Putin's Arctic invasion: Russia lays claim to the North Pole and all its gas, oil, and diamonds
Last updated at 09:24am on 29th June 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin is making an astonishing bid to grab a vast chunk of the Arctic so he can tap its vast potential oil, gas and mineral wealth.
His scientists claim an underwater ridge near the North Pole is really part of Russia's continental shelf.
One newspaper printed a map of the "new addition", a triangle five times the size of Britain with twice as much oil as Saudi Arabia.
Muscle-flexing: Putin has his sights on Arctic oil and gas
The dramatic move provoked an international outcry. The U.S. and Canada expressed shock and environment campaigners said it would be a disaster.
Observers say the move is typical of Putin's muscle-flexing as he tries to increase Russian power.
Under current international law, the countries ringing the Arctic Russia, Canada, the U.S., Norway, and Denmark (which owns Greenland) are limited to a 200-mile economic zone around their coasts.
Putin claims that an underwater Russian ridge is linked to the North Pole ENLARGE
A UN convention says none can claim jurisdiction over the Arctic seabed because the geological structure does not match the surrounding continental shelves.
But Russian scientists have returned from a six-week mission on a nuclear ice-breaker to claim that the 1,220-mile long underwater Lomonosov Ridge is geologically linked to the Siberian continental platform and similar in structure.
The region is currently administered by the International Seabed Authority but this is now being challenged by Moscow.
Experts estimate the ridge has ten billion tons of gas and oil deposits and significant sources of diamonds, gold, tin, manganese, nickel, lead and platinum.
A Russian attempt to claim Arctic territory was rejected five years ago, but this time Moscow plans to make a far more serious submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. A British diplomatic source warned that Russia was planning to secure its grip on oil and gas supplies "for decades to come".
The Russians have laid controversial claim to the North Pole
He said: "Putin wants a strong Russia, and Western dependence on it for oil and gas supplies is a key part of his strategy. He no longer cares if it upsets the West."
The U.S. state department said the Russian claim was completely unacceptable. "It's an extraordinary idea and I can't believe it will go anywhere," an official said.
A Canadian official called the move a complete surprise.
Green groups warned that the Kremlin claim could devastate one of the world's last unspoilt areas.
John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK, said: "We think nations should stop searching for new sources of fossil fuel and focus instead on the alternatives renewables, energy efficiency and decentralised energy systems.
"Only then will disputes over natural resources become a thing of the past."
Ted Nield, of the Geological Society in London, branded Russia's claim nonsensical.
"The notion that geological structures can somehow dictate ownership is deeply peculiar," he said.
"Anyway, the Lomonosov Ridge is not part of a continental shelf it is the point at which two ocean floor plates under the Arctic Ocean are spreading apart.
"It extends from Russia across to Canada, which means Canada could use the same argument and say the ridge is part of the Canadian shelf.
"If you take that to its logical conclusion, Canada could claim Russia and the whole of Eurasia as its own."
The Russian Bear moves in on the polar bears at the North Pole