Ukraine’s zone.
Vyshnevsky sees one potential candidate in the European bison — which already roams over the border in Belarus — and discussions are currently underway with the World Wildlife Fund, a global environmental NGO.
“We’ll be able to recreate the landscape that was here before humans began intensely exploiting the region,” he said.
Moscow — Russia warned the United States on Tuesday against sending warships to the Black Sea, urging American forces to stay away from the annexed Crimean peninsula “for their own good” as the situation along Ukraine’s border caused increasing concern in the West. The U.S. Secretary of State, meeting with Ukrainian and NATO officials in Brussels, made it clear that the Biden administration, along with its allies in Europe, has Ukraine’s back and considers Russia’s ongoing military buildup in the region “very provocative.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Washington had informed Ankara that two U.S. warships would pass through Turkish waters this week to be deployed in the Black Sea. The deployment would come amid a significant escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine’s forces, which have U.S. and European support.
Hostilities first flared in 2014 when Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea — a peninsula that sticks out into the Black Sea and is home to a Russian navy base — away from Ukraine, drawing condemnation from the Western world and a series of sanctions.
“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores,” Ryabkov said, warning there was a very high risk of unspecified incidents if U.S. military hardware were to be positioned in the Black Sea.
“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying. “It will be for their own good.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined during a regular press briefing on Friday to confirm the Turkish government’s statement that U.S. warships were being sent to the Black Sea. He noted that the U.S. “routinely” operates in the Black Sea, but said he wouldn’t “speak to operations.”
The current escalation has added strain to already tense U.S.-Russian relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russia against aggressive actions in an interview aired over the weekend, saying any aggression in Ukraine would have consequences.
Ryabkov responded on Tuesday, accusing the Russian “adversary” of trying to undermine Russia’s position on the international stage. He reiterated Russia’s readiness to defend the interests of its citizens, and ethnic Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was preparing itself in the event any new sanctions should be imposed on Moscow by the U.S. or its global partners.
Meanwhile, Russia has continued to move forces into both Crimea and the region along its border with Ukraine. The Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday that 15 warships and vessels of the Caspian Flotilla had been sent to the Black Sea as part of previously announced military exercises.
Ukraine said earlier this week that Russia had already massed more than 40,000 troops along its border, and at least 40,000 more in Crimea. Russia says the troop buildup is part of exercises, and has stressed that its forces will go where they want, when they want on Russian territory.
“Very provocative action”
Top U.S. officials are in Europe this week, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Blinken. Austin announced during a stop in Germany on Tuesday that the U.S. was going to deploy an additional 500 troops to that country.
When asked if the move was meant as a message to Russia, he said it was “a sign to NATO” of the U.S. commitment to the transatlantic alliance, and of the firm commitment to Germany. Under President Donald Trump, Washington said it would withdraw thousands of the American forces who’ve been stationed in Germany for decades. That decision was suspended by the Biden administration, and now the force is set to grow.
Blinken, meanwhile, was in Brussels, meeting NATO partners, and he met separately with his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss the standoff with Russia.
“The United States stands firmly behind the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and I’m her to reaffirm that with the foreign minister today,” Blinken said. “That’s particularly important in a time when we’re seeing, unfortunately, Russia take very provocative action when it comes to Ukraine. We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border since 2014. That is a big concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States and indeed to many of our allies and partners.”
Sitting across from him, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Russian buildup was “taking place not only along the border of Ukraine, but along the border of the democratic world. For thousands of kilometers to the north and to the east of our border with Russia, there is no democracy. So, this is the struggle that is taking place between democracies and authoritarianism, and in this struggle the support of the United States is absolutely crucial, and deeply appreciated.”
Kuleba thanked NATO, also, and said that warnings already conveyed to Moscow through diplomatic channels, “will be supported by actions that make it very clear for Russia that the price of further aggression against Ukraine will be too heavy for it to bear.”
While no NATO deployments have been confirmed, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed the alliance was planning to position 40,000 more troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment close to Russian territory. He didn’t elaborate, but said that “in response to the military activity of the alliance that threatens Russia, we have taken appropriate measures.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier on Tuesday that he was “seriously concerned” by Russia’s deployment of additional forces to the Ukrainian border.
