Putin Orders Monitoring of Chinese Spill

BEIJING -- A chemical leak in China's northeast killed at least three people, prompting alarmed officials in neighboring Russia to order continuous monitoring of air and water quality, news agencies reported Friday.

Few details were available about the leak Thursday in Qiqihaer city of Heilongjiang province. An investigation was under way, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.

Labs on the Chinese-Russian border were regularly testing air and water quality after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered "permanent monitoring" of the situation, the Interfax news agency said.

Qiqihaer is located only 250 miles from the Russian border and lies along a major tributary of the Songhua River, which flows into Russia.

A 2005 chemical spill in the Songhua strained Chinese-Russian relations after poisoned waters flowed across the border. Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yury Trutnev said Friday that China had failed to provide information about the latest accident and that he had sent an official note to complain and request information, RIA-Novosti reported.

"Unfortunately, we have no official information from the Chinese side, which violates an agreement signed by the Environment Minister and China's Committee on Ecology. We have sent the appropriate note and hope for a response in the nearest future," Trutnev said.

The Communist Party propaganda office in Qiqihaer city had no immediate comment on the leak. Phones rang unanswered at the local police department.