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Russia revamps Volga-Don canal to let foreign ships in
Source: Channel One TV, Moscow, in Russian 0600 gmt 10 Jan 03

[Presenter] A unique engineering operation has been carried out at the Volga-Don Shipping Canal. An old set of lock gates, weighting nearly 100 t, are being replaced. The canal is getting ready to accept not just Russian, but foreign merchant vessels as well. Yelena Pich reports from Volgograd Region.

[Correspondent] A few hours later, the degree of precision here would be measured in millimetres. Enormous lock gates, weighing nearly 100 tonnes, are being lowered from a pontoon crane into their place in the lock. The old gates could have failed in the new season.

The work continues all night. The frost, and especially the ice that stops the pontoon crane from manoeuvring in the lock, is a serious nuisance. However, the work had to go on, for otherwise everything would have been started anew.

A small tugboat, nicknamed Titanic by the workers, drives blocks of ice away. Divers will have to deal with sophisticated fixtures under water. However, no-one complains of difficulties here. People say that they would not like to lose face when the canal becomes an international shipping route.

[Igor Koblev, captioned as head of the Volga-Don Basin State Directorate] I think that we shall be among the first waterways to be navigated by foreign ships. It is connected with the Caspian, the Mediterranean, and the south of Russia, and with the European Union's 9th International [Transport] Corridor.

[Correspondent] Volga-Don employees call their canal a mirror of the Russian economy. They say that such prospects are a good start to the new year.

[Video shows the work in progress at day and night]

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