“Russia is now trying to reestablish some kind of sphere of influence where they try to decide what neighbors can do,” Stoltenberg said.
CBSNews.com’s Tucker Reals contributed to this report.
A mutating strain of bird flu that has emerged in Russia has “a fairly high degree of probability” of human-to-human transmission, the head of the country’s health watchdog warned in a report.
Anna Popova, who heads Rospotrebnadzor, made the worrying prediction almost a month after scientists detected the first case of H5N8 transmission to humans at a southern Russia poultry farm, the Moscow Times reported.
Humans can get infected with other bird and swine flu subtypes, but the H5N8 strain — which is lethal for birds — has never previously been reported to have spread among people.
“This is likely to happen. Colleagues say that the mutation is continuing very actively,” Popova said, adding that Rospotrebnadzor and the Siberia-based Vektor state research lab have time to develop a test kit and a vaccine, and then to “monitor the situation.”
“If we won’t need it, it’ll be a lucky break. But if necessary, we’ll be ready,” Russia’s chief sanitary doctor told Russian news agency TASS.
“In other words, we’ll be able to warn the entire world community of the threat.”
Last month, Popova reported the first case of the H5N8 strain passing to humans from birds to the World Health Organization, according to Reuters.
In addition to Russia and Europe, outbreaks of H5N8 have been reported in recent months in China, the Middle East and North Africa — but so far only in poultry.
Other strains of avian flu, such as H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2, have been known to spread to humans.
Seven workers at a Russian poultry plant had been infected with the H5N8 mutation in an outbreak at the plant in December, Popova said, adding that everyone quickly recovered.
“This situation did not develop further,” she said in late February.
By Jonny TickleA leading Russian parliamentarian has proposed a new bill to ban the catching of marine mammals, which would eventually lead to the closure of the country’s many dolphinaria as collections could no longer be replenished.
Authored by State Duma deputy Svetlana Bessarab, of the ruling United Russia party, the bill would prevent the practice of taking mammals such as dolphins, seals, and killer whales into captivity, including for educational purposes. The aim is to stop the poaching of animals that have evolved to live in a large oceanic territory. Over time, as the animals currently affected eventually die, institutions with marine mammals would be forced to close.
As things stand, capturing marine mammals is already highly regulated, with purchasing from illegal poachers completed banned. However, according to Bessarab, there is now an absurd situation where state agencies seize animals from criminals and then hand them over to dolphinariums for ‘safekeeping’, despite these institutions not being equipped to rehabilitate the animals.
In 2018, activists discovered around 100 whales living in tightly packed aquatic ‘pens’ in Russia’s Far East. The animals were later declared as having been illegally captured, and the local governor said they would all be released back into the wild. In November 2019, the last of the captured whales were finally returned to their ocean home.
Seven people at a poultry farm in southern Russia have been infected with H5N8 bird flu, officials say, making it the first time that the highly pathogenic virus has been found in humans. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
“Today, I want to inform you about an important scientific discovery made by scientists at the Vector scientific center,” Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, said on Saturday. “The first cases of human infection with [avian influenza A(H5N8)] have been laboratory confirmed.”
The virus was found in seven employees at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where outbreaks of H5N8 were reported in the bird population in December 2020. Popova described the human cases as “mild,” according to the Interfax news agency.
“The virus can be transmitted from birds to humans, it has overcome the interspecies barrier,” Popova said. “As of today, this variant of the influenza virus is not being transmitted from person to person. Only time will tell how quickly future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier.”
Popova said the discovery will help researchers prepare for the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the H5N8 virus. Detailed information about the cases has been submitted to the World Health Organization.
H5N8 has been found in birds since at least 1983 and outbreaks have occurred frequently since 2014, when it was found in breeding ducks in South Korea. Numerous outbreaks have been reported during the past 6 months, including in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, and South Korea.
“The H5N8 type influenza is regarded as pathogenic and is currently manifesting itself in a variety of ways, from asymptomatic and sub-clinical to highly lethal in some populations,” the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in an update about recent outbreaks.
