Mr Donskoy also briefed the President on the results of the Environmental Protection Year and the environmental situation in Crimea, and presented proposals for environmental protection in the region.
* * *
President OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr Donskoi, we have many matters to discuss. I want to start with the Arctic, which has been the subject of some recent decisions, and the situation with the continental shelf.
Natural RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT MINISTER SERGEI DONSKOY: Yes, Mr President, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has just approved our application concerning the enclave of international waters in the Sea of Okhotsk. We prepared this application a long time ago and first submitted it back in 2001.
Our Japanese colleagues objected at that moment that there was insufficient information and the application was rejected. We reworked the application and resubmitted it last August. This time, the Commission examined it very rapidly and gave a positive response two weeks ago.
Now we need to organise work with the Foreign Ministry and other organisations concerned to draw everything up officially. Under the Convention [On the Law of the Sea], the Commission’s decision is irreversible and no international body will dispute it. It is just a case then of having to go through the formalities now. I hope that we will do this quickly.
This was the first step. In fact, we have two applications. The second concerns the Arctic and is the bigger and more important one, of greater economic value, I would say. Over this time, we have carried out the necessary work and since 2007 geologists have been actively carrying out geophysical and deep-water studies and gathering information. They have developed a model and been in contact with their colleagues in other countries. Another expedition is set to take place this summer, and we plan then to have the application completed and ready for submission in autumn.
After that, it is a diplomatic matter of deciding when exactly it would be best to submit the application. It would be good to do so by the summer of 2015, so that we can work with the same set of Commission members. We have already established good and constructive relations with these people and we know what kind of questions they are likely to ask us, and so we think it would be good to submit our application in the spring of 2015.
Vladimir Putin: You need to coordinate your plans with the Foreign Ministry.
Sergei Donskoy: Yes, we are working together of course. All of this work has been carried out in close cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, Defence Ministry and other agencies that are playing an active part in this area.
During our work on the Sea of Okhotsk application, the Foreign Ministry organised consultations and talks with our Japanese colleagues, during which we settled all of the issues. As for the Arctic application, the Foreign Ministry is playing a big part here too, and we are working in close coordination with the Ministry.
Vladimir Putin: Good. You had some other matters you wanted to discuss.
Sergei Donskoy: Yes, Mr President. First, on behalf of everyone concerned with the environment, I want to thank you for last year, which, as we know, was declared Environmental Protection Year. This was a very important time for us. This decision was made in order to get more people involved in environmental protection in general. According to the information we have to date, my colleagues tell me that around 15 million people took part in various events last year, practically one in every ten people around the country. This has been a big boost to our work.
We organised a large number of international events as part of Environmental Protection Year, above all so as to set out and explain Russia’s position and outline the directions in which we are moving. The Baltic Development Summit was one such event, and then just before the Olympic Games we held a big conference together with the International Olympic Committee to assess environmental measures and support for the Olympics. We held a wide range of events on wildlife protection. We organised a conference on polar bears at the end of last year, at which all of the countries that are home to polar bears signed an agreement on protecting this species.
Last year, we held a congress of ecologists for the first time in the last ten years. The congress went through the entire range of environmental issues, which was very helpful in passing a number of laws, in forestry and water resources, for example, environmental laws that were passed last year. Overall, Environmental Protection Year was a success.
There is another matter I want to raise too. Crimea is the subject of much attention at the moment, and our colleagues are working with the region’s specialists to do a stocktaking of the whole situation there, and in this respect there are two issues that I want to mention.
First is the accumulated environmental damage that has already built up there. We are still collecting all the information, but we see that this is a very serious ‘legacy’. The issue of solid household waste treatment has not been dealt with at all. We propose that the measures and steps we are taking to deal with accumulated environmental damage here could be extended to Crimea too, and we could get to work dealing actively with these issues there. We have drafted a proposal on this.
The second issue is that of biodiversity and protection of nature reserves. Protected areas, nature reserves and national parks account for around 10 percent of Crimea’s territory, and this is very important. The region is home to one of Russia’s oldest national parks. With your support and backing, we would like to implement there the same policies that we are taking here to protect such territories and toughen responsibility in this area, because there have been some problems in Crimea. We want to act at this stage to make maximum use of our possibilities so as to ensure that these territories are protected and that there are no losses as far as the environmental protection objectives are concerned. I therefore wanted to get your support in this area.
Vladimir Putin: Both of these issues are very important for Crimea. Give me your proposals and we will examine them now, and will certainly support them.
Sergei Donskoy: Thank you.