During his trip to Alexandra Land island on the Franz Josef Land archipelago Vladimir Putin familiarised himself with the work of a research expedition from the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution studying polar bears, visited the Russian border guards' northernmost checkpoint and heard the final report on joint exercises carried out by the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief and the FSB Border Guard Service.
The aircraft carrying Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, Head of the FSB Border Guard Service and Presidential Envoy in the Northwestern Federal District Ilya Klebanov, landed on the Nagurskoye Arctic border checkpoint's airfield.
Vladimir Putin was driven in a Taiga off-road vehicle to the base camp for the expedition of biologists from the Institute of Ecology and Evolution. They are the first in Russia to start using GPS transmitters in polar bear studies.
Having arrived at the base, Vladimir Putin went into one of the tents where the deputy director of the institute and head of the expedition, Dr Vyacheslav Rozhnov, told him about the Arctic programme's polar bear studies.
Dr Rozhnov said that they have received a million roubles grant from the Russian Geographical Society towards this programme, which is designed to preserve and restore the population of polar bears. Biologists are gathering information about the habitat of polar bears, their migration and population. They are also studying negative factors that influence the polar bears' habitat, such as the pollution of the Arctic. Dr Rozhnov said that this work should produce practical recommendations on creating the conditions that would aid polar bears' survival and increase their population size. He noted that about 6,000 of the global total of 25,000 polar bears live in the Russian part of the Arctic.
Having listened to the report, Vladimir Putin and the biologists put a GPS collar on a polar bear that they had caught thanks to a special trap. GPS collars make it possible to track the animals' migration, their daily and seasonal activities, habitats and migration routes. Vladimir Putin and biologists also measured and weighed the polar bear. It weighed 231 kg.
Having posed for a picture with the members of the expedition, Vladimir Putin visited the Severnaya Bay to gain first-hand knowledge of one of the Arctic's major problems: environmental pollution. The polar geological survey expedition that worked in the Arctic in 1995-2005 estimated that the following had been abandoned on the archipelago: up to 250,000 barrels containing 40,000-60,000 tons of oil products, over one million scrapped metal drums, lubricants, oils in barrels, coal and hardware including aircraft, radars, trucks and buildings.
In the Severnaya Bay, where ships brought supplies for military and civilian needs, a total of 100 hectares is strewn with refuse.
Having looked at the rows of barrels frozen into the ground, Vladimir Putin said that the Arctic needs to be cleaned up.
After the Severnaya Bay, Putin saw the Ministry of Emergencies' aeromobile hospital. It was deployed during joint exercises with the FSB Border Guard Service. The prime minister was told about the exercises in the Arctic conditions. Their scenario was about how to assist plane crash victims. Those participating in the exercises practiced deploying the hospital and personnel landings.
Vladimir Putin inspected the hospital that is equipped with everything necessary to assist those caught in any potential future accident. It has 24 beds and employs two medical brigades and five auxiliary personnel, including engineers. The hospital has a surgical wing, intensive care unit and a section for less seriously injured patients. Mr Shoigu said that the hospital was designed in Russia and has been used to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake.
Vladimir Putin also toured the Nagurskoye border checkpoint that opened in 1981 to protect the national border around the archipelago. It used to comprise a number of small buildings made from insulating materials. A new cantonment was commissioned in 2008. It has an administrative and accommodation section, garage, power unit, fuel and lubricants' depot, water supply and sewage units. Its administrative and accommodation section is 5,000 square m large. It includes an operations room, a communications facility, living premises, a canteen and a gym. Only contract officers and soldiers live in this checkpoint together with their families. To avoid pollution, a pipeline was laid from the Severnaya Bay to the checkpoint to pump fuel and lubricants from ships directly to the depots.
Vladimir Putin inspected the checkpoint's premises and met with the commander. Before leaving, he posed for a photo with the servicemen.
As head of the Russian Geographical Society's Council of Trustees, Vladimir Putin is actively involved in the protection of rare animals and personally oversees the the programmes on Amur tigers, polar bears and white whales.