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Russian environmental activists have called for a freeze on the development
Russian environmental activists have called for a freeze on the development of part of the Far Eastern shelf by oil company Rosneft, a WWF Russia spokesman said on Monday.

Russia's largest crude producer Rosneft is expected to spend around $1 billion on the exploration of the western Kamchatka shelf and plans to drill two initial exploratory wells this year.

"Oil prospecting and development of the shelf pose a number of environmental dangers, including the threat of oil spills, which could cause irreversible damage to the precious commercial marine life in the region," said Alexei Knizhnikov, head of the WWF oil and gas policy program.

Fish are the only source of food for local people living in small settlements around the shelf and oil spills could have catastrophic consequences for them.

The interests of the locals were not included in documents submitted by Rosneft to an environmental watchdog, said Dmitry Berezhkov, a representative of the northern indigenous people.

Berezhkov proposed freezing the project until the environmental measures have been fully implemented in the region.

The Kamchatka shelf is about two-thirds the size of South Korea and is estimated to hold about 900 million metric tons of fuel equivalent across 26 sites.

State-controlled Rosneft holds a 60% stake in the project, which is comparable in scale to major oil and gas projects like Sakhalin I and Sakhalin II. The Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) holds a 20% stake.

Public organizations concerned about the environmental threats to Kamchatka submitted their complaints and recommendations to the Russian government last November and March. "But the government ignored our proposals, and permission to drill the first exploratory well was issued in April," Knizhnikov said.

"What is left to do in this situation is to call on Russians to hand in a petition to the government," he said adding that the collection of signatures would start in Moscow's central Pushkin Square on May 27.


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