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Russian police raid environmental group working to protect Lake Baikal

Russian police have raided the Baikal Environmental Wave organization reports the Moscow Times. Police seized several computers, citing the reason for the raid to uncover the use of unlicensed software.

A member of the group, however, linked the raid to its public stance against reopening the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mills on Lake Baikal, which closed due to pollution concerns two years ago.

“All of our programs are licensed. They confiscated the computers without checking the license documents, saying they didn’t have experts to look at them,” Galina Kulebyakina, a member of Baikal Environmental Wave, told The Moscow Times.

Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill.

The re-opening of the mills was recently announced by Vladimir Putin after he visited the bottom of Lake Baikal in a submarine, claiming he could see no sign of environmental damage.

The Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill complex began operation in the 1960s and has used the lake as a dump for refuse. It is the largest employer in the town of Baikalsk, employing some 1,500 people.

Located in Siberia, Lake Baikal is the world’s largest body of freshwater and is incredibly rich in species found no-where-else with 1,500 endemic species recorded so far, including Lake Baikal’s freshwater seal known locally as the nerpa.

A study in 2008 found that contaminates known as perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, were present in the seals at higher levels than in 1992, proving that pollution is an ongoing issue for the lake.

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