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    RUSSIAN MP BELIEVES POLAR RESCUE EFFORT WILL BE A SUCCESS

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    MOSCOW, March 4, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has everything, which is needed to evacuate people from the SP-32 drifting research station, Artur Chilingarov, famous arctic explorer who is now a Vice-Speaker of the State Duma (parliament's lower house), told reporters on Thursday.

    The coercion of ice made the station dwellers drop research, said Mr Chilingarov. The station is now in a hard-to-reach place in the Arctic Ocean, about a thousand kilometres off Franz Josef Land, added the MP.

    On Wednesday, ice hummock actually destroyed the drifting station, recalled the former explorer. Mr Chilingarov added that he knew the area well.

    "We are not panicking although we will face major difficulties in rescuing the researchers," he said.

    The rescue effort will be conducted by the Federal Centre for Hydrometeorology and Environment Monitoring, the organiser of the polar expedition, in cooperation with the Emergencies Ministry.

    A Mi-26 helicopter is ready to fly from Murmansk, on the Barents Sea, for Spitsbergen and further on to the scene, said Mr Chilingarov.

    "We are monitoring developments on the drift-ice day and night. We believe the operation will be a success, although it will be technically challenging and altogether difficult. Russia has everything, which is needed to do this," said Mr Chilingarov.

    On Wednesday night, the polar station drifted to the ridged ice zone. Some of the station's dwelling and research premises were buried by ice.

    None of the 12 researchers were injured.

    The station was scheduled to complete the expedition on March 20.

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