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Russia detains managers of plant that spilled fuel in Arctic

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities have detained three top managers of an Arctic power plant that leaked 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the ecologically fragile region. Plant director Pavel Smirnov, chief engineer Alexei Stepanov and his deputy, Yuri Kuznetsov, have been detained on suspicion of violating environmental regulations, the spokeswoman of Russia's Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, said Wednesday.

Together with Vyacheslav Starostin, another manager at the plant arrested and charged earlier this month, they may face up to five years in prison. The leak occurred when a storage tank collapsed on May 29. Much of the spilled fuel fouled waterways in the Norilsk area and there is concern it could affect wildlife or make its way into the Arctic Ocean.

Some of it has seeped into a lake, connected by a river to the Kara Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean, but local authorities hope to contain it there. Russian President Vladimir Putin labeled the incident a national emergency last week.

The power plant is operated by a division of Norilsk Nickel, whose giant plants in the area have made Norilsk, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) northeast of Moscow, one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world.

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