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“I want to say once again – we will take the path of expanding our presence in the Arctic,” said President Putin, adding that Russia will be very careful about the region’s vulnerable nature and its importance to the whole planet.
“This is one of the most vulnerable parts of the planet and is often referred to as “the Earth’s weather kitchen,” said the Russian leader at a meeting with activists of the main Kremlin party, United Russia.
Russia initiated a large-scale programme to clean-up the Arctic and is removing several tons of metal scrap, casks with fuel and lubrication materials.
“We will continue this work. If I’m not mistaken, last year only, the government allocated 1.4 billion rubles ($43.5 billion) for this programme, and we haven’t finished yet,” Putin said.
Moscow has the world’s largest icebreaking fleet and has recently restored a military base on the Novosibirsk islands that was abandoned 20 years ago.
Due to cutting-edge technological innovations Russian military personnel are now stationed at the base all year round.
At present, only the eight countries of the Arctic Council have a say in setting policy in the region – America, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Iceland.
Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry says building a platform will mean the search for appropriate ice floe will no longer be a problem.
Officials have stressed that since other countries do not have such platforms it will be a significant breakthrough for Russia.
Putin said on Thursday that Russian bases in the Arctic will have more staff, including not only the military, but also scientists, meteorologists and specialists from the Emergencies Ministry who will ensure the security of the Northern Sea Route.
The Northern Sea Route is a transport corridor and is one of the major reasons why the region is gaining more importance.
Climate change has allowed for an increased navigation period in the region.
Last year saw a record melting of summer sea ice in the Arctic which has led to a major push by oil and mining companies to drill in Arctic waters, and by Asian countries hoping to cut shipping routes.
The president said that the Arctic is an integral part of the country that has been under Russia’s sovereignty for centuries.
“And it will remain so in the future,” Putin assured at the meeting with United Russia.
The Russian leader said “the region is rich with mineral resources and this is why it is so precious”.
Russia’s Northern fleet is located in the region close to the Arctic, while US submarines also keep watch close to the Norwegian border.