Ceremony to launch new wintering complex at Vostok station in Antarctica

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin attended a ceremony to launch a new wintering complex at the Vostok station in Antarctica on 28 January.

Vostok is Russia’s year-round inland Antarctic research station located in the central part of Antarctica. According to TASS, it carries out the climate and the Earth's magnetic field, meteorological, geophysical and glaciological (natural ice) observations and studies the properties of materials at low temperatures, and other matters.

The new wintering complex of the station was manufactured by the experimental plant of building structures in Gatchina, Leningrad Oblast. It includes two office and living quarters, a building with four diesel generators with a capacity of 200 kW each and a water purification and storage system, a warehouse and a garage. Every unit can operate autonomously.

Speaking about the results of polar research, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that he was most impressed to learn that over the past 420,000 years, the planet has gone through four cycles when global cooling was replaced by global warming. “I joke when I say that it would be interesting to know what period and what point we are in today. Is it a cooling or warming time?" the President said. “I really want us, the planet to live on. What you told me is beyond comprehension. It's hard to even comprehend the conclusions that our researchers and scientists have drawn."

As for the commissioning of the new wintering complex, the head of state said: "The guys are doing a very good job. I would like to join the words of the President [of Russia] and congratulate all of you on the launch of the new wintering complex of the Vostok station. A lot of money, billions of rubles, has been invested to create such a comfortable, cozy and beautiful complex for our guys to work."

The Belarusian polar explorers were expected to join the video call but missed it due to the weather conditions.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that Antarctica is still the least explored continent on the planet. "Russia is the leader in the Antarctica research today. No one can compare to it. We had a great country, the Soviet Union. We worked together. Some cherished hopes that all this would be abandoned. But it was not. Instead the research has reached a higher level," the Belarusian leader stressed.

He also thanked his Russian friends who have always helped Belarusian scientists with accommodation at their station, supported research, shared scientific data, and provided equipment. “I know that our equipment is also in use there [in Antarctica]. In 2018-2020, an ultraviolet photometer of the Belarusian university's design was put into operation there. I am confident the program will continue with the use of this equipment. I will turn Belarusian scientists’ attention to the development of this sector of science and practice,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “This will give a strong impetus to development, and it is of great importance to us. We are proud to be part of it. Once again, I thank Russia, you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. You pay a lot of attention to this.”

Addressing the polar explorers, the President noted the difficult conditions in which they have to work, and even the route to the station which is very long and complicated: “What you are doing is akin to a feat. We are proud of you. Thank you very much. We, the Belarusians, will be taking a more active part in these processes. Live in peace. We are brothers, we have nothing to fight over. Both Russia and Belarus should make their contribution to science.”

Belarus has been implementing its Antarctic program for a number of years. With the support of the head of state, the country began its journey in Antarctica in 2006. The results of research in the polar region are important not only from a fundamental but also from a practical point of view. The geophysical processes taking place in Antarctica is essential for the climate of the planet and biodiversity. This is the reason why high-tech developed countries are active in this region.

The Belarusian research station has been under construction in East Antarctica since 2015. Its first stage was completed in 2021. The second stage is slated for launch by 2026. The units (models) of the station can accommodate and ensure safe working conditions for up to 15 polar explorers.

Within the framework of state programs for Antarctic research, from 2007 to 2023 Belarus conducted 15 seasonal Antarctic expeditions engaging more than 80 Belarusian and 6 foreign scientists and specialists.

On 30 October 2023, the 16th Belarusian Antarctic Expedition was given a ceremonial start at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. It is led by the experienced polar explorer, a participant in all previous 15 expeditions Aleksei Gaidashov. In early January of this year, an air cargo operation was carried out to deliver the general cargo and employees of the Belarusian Antarctic Expedition to the Gora Vechernyaya field base. It is located on the coast of the Cosmonaut Sea near the seasonal Russian station Molodezhnaya.