A high-level meeting took place in Slavonski Brod today to address the air pollution problem caused by the Russian oil refinery across the border in northern Bosnia.
President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović presided over the meeting which included Russian and Croatian government officials, representatives of the Brod refinery and representatives of Croatian energy firms. Last year, Croatian, Russian and Bosnian Serb officials struck a deal to convert the refinery to run on natural gas in order to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. The sides agreed that Croatia would provide the natural gas and help facilitate its transport to the refinery. Croatia also signed a protocol with the government of Republika Srpska on the project.
Today's meeting addressed the implementation of the plan, the President said.
"We spoke about the unresolved issues that are still on the table, mostly commercial issues, so that we may move forward on solving this problem and implementing this agreement," she told a news conference.
She also underscored that she had previously spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, from whom she had received assurances that the Russian Federation was committed to resolving the pollution problem.
Sergey Kudryashov, the General Diractor of Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft, the majority owner of the plant, reaffirmed that commitment.
"Our company's policy is to meet the highest environmental standards. Today, our priority is to fix the environmental situation at the Brod refinery. That project has two components: the modernization of our plant to allow for natural gas use and the construction of a gas pipeline to facilitate natural gas delivery," Kudryashov said.
The meeting was scheduled earlier, but it came just after a deadly explosion at the refinery on Tuesday. One worker was killed and eight others injured in the blast. The explosion also appears to have caused a major oil spill on the Sava River. The company and local authorities are working to contain the spill which stretches around 5 kilometers downriver.
Firefighters localized the blaze after by evening. The oil-processing plant issued a statement assuring local residents that they are not in any danger and that a taskforce is investigating the cause of the explosion.
The President has temporarily moved her office to the seat of Brod-Posavina County, Slavonski Brod to address local issues, the pollution problem being the most pressing problem troubling local residents.