By Duncan Mackay

Sochi 2014_ski_overviewJanuary 24 - Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has defended the environmental record of Sochi 2014 despite claims from a number of groups, including Greenpeace, that building work there is damaging a unique natural site.

But Mutko has claimed that construction is being carried out in compliance with the latest environmental standards.

"We are doing our best to minimise our interference with the nature, no matter how difficult it is, given the large scale of our projects," said Mutko in an interview broadcast on The Voice of Russia, the Government's international radio broadcasting service.

"The Russian Government has adopted a new environmental safety strategy.

"The requirements to keep environmental impact to a minimum and reduce harmful emissions will become increasingly tough every year."

In 2010 the UN Environment Programme claimed that construction work for the Olympics and Paralympics "did not take into account the cumulative...effects of the various projects on the ecosystems of the Sochi region and its population", including cutting down rare Caucasian Boxwood to build the bobsleigh track, which was inspected earlier this month by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (pictured).

Sochi 2014_bobsleigh_track_inspected_by_Medvedev
Mutko admitted that there had been some damage but organisers were doing everything they could to ensure that nature was able to flourish again afterwards.

"Nature will not be able to restore its potential completely," said Mutko.

"Those 'make-up' measures aimed at the relocation of animals and plants from the construction sites to new habitats are correct and necessary.

"On the other hand, no expert will be able to say when the wildlife will restore itself to the full.

"Everything will depend on the human efforts put into this restoration."

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