Russia applies for claim over vast Arctic territory

Area said to hold quarter of world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves

Russia Applies For Claim Over Arctic Territory
Russia's Foreign Minister has submitted an application to the United Nations to formally claim an approximately 463,000 square mile territory in the Arctic.

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.

Rivalry for resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening up new exploration opportunities, reports The Guardian.

Russia was the first to submit a 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.

Greenpeace concerns

Vladimir Chuprov, campaigner for Greenpeace Russia, said: "The melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia. Unless we act together, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes."

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

Amid tensions with the west over Ukraine, the Kremlin has moved to beef up Russian military forces in the Arctic.

The effort has included the restoration of a Soviet-era base on the New Siberian Islands and other military outposts in the region. Russian officials said the facilities are needed to protect shipping routes that link Europe with the Pacific region across the Arctic Ocean.