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No sanctions should be imposed on the Arctic
- Yegor Afanasyevich, Yakutia takes an active part in the implementation of the state policy of the Russian Federation on the Arctic. Please tell us what changes have occurred in recent years in the Arctic zone of the country in general, and in Yakutia in particular?
- The leadership of the country and the republic pays close attention to the Arctic in several areas. Firstly, in our country, unlike the rest of the world, extremely cold Arctic territories are inhabited in Yakutia. Thousands of people live and work there, who need comfortable conditions, warmth and products, education and medicine. Therefore, we must develop industry there, create an infrastructure, and ensure transport accessibility. This is a whole tangle of problems, and it's not so easy to untangle it. Secondly, the Arctic is the richest region, which has a huge potential for minerals, hydrocarbons that need to be mastered. In addition, the issue of transport logistics related to the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is especially important. It is the development of the Northern Sea Route that creates conditions for work in the Arctic. This is the shortest way from Asia to Europe, which at one time was mastered, and then was abandoned. Now it has to be revived anew. Perhaps, here are the three main points on which the Arctic requires our close attention.
What is happening in the Arctic zone of the republic now? Unfortunately, at the beginning of the 1990-s, domestic reformers decided that from the point of view of the economy, the North was unprofitable, as it was costly. They decided that it was more profitable to relocate people from the northern territories. As a result, the authorities of the country paid no attention to the northern regions for a long time, including the people who live there. In Yakutia, the support of small indigenous peoples was carried out only in terms of survival. Now the priorities have changed, and we are already talking about the fact that the Arctic zone is long overdue. We are investing in the housing and utilities sector, improving housing conditions, building schools and hospitals there, and we are striving to increase the responsibility of the leaders of the republic, ministries and departments.
- This year was declared the Year of the Arctic in Yakutia in Yakutia. What has been done for the development of the Arctic territories during this period?
In the north of Yakutia, in villages such as Tiksi, which every year was subjected to natural disasters and accidents, serious problems regularly arose in the housing and utilities sector. We spent more than 1 billion rubles, restored the system and today created quite good living conditions. A research station for the study of the Arctic “Samoilovsky Island” is being set up in the Bulunsky District. In almost all the Arctic regions, we began to build schools, kindergartens. We support and pay wages to reindeer herders at the expense of the budget.
In the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), there are great difficulties in transport communications. To reduce the cost of passenger traffic in the North between the districts and from Yakutsk, we subsidize them.
In the Arctic zone there are not enough staff - teachers, doctors. With experts who go to work in the Arctic, we conclude contracts, and if a person works there for 5 years, then we pay him half the cost of the apartment. To date, according to this program, we have already attracted 60 specialists. These are the practical steps that we are taking.
- The Arctic zone of Yakutia includes 13 districts, which are a storehouse of natural resources. In the past, production was developed in them: in the Ust-Yansky ulus, on the basis of the deposits of the Yano-Indigir tin-bearing area, the Deputatsky GOK, the Kularskoye gold deposit - the Kularzoloto mine and the Verkhoyansky ulus at the Lazo and Chugas gold fields - the Adychanskiy mine . Then the enterprises went bankrupt, and the villages of Lazo, Naledny, Polyarnik, Tenkelya and others ceased to exist. People leave from the North. What is the current trend? How to keep the population and restore production?
- Indeed, at the beginning of the 1990-ies in the northern regions there were large tin mining enterprises in the Ust-Yansky region, gold mining in the Verkhoyansk, Oymyakonsky, and Tomponsky districts. As I said, when the market reforms began, the city-forming enterprises in all the large northern towns were closed, and settlements with them were extinguished. In 1992-1994 years tens of thousands of people left the region. Today life in the Yakutian Arctic again begins to flicker, although it is too early to talk about former scales - it is unlikely that in the next few years villages like Lazo or Severny will revive.
Meanwhile, it's time to establish production in the north. If the market situation allows us to enter profitable production, then we will review the positions for the extraction of tin. Our partners are already investing money and are beginning to deal with tin mining in the Ust-Yansky region. Gold mining company Polyus Gold plans to develop the Nezhdaninskoye field in the Tomponsky region. Much attention is paid in the republic not only to gold and tin, but also to other minerals, such as hydrocarbons and coal. In the Anabar region, oil and gas fields are being developed. On the shelf in the Laptev Sea, Rosneft began to explore oil and gas fields. Coal and rare-earth deposits are investigated. Moreover, Russian investors acquire licenses for development, which, in my opinion, is very important.
- The Arctic policy in Russia is governed by three documents: "The fundamentals of the state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the period up to 2020 and the longer term" from 2008, the Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone and National Security until 2020 (approved in 2013) and the state program " Socio-economic development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2020 "(approved in April 2014). There is no money for this program so all Arctic Russian projects can work within 14 sector programs where the Arctic zone is registered and which have funding. What specific programs affecting the Arctic are being implemented in Yakutia?
- We are interested in the strategic documents that are adopted, worked. Of course, we pinned great hopes on the program of socio-economic development of the Arctic zone, because Russia is guided by the program method in managing the economy and it is in the framework of the programs that budgets are formed. Of course, like any subject, we hoped that certain financial resources would be allocated to us. Today, the situation is a little different, you need to make adjustments, but do not abandon their plans. I would like to emphasize this.
