20 april 2012

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with members of Russian Antarctic Expedition

Participants in the meeting discussed the results of the 20-year research programme. During that time, Russian scientists managed to drill vertically through the entire Antarctic glacier for the first time in history and to penetrate sub-glacial Lake Vostok.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends.

I would like to personally greet you and congratulate you on your success. You have reached this ancient lake. It took you many years, maybe, even decades, as far as I know, to complete this work.

Remark: Just over 20 years.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, 20 years. You have accomplished a tremendous amount of work, and you have scored a major success. I know that representatives of various agencies are present here. Yury Trutnev, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, told me that the drilling manager kept working even during his vacation.

Nikolai Vasilyev (Head, Well Drilling Department at the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute): Well, yes, I had to take an unpaid leave in order to join the expedition legally.

Vladimir Putin: This is rather strange. I’ll talk to Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute, and encourage him to support this.

Nikolai Vasilyev: Well, he supports it.

Vladimir Putin: He told you to take a vacation. How is he supporting you if he tells you to take a vacation? He should have paid you for this trip. But he tells you to take a vacation instead.

Nikolai Vasilyev: The law forbids this.

Vladimir Putin: How so?

Nikolai Vasilyev: There are some difficulties. It’s not possible to receive wages from two companies. There are certain problems.

Vladimir Putin: You have baffled me. Anyway, I would like to congratulate you and to wish you future success. We have seven stations, right?

Reply: Five operational stations and five seasonal field bases, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: This makes ten facilities. Five and five equals ten facilities. And how many people work there?

Reply: Under the government’s resolution, there are 120 seasonal workers, and 110 people stay through the winter. This does not include the crews of ships and aircraft.

Vladimir Putin: We are now commissioning a ship ...

Remark: The Akademik Fyodorov now operates in the Antarctica.

Vladimir Putin: And new vessels show up.

Remark: Yes, we plan to commission the research vessel Akademik Teryoshnikov this year.

Remark: The ship is to sail to the Antarctica during this expedition.

Vladimir Putin: We are making certain headway here, but I know that there are some problems. I would like to discuss the problems that you face and the specific decisions that you expect from the government. Maybe Valery Lukin will take the floor?

Valery Lukin (Head of the 56th Russian Antarctic Expedition): Thank you. I would like to start with a pleasant event.

Indeed, an outstanding event in the sphere of international Antarctic research took place on February 5. Russian specialists were the first to drill vertically through the entire Antarctic glacier and to penetrate the sub-glacier Lake Vostok. This amazing event attracted great attention.

At present, 28 countries are active in the Antarctica. Virtually all of the national projects focus on scientific research. These projects are implemented on a varying scale based on the various scientific and technical potential of each country.

Russia’s federal targeted programme, “World Ocean,” sets forth various scientific objectives. This programme has been active since 1998 and is scheduled to be completed in 2013. Consequently, we consider it very important to either extend this programme or to adopt some other document, which would become the programme’s legal successor. Various federal agencies, whose representatives are involved in the Antarctic expedition and who conduct Antarctic-related research at their respective laboratories, institutes and universities, could pool their efforts under this programme.

We consider this a highly important issue, all the more so as the mechanism of the federal targeted programme finances scientific research. On the other hand, the programme’s mechanism makes it possible to obtain funding for investment projects. This implies the renovation of Russia’s permanent facilities in Antarctica. Such facilities, which were built in the 1970s and the 1980s, have already expended their service life to a considerable extent. In late 2012, we will open a new winter facility and a runway at the Progress station. This is a rather ambitious project.

Of course, the Vostok station has now found itself in the limelight. Consequently, it would probably be correct to launch construction of a new station of the winter-time facility at the Vostok station. I’m talking about service and habitation modules, which should meet all modern standards. In addition, we have to renew our transport fleet. The federal targeted programme’s mechanism makes it possible to do this.

Our operating expenses have been financed in line with a separate budgetary item since 1998. We receive regular allocations for the Antarctic expedition and for our logistics expenses. This year, such allocations total about a billion roubles. Normal working conditions have been created for the expedition here. But we hope that, starting with 2014, because various federal agencies want to accomplish their own objectives ... For instance, the Federal Space Agency has now become very interested in Antarctica. They have already installed three stations of the automatic differential correction network for the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). This has drastically improved the accuracy of calculating geographic coordinates in the Southern Hemisphere. Naturally, the Federal Space Agency wants to implement similar projects in other Antarctic regions and on the Pacific coast.

