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Russia has the world's largest forest reserves, which supply lumber, pulp and paper, and raw material for woodworking industries.

Formidable obstacles of climate, terrain, and distance hinder exploitation of natural resources.

The more central Ural Mountains, a north-south range that form the primary divide between Europe and Asia, are also notable.

The lowest point is the Caspian Sea, at 28 meters below sea level.

As with its topography, its climates, vegetation, and soils span vast distances.

Russia shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from northwest to southeast): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea.

The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just under two miles (three kilometers) apart, and Kunashir Island (controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan) is about 20 kilometers (12 mi) from Hokkaido.

Most of the land consists of broad plain with low hills west of Urals, and vast plains in Siberia.

From north to south the East European Plain is clad sequentially in tundra, coniferous forest (taiga), mixed forest, broadleaf forest, grassland (steppe), and semidesert (fringing the Caspian Sea) reflecting the changes in climate.

Siberia supports a similar sequence but lacks the mixed forest. Environmental issues include air pollution from heavy industry, emissions of coal-fired electric plants, and transportation in major cities; industrial, municipal, and agricultural pollution of inland waterways and seacoasts; deforestation; soil erosion; soil contamination from improper application of agricultural chemicals; scattered areas of sometimes intense radioactive contamination; groundwater contamination from toxic waste; urban solid waste management; and abandoned stocks of obsolete pesticides.

Permafrost over much of Siberia is a major impediment to development.

There is volcanic activity in the Kuril Islands, volcanoes and earthquakes on the Kamchatka Peninsula, and spring floods and summer/autumn forest fires throughout Siberia and parts of European Russia.

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