Lake Baikal will not be damaged by Transneft's pipeline

President Vladimir Putin last month ordered the company to cancel a planned route that would have taken the pipeline less than 1 kilometer (1 mile) from the lake's shore in what was hailed as a major victory by ecological campaigners.

They had warned that at that distance, even a small rupture could have shattered the lake's unique ecosystem.

Transneft vice president Sergei Grigoriev said the new route will run through the Yakutia region in Eastern Siberia.

While he did not give the exact distance, the border of Yakutia is nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Baikal's northernmost tip, putting it comfortably beyond the 25 mile (40 kilometer) drainage area of the UNESCO-protected lake.

The Kremlin-backed pipeline is set to run from Siberia's Irkutsk region to the Amur region on the Chinese border, then on to Russia's Pacific coast. Its 1.6 million-barrel-per-day capacity will allow increased oil exports to the energy-hungry markets in China, Japan and South Korea.

Grigoriev said that the company was determining the exact route as part of its financial assessment of the project, but insisted that the previous 2008 deadline for completing the route would be met.

He gave no details of the cost of the new project, which was originally to have cost US$11 billion (Ђ9 billion).