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Russia to continue Arctic shelf research

RIA Novosti

27/03/2008 16:53 MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian scientists will continue to study the Arctic shelf in order to bolster the country's claim to a large swathe of seabed believed to be rich in oil and gas, a Russian lawmaker said on Thursday.

President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia's Arctic research is aimed at establishing the country's right to a part of the Arctic shelf.

Artur Chilingarov, a member of the lower house of Russia's parliament and a veteran explorer, said there had been sufficient funding for Arctic research in 2008, adding that international cooperation in the area would also continue.

"We are for international cooperation in the Arctic, but we will never give away what is ours by right," he said.

He also said Russia's economic interests should be given priority in Arctic research, adding that by 2009 Russia should submit "documentary substantiation of the external boundaries of the Russian Federation's territorial shelf to the UN."

Last August, as part of a scientific expedition, two Russian mini-subs made a symbolic eight-hour dive beneath the North Pole to bolster the country's claim that the Arctic's Lomonosov Ridge lies in the country's economic zone. A titanium Russian flag was also planted on the seabed.

The expedition irritated a number of Western countries, particularly Canada, and Peter MacKay, the Canadian foreign minister, accused Moscow of making an unsubstantiated claim to the area.

Russia's oceanology research institute has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge last summer - to back Russian claims to the region.

The area is believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves and other mineral riches, likely to become accessible in future decades due to man-made global warming.

Researchers have conducted deepwater seismic probes, aerial and geophysical surveys, and seismic-acoustic probes from the Akademik Fedorov and Rossiya icebreakers.

Russia first claimed the territory in 2001, but the UN demanded more evidence.

Under international law, the five Arctic Circle countries - the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia - each have a 322-kilometer (200-mile) economic zone in the Arctic Ocean.

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