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Russian Visitors, US Experts See Environmental Disaster

April 17, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Nuclear waste and other unchecked pollution from former Soviet military and civilian industries pose a serious global environmental threat, according to Russian and U.S. monitors.

Western help is needed to stave off impending environmental disaster from the crumbling war technology and nuclear power plants, Russian parliamentarian Vladimir Vorfolomeyev said at a news conference Friday.

Vorfolomeyev heads the ecology and natural resources committee in Russia’s parliament.

He declined to put a price tag on the needed cleanup, saying through a translator, ″Lord knows how much money is needed.″

Vorfolomeyev said U.S. attention to the problem would help Americans because they also are threatened. A nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union could affect the whole world, he said.

Murray Feshbach, coauthor of the book ″Ecocide in the U.S.S.R: Health and Nature Under Siege,″ said Russian environmental issues ″have profound international health and security implications.″

Feshbach said dozens of Soviet nuclear power plants are deteriorating, including one only 710 miles from the Alaska coast.

Feshbach said Europe and the Middle East also are threatened by pollution emanating from Russia.

″Half of all arable land in the former Soviet Union is either salinated, eroded, waterlogged, swamped, compacted, without humus or contaminated with pesticides or herbicides,″ said Feshbach, who is a research professor at Georgetown University.

Pollution also fouls 75 percent of Russia’s surface water, he said.

Feshbach said pollution-related diphtheria has broken out in Moscow and is beginning to appear in other cities of the former Soviet Union.

Jan Hartke, president of the environmental group EarthKind which hosted the Russian delegation in Washington, said they were meeting with members of congressional committees and would participate in a two-day conference on Russia’s agriculture and environment next week at the University of Connecticut.

″Once we lived in fear of Soviet nuclear missiles being aimed at us,″ Hartke said. ″Now we and the nations of Europe and the Middle East find ourselves facing a deadly nuclear threat due to Russia’s technological and environmental decay.″