Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, at a meeting with government officials and ecologists on Thursday, has demanded a fresh approach to the way the government and industry treat the environment, seemingly distancing himself from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"Ecology is moving to the bottom of the agenda. In a crisis you have to pay people. Who cares about ecology? This is our mental problem," Medvedev said. "The problem is the attitude of the leadership of the country to ecology."
Medvedev declared that Prime Minister Putin's decree no.1, which allows for the reopening of the polluting Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill on the shore of Lake Baikal, is not final, indicating that there may be hope for a reversal of a decision which has outraged ecologists and Baikal residents alike. He also rejected any suggestion that criticism of Putin's decision was taboo, indicating that the issue is far from settled.
He also called for legislation on the environment to be tougher, and demanded transparency of businesses in regards to industrial waste and pollution.