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Russia To Use Convicts In Clean-Up Work From Norilsk Arctic Diesel Spill

Workers take part in a clean-up operation following a massive fuel spill in the Ambarnaya River outside Norilsk in May last year. (file photo)

The chief of Russia's Federal Penitentiary System (FSIN) may use convicts to help clean a contaminated zone of the Arctic following a massive diesel spill.

"I have asked leaders of [FSIN] branches in the regions located in the Arctic zone to continue working [on the issue of using inmates in clean-up operations]," FSIN head Aleksandr Kalashnikov said in Moscow on March 12, adding that the matter had been agreed upon with the authorities of the Krasnoyarsk Krai region and the city of Norilsk.

Last May, more than 21,000 tons of diesel leaked into the Norilsk environment from the tank of a thermal power plant belonging to a subsidiary of Russian metallurgical giant Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel), owned by Russia's richest man, Vladimir Potanin.

The spill sparked an outcry and led to the dismissal in October of Norilsk Mayor Rinat Akhmetchin, who was also sentenced to six months of correctional work for negligence

In the wake of the disaster, President Vladimir Putin ordered a state of emergency after the extent of the spill became known.

On March 10, Nornickel said it had fully paid off more than 146 billion rubles ($1.97 billion) in damages for the spill.

The use of inmate labor in major state projects used to be a regular practice in Soviet times in the former Soviet Union.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax