Russia formally stakes claim to North Pole and vast Arctic expanse

A titanium capsule with the Russian flag is seen seconds after it was planted by the Mir-1 mini submarine on the Arctic Ocean seabed under the North Pole in 2007. Photo: AP


Moscow: Russia formally staked a claim on Tuesday to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole.

If the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the UN commission that arbitrates sea boundaries accepts Russia’s claim, the waters will be subject to Moscow’s oversight on economic matters, including fishing and oil and gas drilling. However, Russia will not have full sovereignty.

Under a 1982 UN convention, the Law of the Sea, a nation may claim an exclusive economic zone over the continental shelf abutting its shores. If the shelf extends far out to sea, so can the boundaries of the zone. The claim Russia lodged on Tuesday is based on that provision and argues that the shelf extends far north of the Eurasian land mass, out under the planet’s northern ice cap.

Russia submitted a similar claim in 2002, but the United Nations rejected it for lack of scientific support. So this time, the Kremlin has offered new evidence collected by its research vessels. It even sent a well-known Arctic explorer, Artur Chilingarov, to take a miniature submarine to the sea floor directly below the North Pole, scoop up a soil sample and plant a Russian flag made of titanium there.

In a statement posted on its website, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the claim would expand Russia’s total territory on land and sea by about 1.2 million square kilometres, or about 463,000 square miles.

Russia has set its sights northward for a long time. Under Stalin, the Kremlin claimed a huge pie-shaped section of the Arctic Ocean extending from its eastern and western borders to the North Pole, although its motive then was not clear since most of the area was ice-bound.

…Russia is the largest country in the world by area, and it grew larger last year by annexing the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine. The Kremlin governs about one-sixth of the world’s land area.

Full article: Russia formally stakes claim to North Pole and vast Arctic expanse (Sydney Morning Herald)

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