We have such plans, which were approved by the government’s 2010 strategy for expanding Russian activities in the Antarctica to 2020 and beyond. Such plans are stipulated. And we are confident that they will be implemented in this context.

Vladimir Putin: It’s good that you mentioned the federal targeted programme, due to expire in 2013, because we are now beginning to draft the 2013 budget, as well as those for the next two years, rather actively. In all, the budgets will cover three years. Consequently, we must now talk about this. This is true. I would like to ask Minister Yury Trutnev to keep this in mind during the upcoming discussions of budgetary plans. Mr Lipenkov (Vladimir Lipenkov), you have the floor.

Vladimir Lipenkov (laboratory head, Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring): Mr Putin, maybe, as a scientist, I should tell you something about the longtime drilling project at the Vostok station. This is the main scientific project of the Russian Antarctic Expedition.

When all this began many years ago, we started drilling the well in order to extract ice samples and to study changes in the Earth’s climate, which had taken place long ago. No one knew about the lake when the drilling started.

Vladimir Putin: So, you drilled without knowing that you would reach the lake?

Vladimir Lipenkov: No, no one knew about this in the 1970s. Speaking about the history of the Vostok station, no one had thought about drilling operations when the station was being established. At that time, we were thinking about about geomagnetic research. It subsequently turned out that the station was an extremely good place for obtaining long-term climate data. And, finally, it turned out that the Vostok station stood above Lake Vostok. As the research project unfolded, the station’s value for major projects grew.

After studying ice samples obtained using up-to-date technologies, we managed to reconstruct climate changes over the past 420,000 years. This is a very long period in terms of climate history, although …

Vladimir Putin: Has anyone else dug deeper into this history?

Vladimir Lipenkov: Russia is not the only country drilling today. But, speaking of this project, the Vostok station has always led the way. The deepest well has always been located there. This climate data was obtained for the first time. Experimental evidence proving that greenhouse gases influence the Earth’s climate was also obtained for the first time. Such is the role played by the Vostok station in studying ice samples.

Vladimir Putin: So, you believe that the effect of greenhouse gases is quite substantial?

Vladimir Lipenkov: No one denies this.

Vladimir Putin: Oh, no, some specialists believe that climate change is not linked with human activity, and that it has a minimal effect climate change – so minimal, in fact, that it’s well within the margin of error.  

Vladimir Lipenkov: No, this is not within the margin of error. Judging by the Vostok station’s data for the past 500,000 years, we can see that current temperature changes and those in greenhouse levels tend to correlate. Such changes became virtually synchronised. We have now attained a level being recorded by instruments inside the atmosphere. Such levels considerably exceed those levels posted over the past 500,000 years.

Vladimir Putin: Does this mean that the changes have been accelerated considerably as a result of greenhouse gases on previous epochs when no such influence was registered?

Vladimir Lipenkov: That’s right. It should be noted that temperatures were the first to change in previous times. Greenhouse gases subsequently consolidated the initially weak climate changes. We currently inject greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As we look back in time, we can see that temperatures had changed first. Temperature changes were subsequently followed by increasingly greater greenhouse gas concentrations. By studying ice samples obtained at the Vostok station, it became possible to find out that initial temperature changes were subsequently followed by changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, which exerted a stronger influence …

Vladimir Putin: … Such greenhouse gases exerted a stronger influence on temperature changes. This sinusoid describes colder and warmer periods.

Vladimir Lipenkov: Yes, the relevant cycle totals about 100,000 years.

Vladimir Putin: We are talking about a 100,000-year cycle. Are we now headed towards global warming or cooling? What do you think on this score?

Vladimir Lipenkov: You and I now live in an inter-glacial period. This period is rather long.

Vladimir Putin: What kind of period?

Vladimir Lipenkov: An inter-glacial period when natural greenhouse gas concentrations are sufficiently high. We make our own contribution to natural background levels. We can eliminate this contribution, or we can … Ice samples make it possible to study such background levels, e.g. natural fluctuations, on which anthropogenic fluctuations are superimposed.

Vladimir Putin: To assess the scale of human impact.

Vladimir Lipenkov: That’s right. We should separate both aspects.

Vladimir Putin: Where are we now? Are we heading towards global warming or global cooling, regardless of the anthropogenic factor?

