- Dmitry Nikolaevich, how big is the quarantine area?
It was determined based on dead reindeer found. The total area amounts to 100x115 kilometers and includes a “green”, clear area. That was a deliberate action we took in order to contain the infection. More than 270 Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation employees (including helicopter crews) are currently deployed for dead animals disposal. The disposal itself is carried out by means of burning corpses. 3 “Yamal” Airlines helicopters have also been deployed in order to speed up the work. The area decontamination will continue until all possible soil tests show no signs of anthrax. This is up to the military. They are currently working on this. I hope we are done with the work in a week.
I would like to mention the current situation is yet another evidence for how important the “Obskaya – Bovanenkovo” railroad is. We could have not being able to cope with the situation if not for the road, since we used it to shift troops. That is why we need to build a railroad to the Sabetta seaport. This is a matter of both the Yamal Peninsula safety and national importance. I will certainly report it to the President.
- What is the aftermath for the environment?
I don’t think the contaminated areas will be tillable, although they aren’t big. We will set signs warning against entering it or pasturing reindeer there. Although we will vaccinate every reindeer so we don’t have to worry about such things happening again.
- People are afraid of gnats, gadflies, and birds being able to transmit the decease. Is it so?
Birds don’t transmit the decease. We know it from practice, experience, and the decease history. It spreads from gadflies to reindeer and then to humans. Neither dogs nor other animals transmit it. People are out of danger. We know what we are dealing with, as well as how to fight it.
Anyways, we need to vaccinate both reindeer and people living in the areas where the decease has spread. We have already dealt with such problems in the past! But vaccination stopped back in 2007. I don’t know why. Maybe it is because scientists decided anthrax couldn’t survive in Yamali soil. It is likely it was the reason reindeer vaccination stopped, while people in the Khanty-Mansi and Nenets Autonomous Districts and Komi Republic carried on the practice. We stopped doing it despite having the largest reindeer population in the world for some reason. That is strange. We are studying documents of the time now. I would also point out vaccination was funded from the federal budget and didn’t require any money from Yamal. I would say we made a serious mistake back in 2007.
- How many people and reindeer are to be vaccinated?
We will vaccinate all the reindeer, both private and governmental ones. Just the way it used to be before 2007. The vaccine effect lasts for 1 year. Next year I will issue an order for everyone involved with reindeer husbandry to be vaccinated as well.
- How are indigenous peoples reacting to what is going on?
Everyone understands what is at stakes. I would say young reindeer herders have gotten more fearless and started approaching areas older folks would avoid. Elders told us they knew very well they shouldn’t pasture reindeer in certain areas. So, they led them as far away as possible from them. But the younger generation decided it wasn’t that important for some reason.
- What the aftermath will be for Yamal? How will it affect the District and regional budgets?
Fuel – the aviation kerosene – is the main expenditure item. We have run out of almost everything we had brought here in advance. But Russian government plans on compensating all our expenses. I don’t think we lost any portion of our budget. The federal government led by Dmitry Anatolevich Medvedev is going to compensate us the eradication efforts expenses despite it being our local problem.
There have not being such precedents in the Russian Federation. Nothing compares to the problem in neither scale nor difficulty. No one was ready for that. No one thought of such a bacteriological threat. This makes me think certain changes to the legislation are to be expected.
- How do you think, is it reasonable to say you get to see whether a country is worth its salt during hard times? We saw the whole country react to the problem, from federal bureaucrats to Yamal residents.
I’d say everyone did the best job they could. The regional government acted as the coordinator. Someone assuming responsibility in the situation was vital for the problem settlement. Everyone started helping us once they saw we were coping with the work.
Organizational issues were resolved at the highest level. We got into contact with the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation at 1 PM, and the 1st wave of planes took off by the time it was 4:30 PM…there was no need for explanation of severity of the situation. The head of the local government only had to say it once in order for everyone to understand severity of the outbreak.
I would like to thanks everyone taking such decisions on their own. This means we live in a country where people listen to one another and are ready to offer help.
- Will the outbreak affect Yamali venison production?
Meat won’t get infected. Vaccinated animals pose no danger to humans. More than 92.000 animals living on the peninsula have already been vaccinated. They are now resistant to the decease. But I understand that the industry’s image will inevitably suffer. Switching to advanced processing and production of tinned meat is one of the options currently on our hands. Foreign contract are still in effect as of now. We are waiting for Finland and Norway’s reaction now. We will do our best to enable quality of our products. It will take time, but after a while things will straighten out.
- What do you think of the way Yamal residents helped the people affected by the outbreak?
Yamalies did as well as usual! Everyone resonated with hardships of the people in the infected area. People acted as one and did what had to be done. They gathered money and supplies and sent it all to the Yamal District. It is important that all indigenous residents feel others care for them. I think this hardship will help us find common ground with the indigenous population, since they saw and understood the importance of a government like never before. They realized we are in it together.
It was an unusual task. It is very hard to engage so many federal agencies on the regional level. I think that we did very well. Actually, we are still taking action. We faced a serious issue, and the fact we managed to unite and come off victorious shows our agencies are efficient and professional; that we have people ready to take a chance with their lives. Everyone who was able to do so came to the focal point of infection, including law enforcement officers and pilots…It is a good thing we kept our aviation in operation. This really paid off this time, since many airline companies refused entering the hazardous area, while our helicopter pilots flew in and out from fires into the focal point of the anthrax. They are heroes. These are the forces that have been forged. They showed everyone we are ready to cope with such a threat as an epidemic, an invisible enemy.