Human cases of H5 viruses are rare but are typically found in those who have contact with sick or dead birds.
239 human cases of H5N1 bird flu have been reported in China and Southeast Asia since 2003, killing 134 people, according to WHO. More recently, two people in China were infected with the H5N6 variant in January, causing the death of a three-year-old girl.
“Community awareness of the potential dangers for human health is essential to prevent infection in humans,” WHO said in a public health assessment for H5 viruses. “Surveillance should be continued to detect human cases and early changes in transmissibility and infectivity of the viruses.”
Crops grown near the Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine are still contaminated with radiation from the explosive 1986 disaster.
In a new study, researchers found that wheat, rye, oats and barley grown in this area contained two radioactive isotopes — strontium 90 and cesium 137 — that were above safe consumption limits. Radioactive isotopes are elements that have increased masses and release excess energy as a result.
“Our findings point to ongoing contamination and human exposure, compounded by lack of official routine monitoring,” study author David Santillo, an environmental forensic scientist at Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter, said in a statement, referring to the fact that the government suspended its radioactive goods monitoring program in 2013.
Santillo and his colleagues, in collaboration with researchers from the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology, analyzed 116 grain samples, collected between 2011 and 2019, from the Ivankiv district of Ukraine — about 31 miles (50 kilometers) south of the nuclear plant.
This area is outside of Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone,” which is a 30 mile (48 km) radius around the plant that was evacuated in 1986 and has remained unoccupied. They found radioactive isotopes, predominantly strontium 90, were above safe consumption level in 48% of samples. They also found that wood samples collected from the same region between 2015 and 2019, had strontium 90 levels above the safe limit for firewood.CLOSENuclear Disasters: Chernobyl vs. FukushimaVolume 0% PLAY SOUNDRELATED CONTENT
The researchers believe that the lingering radiation in the wood, in particular, may be the reason for the continued contamination of crops, almost 35 years after the disaster. When analyzing the wood ash from domestic wood-burning ovens, they found strontium 90 levels that were 25 times higher than the safe limit. Locals use this ash, as well as ash from the local thermal power plant (TPP), to fertilize their crops, which continues to cycle the radiation through their soil.
However, computer simulations suggest that it could be possible to grow crops in the region at “safe” levels if this process of repeated contamination ceased. The researchers are now calling for the Ukrainian government to reinstate its monitoring program and create a system for properly disposing of radioactive ash.
“Contamination of grain and wood grown in the Ivankiv district remains of major concern and deserves further urgent investigation,” study author Valery Kashparov, director of the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology, said in the statement. “Similarly, further research is urgently needed to assess the effects of the Ivankiv TPP on the environment and local residents, which still remain mostly unknown.”
Satellite imagery of the Russian naval base at Tartus in Syria shows pens used to keep marine mammals.
The marine mammals are likely military dolphins sent by Russia to guard its fleet in Syria.
Russia’s marine mammal arsenal includes beluga whales, one of which was sighted hanging around Norway last year.
Satellite photos of a Russian naval base in Syria depict pens typically used to hold trained marine mammals. The pens, which made a brief appearance at the Tartus naval base from September to December 2018, likely contained military dolphins. Both the U.S. and Russia use trained dolphins to detect mines and enemy saboteurs—and Iran might, too.READ THISDoes Iran Have Secret Armed Dolphin Assassins?
Russian military intervention in Syria is opposed by a number of sides in the conflict. Enemies of the Assad regime have launched several attacks against Moscow’s military forces, including a January 2018 mass drone strike against Tartus and Russia’s Hmeimim air base. Russia was likely concerned that enemy divers might attack warships in port and deployed dolphins as a response.
Melting permafrost caused a fuel tank holding 21,000 tons of diesel oil to collapse in Russia’s Arctic Circle, leading to a 135-square mile oil spill.
According to Rosprirodnadzor, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources, 6,000 tons spilled onto the ground, another 15,000 tons into the water. Oil products got into the Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers and in almost all their tributaries.
The spill occurred in the city of Norilsk, Russia, at a power plant operated by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Co., a subsidiary of Nornickel. The town is located above the Arctic Circle in Russia’s far North.