Vladimir Lipenkov: This is a very interesting question. Data obtained at the Vostok station answers this question because this climate record contains four inter-glacial periods. The period we live in is longer than all the others. You see, the Earth’s orbital parameters 400,000 years ago were the same as during the Holocene epoch. At that time, a very long inter-glacial period had taken place. That period had lasted 28,000 years.

Vladimir Putin: 400,000 years ago.

Vladimir Lipenkov: Yes, we are now studying this period, which is similar to the modern era in terms of the planet’s climate history. We still have 10,000-12,000 years of this normal state ahead of us, without abrupt and disastrous changes in the level of the world’s oceans and without sharp temperature fluctuations. All climate-forming factors remain the same, just like during that period. We see this period as a similar model, and we, sort of, try to use this background … But the thing is that we exert additional influence. Here we need to…  

Vladimir Putin: But still you did not answer my question. By calculating the influence of anthropogenic factors, can you tell me where are we headed today? I’m talking about these millennia.

Vladimir Lipenkov: We are moving steadily.

Vladimir Putin: Steadily, but where do we end up? Will we experience global cooling or warming?

Vladimir Lipenkov: The climate will inevitably cool off. A new Ice Age will begin 10,000-12,000 years from now. But I can’t say for sure. A New Ice Age will inevitably begin.

So much for the previous period, which had preceded studies of Lake Vostok. This atmospheric period had ended in 1998 when the well was 3,538 metres deep …

Vladimir Putin: Excuse me, but I would like to go back. Sorry for bothering you. Does this mean that the climate had peaked, that it has now reached a plateau, as the oil industry says, and that it will subsequently go down?

Vladimir Lipenkov: This is absolutely inevitable because a 100,000-year cycle has dominated the last 400,000 years. There is no escaping it.

Vladimir Putin: The last what?

Vladimir Lipenkov: The last 500,000 years.

Vladimir Putin: 500,000 years.

Vladimir Lipenkov: There have been four major climate cycles. Before that, the cycles were different. They were dominated by periods of precession and the inclination of the Earth’s axis. There was a 40,000-year cycle, and now there is a 100,000-year cycle. We live in this climate system.

Vladimir Putin: Interesting.

Vladimir Lipenkov: We can go on. I could talk forever.

Vladimir Putin: I don’t doubt it. Believe me, I could listen to this forever because I find it very interesting.

Vladimir Lipenkov: The Vostok station has, of course, played an amazing role in this, in studying these climate changes. By the way, do you know about the inter-governmental expert group, which prepares reports every four years? Those reports mentioned the Vostok station. At any rate, the first two, three, four reports formed the foundation for comprehending the mechanisms of climate change. And, frankly speaking, the knowledge obtained by us influences national decision-making processes on signing or not signing the Kyoto Protocol. But this is already the realm of politics and economics. Other factors come into play here.

Vladimir Putin: We have signed this document, and we honour its provisions.

Vladimir Lipenkov: Although, frankly speaking …

Vladimir Putin: Please tell me what confuses you.

Vladimir Lipenkov: I know that some people had opposed the signing of the Kyoto Protocol when it was being drafted.

Vladimir Putin: But, in the long run …

Vladimir Lipenkov: And they actively took advantage of  Vostok data in order to show what had happened before that. In effect, they overlooked unique factors of our period, namely, global warming. They said this had already happened in the history of the Earth.

Vladimir Putin: I know, I’m aware of this viewpoint. That’s why I’m discussing this issue with you. Nevertheless, as you know, we have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. However, the activity of many industrial countries exerts a substantial impact. I’m talking about the United States, China and India. The United States has its own opinion, China has its own opinion and India also has its own opinion. Consequently, we need to reach a consensus and formalise common approaches and common principles to guide humankind during the decision-making process, before the Russian Federation assumes any specific obligations linked with specific emission levels and the future of our industry and economy on the whole.  You see, no results will be achieved if only certain countries make the relevant decisions, while the main greenhouse gas-emitting countries remain outside this process.

Vladimir Lipenkov: And those quotas banning sales by everyone.

Vladimir Putin: In my opinion, this is not a very effective instrument. Most importantly, we should understand what lies in store for us. If we upset this extremely delicate balance … What is the maximum altitude of the atmosphere – 32-35 kilometres? How much?

Vladimir Lipenkov: Virtually 10 km, and very small concentrations are registered higher up.

Vladimir Putin: Small concentrations, but, on the whole, 32-35 km. How many kilometres are there? Actually, this is next to nothing. Although we don’t think about this, but, of course, I would like to say that the work of Vladimir Lipenkov and all our other colleagues who have gathered here is of paramount importance for making a decision at the national and international levels. Of course, the results of your work must be heeded during the adoption of inter-state decisions in the sphere of climate change. And I hope that this will be so.

What are the main factors influencing climate change and that sinusoid highlighting the transition from global warming to global cooling?

Vladimir Lipenkov: What is the main mechanism? The main mechanism involves changes in the Earth’s orbital parameters. There are different processes, such as inclination and precession changes. They have different cycles, and they interfere with each other differently. This facilitates the redistribution of energy on the Earth’s surface. That’s how seasons change. Speaking of energy aspects, a small jolt sets the rhythm. As you have correctly noted, this is a sinusoidal rhythm, and the entire climate system is subsequently activated. And the carbon dioxide cycle, which increases carbon dioxide and methane concentrations in the atmosphere, and which reduces them. All these factors consolidate the process.   

Vladimir Putin: You know, conversations aside, when you see all this inside artefacts, this makes a particularly strong impression. For instance, I was quite impressed by the artefacts found in the Lena River valley, where the remains of tropical animals are being found to this day. Of course, this is rather impressive. When you look at this, it becomes obvious that this had existed, that’s the way things are, and that this process may repeat itself. This is impressive.

Vladimir Lipenkov: Temperatures in the Antarctica were minus 50 degrees Celsius. Temperatures were minus 60 degrees during the Ice Age. So, the difference is quite small.

Vladimir Putin: Was it during the Ice Age?

Vladimir Lipenkov: Minus 60 degrees. The average annual temperature are is now minus 57 degrees at the Vostok station.

Vladimir Putin: So, you have already got used to such temperatures, and this does not matter.

Vladimir Lipenkov: I think that, if winter temperatures had been minus 90 degrees there, then this would match Martian temperatures.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Vasilyev, you have the floor.

Nikolai Vasilyev (head of the well drilling department at St Petersburg State Mining Institute): I would like to say a few words about this project’s technical aspects, as I’m responsible for them. All our successful research is based on the relevant well drilling technology, methods and processes, which were developed by our St Petersburg Mining Institute, now called St Petersburg State Mining Institute.

All this began in 1967 when Boris Kudryashov, an assistant professor with the department of drilling equipment and technology, started tackling this issue. He continuously supervised such operations till 2002. Over that period, we developed the theoretical foundations and technical systems for drilling ice-holes using the heat method. At the same time, a mechanical drilling system and, consequently, the relevant drilling technology were developed. At that time, it was believed that we would drill through the glacier and penetrate sub-glacier rock.

At the same time, different methods for the geophysical exploration of wells were developed. A model of such temperature changes was made on the basis of temperature measurements and those of the glacier’s temperature profile. This model formed the basis of the ancient climate model. I’m talking about that measured temperature profile. Extremely far-reaching microbiological research was conducted. Such research proved that long-term suspended animation of microorganisms is possible. This resulted in us receiving Patent No. 16 for the discovery.

Drilling operations commenced in 1970. At that time, we started drilling the first deep well. That was a dry well. As Mr Lipenkov correctly noted, we were always ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the depths we were reaching. Soviet and Russian scientists, as well as scientists from other countries, reached depths of 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 metres. It has always been considered a great success to reach such depths. Generally, we have been the first to reach these depths since the 1970s.

In 1990, we started drilling the last well called 5G. This well was successfully completed by us in 2012. By 1998, we had sunk it to a depth of 3,623 m. After that, drilling operations slowed down for a long time. This can be explained by different reasons, including technical and logistical factors. In addition, we stopped in order to devise the required lake-penetration technology. At that time, it became obvious that a lake was located down below ...  

Vladimir Putin: When did you discover this?

Nikolai Vasilyev: In 1994. At that time, everyone realised that a lake, rather than solid ground, was located beneath our station at that point. Consequently, we knew that we would penetrate a lake, rather than sub-glacier rock, after drilling through the entire glacier. As a result, it became necessary to modify the process and technology to some extent because this lake is such a unique geographic object, which has never been studied before. Consequently, we had to penetrate and open up this lake in the most cautious and painstaking manner.

Vladimir Putin: How long, for how many years, did that body of water remain beneath the ice?

Nikolai Vasilyev: Well, it’s hard to say now. This might be something between two million and 20 million years. This is very hard to say today, first we need to study all this.

Remark: Millions of years.

Nikolai Vasilyev: Yes, millions of years …

Vladimir Putin: Have you already obtained any initial results after studying water samples?

Nikolai Vasilyev: Not yet.

Remark: The samples are still aboard the vessel.

Nikolai Vasilyev: Yes, aboard the vessel. They will arrive in May.

Remark: They will arrive in the second half of May.

Remark: The samples are stored in a special sterile environment. Moreover, the ice samples must remain frozen. The ship is to return to St Petersburg in mid-May.

Nikolai Vasilyev: By the way, our rector, Vladimir Litvinenko, has suggested naming this well after Boris Kudryashov. I think we will accept this, and we will see to it that our Western colleagues also learn about this because that well and lake are quite unique ... In effect, everything linked with this well …

Remark: We have a commission for geographic names …

Nikolai Vasilyev: Yes, yes. This is what we want to do in the near future in order to immortalise the name of Boris Kudryashov, who devoted most of his life to developing technical systems, processes and technologies, as well as the theoretical foundations of drilling through extremely thick ice formations.

It should be noted that we encountered some unexpected situations at every level, while drilling through such thick ice formations. The situation became particularly difficult at a depth of 3,000 metres. Virtually all Russian and foreign researchers faced serious problems. The drilling simply stopped for no apparent reason. We were able to achieve this success because we had found out the causes of such problems. When you fight the consequences of problems, you are unable to eliminate such problems or to achieve success. In this case, we were able to sort things out. In the long run, we faced no problems during the last few metres, even at temperatures comparable to the temperature of water crystallisation.

In other words, drilling operations proceeded smoothly, and we achieved the maximum possible results using the system that we had. Naturally, all of us were happy about this success. First of all, this success made the large group of our colleagues who had launched this work at the St Petersburg Mining Institute quite happy. I’m talking about drillers here because everyone wanted to complete this work, but, unfortunately, it was very hard. And we have now completed only the first stage of our work. From now on, we must study the lake and develop new equipment. This is also very interesting. Quite possibly …

Vladimir Putin: Do you know its depth already?

Nikolai Vasilyev: It’s about 650-700 metres.

Remark: You can’t say “depth” here. This implies the thickness of the water layer. The depth is measured from the surface.

Nikolai Vasilyev: Well, yes. It turns out that …

Vladimir Putin: 600 metres?

Nikolai Vasilyev: Well, about 600-700 metres.

Remark: 650 metres.

Vladimir Putin: That’s quite a lot.

Nikolai Vasilyev: The lake is 220 kilometres long and about 70 km wide. Its maximum depth is about 1,200 metres. This lake is just about as large as Lake Ladoga.

Remark: In terms of its water surface area.

Vladimir Lipenkov: In terms of its area. The lake ranks fifth among all freshwater lakes in terms of volume. This is a very large body of water.

Nikolai Vasilyev: This explains the great interest in the lake …

Vladimir Putin: Lake Ladoga is the largest lake in Europe in terms of its area.

Vladimir Lipenkov: About 17,000 sq. km., and Lake Vostok has an area of some 16,000 sq. km.

Nikolai Vasilyev: This explains the great interest in this lake. Quite a few lakes have now been discovered in Antarctica. But this is the largest and most interesting lake. Consequently, this is seen as a highly important geographic discovery.

Vladimir Putin: I see. Does it contain fresh water?

Nikolai Vasilyev: Yes, fresh water.

Vladimir Putin: Does the water taste good?

Nikolai Vasilyev: We have not tasted it yet.

Alexei Yekaikin: But how can we taste it? We have extracted this water through liquid, which is located inside the drill. Naturally, all that water contains kerosene.

Nikolai Vasilyev: This is like snow being removed from the surface and being melted in order to obtain drinking water … This is absolutely tasteless distilled water.

Vladimir Putin: But the snow is still there …

Nikolai Vasilyev: It’s absolutely clean. It’s like distillate.

Vladimir Putin: But this absolutely different kind of water was cut off from the surface for millions of years.

Nikolai Vasilyev: That’s right. But we didn’t taste it, no.

Remark: So, you didn’t taste it?!

Vladimir Putin: Did you taste it?

