Ex-premier Chernomyrdin embarks on a big snowmobile drive aiming to draw attention to the problems of the Russian north

Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia’s former prime minister and live Duma deputy is leaving for a round-the-world UNESCO expedition, Great Northern Trail, riding a snowmobile. He is due to fly to Murmansk today, the expedition beginning on March 16th. The starting point for the expedition will be the Arctic town of Zapolyarny, said Mr. Chernomyrdin, who is chairman of the expedition's international organising committee. The first group of the expedition will be travelling by snowmobiles. Mr. Chernomyrdin told RIA Novosit that he would go in "the core group, together with the expedition leader," as far as the Russian-Norwegian border. There, expedition members will change snowmobiles for dog-pulled sledges, while the Russian ex-premier will have to part with the travellers, to his regret. A group of researchers riding on the dog sledges will travel along the Polar Circle via northern territories of Russia, the US (Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The expedition head is Sergei Solovyov, a merited polar explorer and full member of the Geographical Society of Russia. He will be accompanied by doctor Vladimir Rybin, dogteam driver Filipp Ardeyev, and a native northerner guide. A second, technical support group will be travelling on mechanical transport. It will include a designer, a photographer, an editor and a video cameraman. Contact with the mainland will be maintained by means of satellite communication, according to RIA Novosti. This superproject will be a follow-up to the first legendary expedition of the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya in 1982-83, during which Solovyov and his team covered more than 10,000 kilometres on dogs. The expedition's main goal will be to attract public, government and business attention to problems of the Russian North and the development of economic, cultural and educational facilities of this vast Russian region.