Russian court sentences Arctic city mayor to community service over fuel spill

Rinat Akhmetchin, who resigned as mayor in July, was charged with negligence in connection with the spill.

By Reuters - October 19, 2020
The TPP-3 power plant, owned by NTEK, a subsidiary of Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel, is seen on July 30, 2020 during work on the demolition of a fuel tank which collapsed on May 29, resulting in a spill of diesel fuel, in Norilsk, Russia. (Irina Yarinskaya / Reuters File Photo)

MOSCOW — A Russian court on Monday sentenced the former mayor of the Arctic city of Norilsk to six months of community service after finding him guilty of negligence over a major fuel spill in the region.

Rinat Akhmetchin, who resigned as mayor in July, was charged with negligence after a fuel tank at a power station in the remote, industrial region lost pressure and collapsed in late May, leaking more than 20,000 tonnes of fuel into rivers and subsoil.

Greenpeace has compared the incident to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska.

The Krasnoyarsk Regional Court said in a statement that in addition to his community service, Akhmetchin would have his salary cut by 15 percent during that period. It did not specify the capacity in which he would carry out his community service.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the body that probes serious crimes, charged Akhmetchin with criminal negligence in June, saying he had failed to coordinate and organise emergency measures to contain and control fallout from the spill.

Norilsk, a city of 180,000 people located 300 kilometers (190 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, is built around Norilsk Nickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.

The company has disputed the environmental cost of the spill as assessed by Russia’s environment watchdog.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber.