Mongolia leader follows Putin to bottom of Baikal

16th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Mongolia's president on Friday became the first head of state to dive to the bottom of Baikal, the world's deepest lake, in a mini-submarine, following in the footsteps of Russia's adventure-seeking Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Mongolia's leader Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj spent two hours underwater examining the unique flora and fauna of the lake and spoke to his wife and son via radio link-up during the dive, said Russia's Fund for Protection of Lake Baikal.

"I feel huge joy and acute unity with nature," Elbegdorj said from the bottom of the Siberian lake. "I feel part of Baikal," he was quoted as saying by the fund.

The Fund for Protection of Lake Baikal is a group created in 2008 on the initiative of Russian investment bank Metropol to promote conservation of the lake.

Elbegdorj went underwater aboard the Mir-1, the same submarine that carried Putin to the depth of around 1,400 metres (4,600 feet) -- the deepest point in the lake's southern part -- in a highly publicised media stunt last August.

Unlike Russia's strongman, the Mongolian leader only dived to a depth of around 400 meters but said he was beyond himself with excitement.

"I have not been to space but I feel like a cosmonaut," he told reporters after resurfacing.

World famous for its dramatic beauty, Lake Baikal contains around a fifth of the world's fresh water and is home to a variety of endemic species such as the omul fish.

Russia is seeking to revive its influence in former Soviet client state Mongolia and both Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev visited the steppe country bordering Siberia in 2009 in an effort to obtain better access to its vast resources.

© 2010 AFP

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