Billionaire Vladimir Potanin Promises To 'Clean Up' His Mess – Diesel Fuel Spill Could Cost Russia's Richest Man $4 Billion

www.forbes.com
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Russia's richest man, Vladimir Potanin of metal and mining giant Norilsk Nickel, has held a "frank" conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the massive fuel spill in the Ambarnaya river late last week, according to a company statement.
Vladimir Potanin before an ice hockey friendly match Valery Sharifulin/TASS



The billionaire has found himself in Putin's firing line as Russia delegates the cost and logistics of the cleanup to the industrial giant responsible for the spill. The damage was caused when a diesel fuel reservoir collapsed at a power plant outside the northern city of Norilsk, and flooded a nearby river.

Since news of the accident broke last week, President Putin has barely concealed his frustration after a subsidiary of Potanin's Norilsk Nickel dragged its feet in revealing details about the 21,000 ton diesel spill. The Kremlin was reportedly not told about the spill and found out through images of the now red river shared online.

A floating dam is installed to limit the spread of oil pollution following a massive fuel spill in ... [+] the Ambarnaya River outside Norilsk on June 10 AFP via Getty Images

In what the Moscow Times described as an, "unusually stern dressing-down" aired on Russian television, Putin asked Sergei Lipin, the chief of the Norilsk Nickel fuel subsidiary NTEK, "Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media?"

President Putin added, "Are you quite healthy over there?" in remarks possible to interpret in any number of ways. Forbes Russia reported that the chief engineer of a thermal power plant owned by Norilsk Nickel and the director have been detained, suspected of violating environmental regulations, and could face five years in prison.

A helicopter view of the site of a diesel fuel spill at Norilsk's Combined Heat and Power Plant Andrei Marmyshev/TASS

Having declared an emergency, Putin is closely monitoring efforts to clean up the mess and limit the environmental damage of the fuel spill.

In a statement released on Monday evening, Potanin said his company had "mobilized'' its top talent and promised to fully finance the clean-up operation and bring the…
David Dawkins
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