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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Indigenous People Protest LNG Project on Sakhalin

Indigenous people on Sakhalin Island protested Thursday against the international oil companies they say are endangering their lives.

Backed by environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, the local people of Sakhalin took to the streets. The locals say firms such as Shell, ExxonMobil and BP are jeopardizing their traditional self-sufficient way of life and have called for full research into the effects of the project on their environment.

Work on the sea shelf has dramatically cut fish stocks in the region, while pastures and forests have also been destroyed, environmental groups say.

Some 300 people -- around 10 percent of the indigenous ethnic population -- protested in Sakhalin, but a lack of response from both government and oil companies is forcing them to take further action over the next few days.

"We can't see any other way out of this problem than going out to protest," said Mikhail Todyshev, vice president of RAIPON, an indigenous peoples' pressure group.

Shell-led Sakhalin Energy, which will launch the world's largest liquefied natural gas plant by 2006, says environmental protection of the island is one of its top priorities.

"We are sensitive to the need to minimize negative environmental and social impacts from the project, particularly any impact on vulnerable communities and rare or endangered species," it says on its web site.

The Sakhalin projects employ thousands, including some indigenous people. Environmental groups said some of the oil companies had threatened to fire any employees, if they or their relatives took part in the protests.