Russia to boost research efforts to support its claim of Arctic territories

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is boosting its research efforts to support its claims for parts of the Arctic continental shelf, the Kremlin's pointman for the Arctic said Monday.

Artur Chilingarov told reporters that he will head an expedition next month to launch a drifting research station in the Arctic to gather scientific data in support of Russia's claim on Arctic territories.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all 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.

Russia's new drifting station will complement an icebreaker and a research ship that have been in the Arctic for the past two months, seeking evidence of Russia's territorial claims, said Chilingarov, the Russian president's envoy for international cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctica.

A polar scientist, Chilingarov led a 2007 expedition during which a Russian mini-submarine dropped a canister containing the Russian flag onto the seabed at the North Pole.

Arctic nations have become increasingly anxious to stake their claims to the polar territories as mounting evidence shows that global warming is shrinking polar ice, turning the previously inaccessible area into a potentially rich energy source.

An Arctic strategy paper signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 said the polar region must become Russia's "top strategic resource base" by 2020.

Russia, Canada and Denmark are planning to file claims to the United Nations to prove their respective rights to the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range. Russia first submitted its claim in 2001 to the U.N., but it was sent back for lack of evidence.

On Monday, Chilingarov said Russia would speed up collection of scientific data and submit them to the United Nations in 2013, matching the claim by Canada expected for that year.

Russia's special envoy in the Arctic Council, Anton Vasilyev, described the extension of Russia's territories in the Arctic as "feasible."