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BBC Monitoring
Russian government tells unique research centre to vacate its premises
Source: TVS, Moscow, in Russian 1800 gmt 25 Jan 03

[Presenter] A scandal is unfolding in St Petersburg. The world famous
Research Institute of Plant Growing named after Vavilov is being forced to
leave its premises. The institute houses a rare collection of plants, seeds
and mushrooms. However, officials now say that the building is required for
other purposes.

[Correspondent Dmitriy Seleznev] The talk of St Petersburg being granted
some functions of a capital city and of some federal officials being
relocated from Moscow to St Petersburg has been going on for some time. But
the location where the federal officials will be given offices has been
found only recently. In accordance with an instruction from the Russian
Federation government, Isakiyevskaya Square has been selected for the
purpose. Four buildings in the square will be handed over to the
President's Administrative Department. Two of them are now occupied by the
All-Russia Research Institute of Plant Growing founded by Nikolay Vavilov
in 1922.

The instruction does not specify where the institute will be moved and
when. But in any event, the relocation will be a tragedy for the institute,
its director, Viktor Dragavtsev, says.

[Viktor Dragavtsev, director of the Vavilov All-Russia Research Institute
of Plant Growing] It is a very complex facility to be relocated. When that
instruction was issued, clearly the people who were drawing it up had no
idea of what enormous difficulties they will come up against.

[Correspondent] These storage rooms house a unique collection of seeds
gathered from across the world. Its 350,000 samples are evaluated at
6,000bn dollars [as received]. To store the collection, special conditions
have to be maintained. Some seeds can be stored only in special
compartments at a temperature of 20 C below zero. The scientists are sure
that no matter how carefully transportation is arranged, it would be hardly
possible to maintain the required temperature all throughout the relocation.

The institute's herbarium has 300,000 items. The staff try to touch the
thin and dry stalks as seldom as possible. They contain the DNA that in the
future may be used to restore extinct plants.

[Natalya Luneva, senior research associate of the Vavilov Research
Institute of Plant Growing] It is impossible to allow all these plants to
crumble into dust because they present a huge pool of information.

[Correspondent] The institute's leading scientists have sent a letter to
President Vladimir Putin asking him to cancel the government's instruction.
The president of the Russian Agricultural Academy, Academician Romanenko,
has sent an appeal to the government saying that the institute's relocation
is unlawful since its building belongs to the Academy.

As for the local authorities, they have welcomed the government's
resolution because the proposed relocation, future refurbishment of
buildings and accommodation of officials arriving from Moscow will be
financed from the federal budget.

[Valeriy Nazarov, chairman of the committee for managing state property of
St Petersburg municipal administration] This decision is taken at a very
high level and I think that everything will be done in a proper and
well-thought-through manner.

[Correspondent] Academician Viktor Dragavtsev says that after he received
the letter from the government, he has stopped his research work. He spends
all the time calling his colleagues, writing and sending complaints and

[Video shows the institute's building and collection]
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