Greenpeace has already called the spill the first accident of such a large scale in the Arctic. The organization believes that damage to water bodies alone from a diesel spill in Norilsk could amount to more than $85 million.
A diesel fuel storage tank failed when the permafrost it was built on began to soften. As a result of damage to the tank, fuel spilled onto the roadway and a passing car caught fire.
“The accident was caused by a sudden sinking of supporting posts in the basement of the storage tank,” the company said in a statement.
The leaking diesel oil had extended as far as 7 miles from the accident site and turned long stretches of the Ambarnaya bright red.
In Russia, diesel is dyed red if it’s used for heating of buildings and structures. Red diesel is usually pumped into special storage tanks and subsequently consumed as an energy source.
Zinichev told Putin that the Norilsk plant had spent two days trying to contain the spill before alerting his ministry. The region’s governor, Alexander Uss, had told Putin that he became aware of the oil spill on Sunday only after “alarming information appeared in social media”.
According to Russian media, the liquidation team has already cleaned about 53,000 cubic feet of soil at the site of the diesel fuel spill in Norilsk and pumped out 201 tons of fuel. More than 130 tons were removed from the Ambarnaya river.
Nornickel is the world’s leading producer of nickel and palladium producer. Palladium is a rare metal used to make catalytic converters.
One of the company’s key co-owners is Vladimir Potanin who was listed as the richest man in Russia with the fortune of $25 billion. The billionaire has lost $1.5 billion due to the consequences of the accident, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires ranking.
The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a criminal case of negligence due to untimely reporting of an accident near Norilsk, according to the agency’s website. Who or what, exactly, the criminal case has been opened on was not specified. Russian authorities have already arrested the head of one of the units of a thermal power plant.
As global warming has raised temperatures, especially in Arctic latitudes, melting permafrost has become a major problem. In many colder areas buildings and structures are built on permafrost which can be as hard – and had been as permanent – as concrete.
That has begun to change with warming temperatures, causing damage to buildings and changing
Zeeshan Aziz (@imziishan) 13 minutes ago Thu 05th December 2019 | 05:29 PM Russian Watchdog Warns Six Walrus Calves From ‘Whale Jail’ May Be Smuggled to China A Russian environmental watchdog has questioned the legitimacy of an appeal by the Akvatoriya company in Vladivostok to sell to China six baby walruses that were captured in 2018 in Chukotka by two companies implicated in the recent “whale jail” scandal, the watchdog’s press service told Sputnik on Thursday
MOSCOW/VLADIVOSTOK (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 05th December, 2019) A Russian environmental watchdog has questioned the legitimacy of an appeal by the Akvatoriya company in Vladivostok to sell to China six baby walruses that were captured in 2018 in Chukotka by two companies implicated in the recent “whale jail” scandal, the watchdog’s press service told Sputnik on Thursday.
According to the Federal Agency for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor), on November 25, 2019, Akvatoriya lodged a request to issue a permit under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to export six baby walruses from Russia to China. The documents provided by the company, however, raised questions on the origin of the animals.
“Thus, taking into account that the date of birth indicated in the animals’ passports is 2018, the age of the animals at the time of capture could not exceed 10 months. There is no information about the address and conditions of keeping the walruses in the exporter’s request. As part of the review procedure, we sent a request to the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency on the legitimacy of catching the given walruses,” the press service stated.
According to the Russian legislation, capturing walruses that young is illegal. On Tuesday, the Russian Environment Ministry ordered head of Rosprirodnadzor Svetlana Radionova to check Srednyaya Bay, where the baby walruses were held in captivity. In addition, in March, one of the workers of the “whale jail” confirmed that there were walruses among the animals stranded in captivity.
The scandal involving the “whale jail” erupted last year when environmentalists found that a large group of marine mammals was held in captivity in Srednyaya Bay of the Primorsky Region. The stranded animals were being prepared to be smuggled to China. As a result of a probe into the illegal fishing of aquatic animals and animal abuse, the companies responsible for the violation were fined a total of 150 million rubles
($2.4 million). The trapped orcas and belugas were steadily released in groups from June to November.