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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting via conference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, on June 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared a state of emergency in a region of Siberia after an estimated 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled from a power plant storage facility and fouled waterways.

The spill took place Friday at a power plant in an outlying section of the city of Norilsk, 2,900 kilometres (1,800 miles) northeast of Moscow. Booms were laid in the Ambarnaya River to block the fuel; the river feeds a lake from which springs another river that leads to the environmentally delicate Arctic Ocean.

Putin on Wednesday ordered officials to minimize the consequences of the spill. But Alexei Knizhnikov of the World Wildlife Fund’s Russia operation said the damage to fish and other resources could exceed 1 billion rubles ($13 million).

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The plant is operated by a division of Norilsk Nickel, whose factories in the area have made Norilsk one of the most heavily polluted places on Earth.

No cause for the accident has been determined, but a company statement said it was concerned about facilities constructed on sinking soil above permafrost.

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