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Russian Protesters Want Lake Baikal Protected

The paper mill on Lake Baikal
The paper mill on Lake Baikal
IRKUTSK, Russia -- Demonstrators gathered in the Siberian city of Irkutsk to call for the protection of Lake Baikal and the closure of a polluting paper mill, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Some 400 people attended the protest on May 21. Almost as many law-enforcement personnel were there to police the demonstration.

Environmentalists are concerned by a recent federal government decision allowing the paper mill on the lake's southwestern shoreline to restart its operations. The plant had been closed due to its negative impact on the environment.

Protesters and passersby signed a petition calling on the United Nation's cultural organization, UNESCO, to take measures to protect Lake Baikal against the reopening of the paper mill.

Baikal is a UNESCO protected site and is the world's oldest and deepest lake. Located in southeastern Siberia, it contains one-fifth of the world's fresh water. Its unique fauna -- of great value to evolutionary science -- have led it to be dubbed Russia's "Galapagos."

Despite the heavy police presence, there were no reports of clashes or arrests during the protest.