Taking into account the announcement of the Year of the Arctic, we developed our program for the development of the northern territories of the republic, where we laid certain expenses for supporting the Arctic regions. They are connected with the construction of social facilities, the maintenance of roads. Construction of year-round roads in the north is impossible, it is primarily about the "winter roads". We are expanding the construction of "winter roads" to make settlements more accessible in the autumn-winter period. There is today a program to support small indigenous peoples of the North. And here we also receive certain funds from the federal budget. In a word, we are looking for different opportunities to attract financial resources and invest them in Arctic territories.
As for the Arctic as a whole, the state program has defined the Arctic borders of Russia. I think that the availability of strategic documents will help us not only to overcome current difficulties, but also to create certain conditions for development.
- Many countries are showing geopolitical interest in the Arctic. Russia conducts large-scale development of the Arctic, the leading role in this belongs to the Ministry of Defense (October 21 on the island of Wrangel took place the solemn opening of the new military camp "Polar Star", an airfield and a navy base are being built in Yakutia on the Novosibirsk Islands). Who should we be wary of? What will the military presence in the region?
"We're not talking about dangers." Of course, there are risks: you see for yourself what is happening now on the planet. But risks arise first of all when some states unilaterally try to establish rules for all countries of the world. Therefore, we are obliged to create conditions for the confident development of the Russian Federation, including the strengthening of its defense capability. If geopolitically, we want to pursue a more balanced policy in the Arctic, then we should create conditions to exclude any possible risks. In the Soviet years in the territory of Yakutia were deployed military forces, then they are very significantly thinned out. Today, the military is returning, and we support such a policy.
- As head of the presiding region, you are head of one of the institutions of international Arctic cooperation - the organization "Northern Forum". How do diplomacy work in the Arctic? Is there anyone with whom and about what to negotiate?
- There is an influential international organization Arctic Council. Twenty years ago, it was created to see the development of the Arctic in a global context. The non-governmental organization Northern Forum appeared even earlier, but today it is experiencing a rebirth. The Northern Forum, being an observer in the Arctic Council, has a lot to do with humanitarian issues. This policy, of course, is associated with the establishment of closer interregional ties of the circumpolar countries.
There are about 30 thousand representatives of small peoples living in Yakutia, which, taking into account the irreversible processes of globalization, also experience some tension, and it is extremely important for us to find tools for their protection. From this point of view, it is much easier when international cooperation is carried out at the regional level, because we get an effective exchange of experience - cultural, productive, vital.
Agree, the living conditions in Yakutia are different from Krasnodar. But we live in the same conditions as the Inupiat in Alaska or the Saami in Finland. Therefore, it is easier for us to find a common language, common ground, to support each other, to suggest how to overcome many of the difficulties affecting our life.
- What are the expectations of Yakutia regarding the development of transportation along the NSR? Is SMP considered an export destination?
- The coast of Yakutia is one third of the Northern Sea Route. When vessels navigate the Northern Sea Route, they need some escort - technical, meteorological, if necessary - aviation, etc. Therefore, it is necessary, at all costs, to provide the infrastructure of the Northern Sea Route, including in Yakutia.
In addition, we have long been talking about the creation of a unique meridional transport corridor, which will significantly reduce the path between the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. The railway can carry cargo to Yakutsk, then along the Lena River, take them to Tiksi, and then calmly exit to the Northern Sea Route, bypassing the bypass of Kamchatka and Chukotka. Such a route will reduce the current route, which runs through the Bering Strait, at about 2700 miles. At the same time, of course, we could deliver through the Northern Sea Route and colossal natural resources that are stored in the bowels of Yakutia.
- Let's talk a little about the "sanction war". How much, in your opinion, it will affect the Arctic region. Especially already there is an example of sanctions: ExxonMobil company refused to cooperate with Rosneft.
- Sanctions turn into blatant extremes. For example, we have been negotiating with the World Bank for two years to obtain an investment loan to build pre-school educational institutions in Yakutia for children from 3 to 7 years. This issue was worked out on all the requirements of the World Bank, we put a lot of effort, it was only necessary to decide on the allocation of funds, when the time came for sanctions. And now the project has stopped. Perhaps we can agree with the imposition of sanctions against politicians, economic sanctions can also be understood in exceptional cases, but it is, in my view, wrong to speak out against children.
As for the Arctic, for all its severity, it is very tender and fragile. Therefore, if we have already launched some projects in the Arctic, we must continue them. For it is easy to stop, but to resume and continue will not be so easy. Based on these considerations, in my opinion, there should be no sanctions against the Arctic. We were sure that the northern countries will support us, but, unfortunately, even a country like Iceland, where we go to the Arctic Circle forum, recently joined these sanctions. Maybe it's just about twisting the arms. I admit that Iceland did not take such a step by its own will.
- Do you think the dialogue in Iceland may be difficult due to the political situation?
- I really hope that in solving the problems of the Arctic, especially humanitarian ones, we will be able to stay in the course of constructive cooperation.
- Well, a personal question. When a person first enters the Arctic, what impresses him most?
- Its boundless expanse.
"And the cold?"