Arrest of Finn delays Baltic environment study

Image: Esko Kitula / YLEFinland’s Environmental Administration (Syke) says the arrest Wednesday of one of its researchers in Russia will delay a project aimed at determining sources of phosphorous discharges into the Baltic Sea.

The researcher, Seppo Knuutila, was arrested, but later released while on his way with Russian colleagues to take water samples from the Luga river thought to contain elevated levels of phosphorous from a fertilizer plant.

According to Syke’s Director General Lea Kauppi, Finnish researchers will not return to the area until Russian authorities guarantee their safety and undisturbed working conditions.

Kauppi told Yle on Saturday that Knuutila’s arrest is impacting a extensive research plan. Further samples were to be taken next week, but plans have now been suspended. She could not say how long the project may be delayed.

“A lot depends on how the Russians are able to give guarantees of the safety of those taking samples and of conditions to make continuation possible,” said Kauppi.

One thing that is certain is that the incident of Knuutila’s arrest will not improve relations between Finnish and Russian environmental authorities.

“At this moment there is a rather clear breach in relations. Hopefully, matters will be cleared up so that the breach does not become a permanent one. Protection of the Baltic Sea should be a common issue and it requires cooperation,” pointed out Lea Kauppi.

Sampling without Finns

A project by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, Helcom, is examining phosphorous discharges by a fertilizer plant into the Luga river at Kingisepp in north-west Russia. Researchers believe that the plant is the single largest source of the phosphorous that makes its way into the Baltic Sea.

The Commission’s Finnish member in charge of the project, Kaj Forsius, says that sampling will continue despite the incident involving Knuutila’s arrest. However, it is still uncertain if any Finnish researchers will take part.

Samples are to be taken up until the start of June and the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the same month.


Finnish researcher arrested in Russia, YLE News

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