Putin visits Arctic archipelago to reaffirm Russian presence

President Vladimir Putin is visiting an Arctic archipelago as part of Russia's efforts to reaffirm its foothold in the region.

Putin toured the Franz Josef Land archipelago, a cluster of 192 islands where the Russian military has recently built a new runway and worked to open a permanent base.

During Wednesday's trip, Putin inspected a cavity in a glacier that scientists use to study permafrost. He also spoke with environmental experts who have worked to clean the area of Soviet-era debris.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and other senior officials accompanied him.

The Kremlin has named reaffirming the Russian presence in the Arctic as a top priority amid an intensifying rivalry over the region that is believed to hold up to one-quarter of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas.