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Russia stakes claim to vast Arctic territories at U.N.

MOSCOW -- Russia has submitted its bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the United Nations, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that Russia is claiming over 463,000 square miles of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles from the shore.

Russia, the U.S., 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 Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration.


According to a new study, in the first part of the 21st century, glaciers are melting faster than at any point in the last 165 years -- and possibly any point in recorded history.

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

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

Greenpeace responded by warning of the environmental risks.

"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," Greenpeace Russia Arctic campaigner Vladimir Chuprov said in a statement. "Unless we act together, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes."

He urged countries seeking jurisdiction over the Arctic to work together to create a protected sanctuary around the North Pole.

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 submarine at the North Pole.

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A Russian NTV channel grab taken August 3, 2007 shows a manipulator of the Mir-1 mini-submarine as it places a Russian state flag at the seabed of Arctic ocean at a depth of 4,261 meters (13,980 feet), August 2, 2007. AFP/Getty Images

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 crucial for protecting shipping routes that link Europe with the Pacific region across the Arctic Ocean.

Earlier this year, the military conducted sweeping maneuvers in the Arctic that involved 38,000 servicemen, more than 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.


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