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A criminal investigation is underway as photos of a massive oil spill into a river in Siberia surfaced on June 4. A fuel tank at a powerplant near Norilsk, Siberia released more than 20,000 tonnes of diesel on May 31 that has contaminated 135 square miles. The river is connected to Arctic waterways.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency and criticized the Norilisk Nickel subsidiary plant operations. Russia’s Investigative Committee has reportedly launched an investigation and detained a power plant employee.

A spokesman for Russia’s Federal Fisheries Agency, Dmitry Klokov, said the damage is unclear, “Already, we can say that restoring the ecological balance of the affected Norilo-Pyasinsky water system will take decades. The scale of the disaster is underestimated,” he said, according to the state news agency Tass.

“With the help of installed booms, only a small fraction of the Pollution can be collected, so it can be argued that almost all diesel fuel will remain in the environment,” said Greenpeace Russia’s head of energy, Vladimir Chuprov, in a statement.

In a statement, Norilsk Nickel said, “Norilsk Nickel has mobilized 250 personnel and 72 equipment items to work on the liquidation. As of June 3, a total of 262 tonnes of diesel fuel has been collected…a total of 800 cubic metres of contaminated soil has been removed and approximately 80 tonnes of fuel has been collected from the spill to Ambarnaya river.”

The BBC reported that Oleg Mitvol, former deputy head of Russia’s environmental group Rosprirodnadzor, said “there has never been such an accident in the Arctic zone,” and that the clean-up cost could be up to $1.5 billion.

See photos and videos of the rivers affected, below:

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