The Rossiya nuclear-powered icebreaker has left the port of Murmansk in northern Russia on a mission to rescue the personnel of a Russian drifting research station in the Arctic.
The North Pole 37 station was set up in the Arctic Ocean at the beginning of September 2009. It is manned with 15 researchers, who must be evacuated due to the threat of shifting ice floe.
"The polar explorers were supposed to continue work at the station until September, but a powerful ice stream has being steadily moving toward the station posing an imminent threat," said Vladimir Blinov, a spokesman for Atomflot, which operates Russia's fleet of nuclear icebreakers.
"A decision has been made to evacuate the personnel [of the station] ahead of schedule," Blinov told reporters on Saturday.
It is the third time in the history of Russia's polar exploration that a drifting research station has to be evacuated prematurely.
The rescue team on board Rossiya consists of about 50 people. The icebreaker is equipped with a Mi-8 helicopter for reconnaissance and transportation purposes.
Russian polar research officials earlier said no new drifting stations would be set up in the Arctic in 2010.
MURMANSK, May 16 (RIA Novosti)