Russia denies causing oil spill off Irish coast

MOSCOW Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:05pm GMT

MOSCOW Feb 17 (Reuters) - Russia's navy denied on Tuesday that any of its ships could have caused a 300-tonne oil slick discovered off the coast of Ireland, though it confirmed its vessels had refuelled nearby.

Ireland's Department of Transport said on Monday that 300 tonnes of oil had been found close to the Russian navy ships and that the oil probably leaked during refuelling.

"Russian ships did indeed refuel in one of the areas but there have been no accidents on board ... in terms of ruptures in pipelines or fuel tanks," said Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo.

"Equally, there has been no deliberate dumping of fuel overboard. That is absolutely out of the question," Dygalo said in a statement.

The spill occurred 50 miles (80 km) south of Fastnet lighthouse, Ireland's most southwesterly point, and spread over an area measuring 4 miles by 5 miles (6.4 km by 8 km), the department said.

It said the slick was not expected to reach the shore.

The Russian navy said the incident had been exaggerated in media reports that estimated the spill at between 12 and 400 tonnes.

"It is not catastrophic in nature and does not present a threat to the coastal environment," Dygalo said. (Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Phakamisa Ndzamela)