Russia bids for vast Arctic territories at UN

Russia has submitted its bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the UN.

It is claiming 1.2m sq km of Arctic sea shelf, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russia, the US, Canada, Denmark, and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas.

The rivalry for the Arctic’s resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening up new opportunities for exploration.

Russia was the first to submit its claim in 2002, but the UN sent it back for lack of evidence.

The ministry said the resubmitted bid contains new arguments. “Ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research are used to back the Russian claim,” it said.

Russia expects the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to start looking at its bid in the autumn, the ministry said.

In 2007, Moscow staked a symbolic claim to the Arctic seabed by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a small submarine at the North Pole.

Amid tensions with the West over Ukraine, the Kremlin also has moved to beef up Russian military forces in the Arctic. The effort has included the restoration of a Soviet-era military base on the New Siberian Islands and other military outposts in the Arctic.

Russian officials said the facilities are key for protecting shipping routes that link Europe with the Pacific region across the Arctic Ocean.

Earlier this year, the military conducted sweeping manoeuvres in the Arctic that involved 38,000 servicemen,over 50 surface ships and submarines, and 110 aircraft.

As part of the drills, the military demonstrated its capability to quickly beef up its forces on the Arctic Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos.

In a submission to back a 2002 claim at the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Russia said research showed that it had rights over the swathe — an area the size of South Africa.

This would include the North Pole and potentially give Russia access to an estimated 4.9bn tonnes of hydrocarbons, according to government estimates.

Under international law, a country has exclusive economic rights over the continental shelf within a 370km radius from its coast. Arctic nations have been jostling to claim more.


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