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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
Putin urges ecology review
The BBC's Nikolai Gorshkov
By Nikolai Gorshkov
BBC correspondent in Moscow

River Ob, Siberia
Siberia is among the areas worst affected

On the eve of World Environment Day, the Russian Government and ecologists have exchanged blows about Russia's track record on pollution and the measures to curb it.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged a radical review of Russia's laws on environmental protection.

He told his State Council of top advisers that 15% of Russian regions were on the brink of ecological disaster.

The worst affected are the industrial wastelands of the Urals and Siberia, with millions of Russians living in areas where levels of air pollution exceed international health norms.

'Business interests'

For its part, the State Council has suggested President Putin should set up a single environmental watchdog and finalise Russia's position on the Kyoto Protocol on carbon dioxide emissions in time for the Moscow climate conference to be held in September.

The agreement cannot come into force until Russia, responsible for 17% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, ratifies the deal.

Russian environmentalists have been accusing the government of sitting on its hands, pandering to business interests.

President Putin's own adviser on economic development has poured scorn on the calls to speed up the ratification of the protocol.

Andrei Illarionov told the Russian press on Wednesday that Russia could ill afford the expense it is required to go to by the deal, citing the US withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol as a powerful reminder of the costs involved.

He said there was a need for additional research and a national debate before Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol.

Russia gives Kyoto kiss of life
03 Sep 02  |  Africa
EU tackles Russian pollution
09 Jul 02  |  Europe

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