Friday, 30 October 2009

Russia plans research to support Arctic claim

Russia is planning extensive research to support its claim to a broad swath of energy-rich territory beneath the Arctic Sea, a top official of the nation's icebreaker fleet said Friday. Icebreakers will lead research vessels into the Arctic in a series of missions over the next three years to conduct a detailed geological analysis of the seabed, said Andrei Smirnov, deputy director for operations at state-run Atomflot.Moscow claims a large part of the Arctic seabed as its own, arguing that it is an extension of Russia's continental shelf. In 2007, scientists staked a symbolic claim by dropped a canister containing the Russian flag onto the seabed from a small submarine.The United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have also been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to contain as much as a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas.The dispute has intensified amid growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and new resource development opportunities.Andrei Smirnov of the state-run company Atomflot says Russia is planning icebreaker missions in the Arctic over the next three years to conduct a detailed geological analysis of the seabed.Russia plans to send an atomic-powered icebreaker and a research ship to the Arctic next summer, Smirnov said at a conference. He said similar missions will take place over 2011-2012.Moscow first submitted the claim to Arctic seabed in 2001 to the United Nations, but it was rejected for lack of evidence.Artur Chilingarov, a polar scientist who was recently appointed the Kremlin's point man for Arctic issues and led the flag-planting expedition, said in June that Russia might resubmit the claim in 2013 after collecting more data.At the time, Chilingarov said Russia's fleet of six nuclear-powered icebreakers gives it an edge in polar exploration.

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