Mr Assistant Director-General for Culture, Madame Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, Mr Minister for Ecology of France, Deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Mr Minister for Natural Resources of the Republic of Buryatia, Mr Director of the WorldHeritageCenter of UNESCO, Dear Academicians and Scientists, Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and gentlemen, I am very happy to welcome you today atUNESCO Headquarters on the occasion of the opening of anexceptional exhibition in the framework of the round of international events devoted to the scientific researches and preservation of the Russian world natural heritage site – the lakeBaikal. First of all, I would like to address my special thanks to Madam Director-General of UNESCO for herpersonal support totoday’s action. I also express my deep gratitude to the Assistant Directors-General, to UNESCO Natural Sciences and Culture Sectors andto the Center of the World Heritage for their substantial and committed organizational assistance. The Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation continues a series of the eventsdedicated to the achievements of the country in the research of the most difficult, inaccessible and considerable world elements. It is quite a symbolical parallel that exactly one year ago, here at UNESCO,the scientific world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Yury Gagarin’s flight to the Space. And one year after, UNESCO hosts the international scientific Conference based on the results of unique expeditions onboard of the famous Russian deep-water submarines Mir. These expeditions have involved global participation of a range of prominent experts. While the reports of this venture will be presented to UNESCO later during the day, I am pleased to yet say that over these three expedition seasons Mir successfully accomplished 178immersing missions through the whole water area of Baikal. 215 hydronauts from 12 countries have taken part in it. Among them some leading scientists and experts from Russia, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Mongolia, Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America. Far before it starts, today’s Conference became an important international event which captured the attention ofthe communitiesin many countries of the world. It is not so surprising because it is about Baikal, a miracle in every respect, as such deservedly included in the List of the World Heritage,yet in 1996. Among all the lakes of the globe Baikal incontestably winsthe first place on depth. It is also the oldest and the purest lake on the Earth. No otherlake cancompete with Baikal on volume and characteristics of fresh water,which is 19% of all worlds’ reserves! A specific variety of species in Baikal has no equal among world lakes – more than 2.500animalspecies and 1.000of water plants,2/3 of those being endemics. This number is completed bya variety of hundreds water and ground microorganisms. The decision of 20th session of the World Heritage Committee, held in the Mexican Merida clearly states thatLakeBaikal is a classical case of a site of the World Heritage, satisfying to all four natural criteria. Its features, mostlyhidden underthe water, represent the main value for science and protection. The lake is surrounded bytaiga and mountain landscapes and by protected natural areas,largely remained in their natural state and thus representing an additional value. LakeBaikalis a limnological miracle. The Pearl of Siberia – so is rightly called this exclusive natural monument of regional and global scope. One of the objectivesof the Day of Baikal at UNESCO is todemonstrate the execution of a recommendationfor the inclusion of the lake in the World Heritage List of UNESCO, namely «to continue supporting scientific researches and monitoring on Baikal». It seems thatfederal and local authorities of my country succeed in the accomplishment of this task. In this regard, special mention should be made of interaction with concerned Russian NGOs and foreign scientists. The appreciation should also be made of the unique private-state partnership in the organization of such researches, notably with an active participation of the Russian Group of companies "Metropol". I believe that today’sUNESCO forum creates additional possibilities for direct dialogue on various matters –including most importantly the ecological aspects – between all concerned persons, specialists and officials,from the Russian federal and local organizations, from the UNESCO World Heritage Center and its advisory expert bodies, and from the international scientific community as a whole. I hope that this meeting will help to remove possible concerns on Baikal and to resolve many questions. I am certain that it will bring together positions of the Russian and international experts, on the threshold of the 36th session of the World Heritage Committee hosted this year by another Russian beautiful world heritage site, the welcomingcity of St.-Petersburg. Thank you for your attention.