Alexei Yekaikin: It’s just like kerosene, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Just look how many cameras are here. What you are saying may scare everyone. Everyone will think you have polluted the lake.

Nikolai Vasilyev: No, no. There is a 100% guarantee that the water from the lake was pumped up inside the wells because of a difference in pressure. Nothing else could have entered the well. Absolutely.

Vladimir Putin: There are no pollutants, right?

Nikolai Vasilyev: Not at all. We are absolutely sure of this. This water has frozen there. We will do our best, and we will start drilling through that water during the next season. But we have not yet decided whether we will re-enter the well or not. This will be decided in the near future. The relevant research plan will be finalised in the near future. This is once again linked with specific operations and the continuation of the federal targeted programme and its essence after everything has been organised. But our plans are quite ambitious and even Napoleonic.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, the plans must be implemented, but this stage of work should also be noted. I would like to ask the minister to submit proposals.

Yury Trutnev: Yes, sir.

Valery Lukin: Mr Putin, I would like to add something. Despite the importance of preserving this lake’s environment, all these operations were conducted in strict conformity with the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. This took a lot of time because Russia does not have very many well-wishers, and because no one had wanted Russia to lead the way in such areas.

Vladimir Putin: Competition …

Valery Lukin: On the other hand, it was impossible to find fault with us and to prove that we had violated any provisions of the protocol. All provisions were complied with.

Vladimir Putin: Excellent.

Nikolai Vasilyev: Incidentally, a technology and process for penetrating the lake were among Boris Kudryashov’s last achievements …

Remark: By the way, the technology and process were environmentally friendly …

Nikolai Vasilyev: Yes, an environmentally friendly drilling method. In 2001, we received a positive response from a state environmental assessment agency.

Vladimir Putin: I know that there is also a transport issue, the minister has told me, I promise you that we will tackle this issue, and I think that we will resolve it. I don’t understand why you have to rent foreign airplanes when the whole world rents Russian fixed-wing transport aircraft.

Valery Lukin: Unfortunately, Russian civil aviation mostly uses foreign airplanes.

Vladimir Putin: No, but fixed-wing transport aircraft are, as a rule, rented in Russia.

Valery Lukin: We lack any fixed-wing transport aircraft since the Ilyushin Il-14 medium-haul airplane was decommissioned in 1991. We have no airplanes on skis or with ski/wheel landing gear, which would be able to fly deep inside Antarctica and the Arctic. The Li-2 airplane stopped operating in 1977, and the Il-14 was decommissioned in 1991. Consequently, we were left without such airplanes. The Basler Turbo Conversions BT-67 fixed-wing aircraft featuring a retrofitted Douglas DC-3 airframe is the only such airplane, which we are forced to rent. Naturally, we have repeatedly contacted the Ministry of Transport. True, the ministry is studying the possibility of building such fixed-wing aircraft, but we have not seen any positive changes recently. You see, the government also has to resolve this highly important issue.

Vladimir Putin: We will certainly think about this, I promise you.

Valery Lukin: We need an airplane with a ski/wheel landing gear because otherwise it will be unable to land.

Yury Trutnev: Mr Putin, they need a large Ilyushin Il-76 fixed-wing aircraft with new PS-90 engines, which will be able to continue flying even after it passes the point of no-return. It will be able to return if the weather changes. This guarantees the safety of the crew and passengers. Mr Lipenkov has just talked about flying deep inside Antarctica.

Vladimir Putin: Please submit your memorandum.

Yury Trutnev: Yes, sir.

Vladimir Putin: We will resolve this issue.

Nikolai Vasilyev: Yes, I would also like to say a few more words. This success we achieved in 2012 has enabled us to submit papers for the Government Prize. Here are the main participants …

Remark: Twelve people were involved in the project …

Nikolai Vasilyev: Yes, yes.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Trutnev has already noted this.

All right, I would like to congratulate you once again and to wish you every success.

Remark: Mr Putin, the meeting participants have prepared this document containing our proposals.

Valery Lukin: The document also deals with transport issues and all other aspects, including science and the targeted programme.

Vladimir Putin: Eight billion in five years, right?

Reply: Right.

Vladimir Putin: All right. I think this whole plan is quite feasible. So, we will get to work. We will do our share of this work. But it is your work that is most important.

Remark: This work is both interesting and romantic.

Vladimir Putin: Exactly.