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Russia's president told a meeting of top officials Wednesday
Russia's president told a meeting of top officials Wednesday that the country must set up an effective security system to prevent pollution and man-made environmental disasters.

"At this stage, the main task is firstly to implement decisions consistently and in full, and secondly to create an effective system of ecological security in the country," Putin told a Russian Security Council session devoted to environmental problems.

Putin said the system would have to cope effectively with man-made pollution and provide solutions to new environmental problems and challenges.

"Discussions on ecological problems today should be held in an assertive and practical key; environmental protection work should become a systemic, daily duty on all levels of state power," the Russian leader said.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the likely presidential successor who chairs the board of gas giant Gazprom, told the meeting that sanctions against companies that harm the environment should be toughened.

"Strict measures should be taken to ensure the disposal of waste accumulated over years of economic and military activity, as well as man-made catastrophes. Introducing an entire sector for clean technology should be simultaneously encouraged," Medvedev told the Security Council.

"One way to do this is to toughen sanctions against companies that pollute the environment."

Medvedev said fines for violations are currently too small, making it impossible to enforce environmental protection laws.

Putin said that the environmental consequences of oil pipeline and offshore hydrocarbon projects must be minimized. He singled out the Nord Stream gas pipeline being built under the Baltic to Germany, and the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipe.

The Russian leader also said Russia must defend its environmental interests internationally, taking into account cross-border pollution.

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