The cold war over ownership of the Arctic Ocean has moved up a step with a test dive by two Russian submersibles. They were launched from a nuclear-powered ice-breaker which is part of a polar expedition that left the Russian port of Murmansk last week. The aim of the mission is to claim ownership of a considerable chunk of the Arctic Ocean, home to vast oil, mineral and fish reserves as well as strategic shipping lanes.
Some claim up to 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves could be found there.
A Russian flag will be planted on the sea-bed to symbolically claim the territory.
The race has been triggered by the melting of the Arctic ice-cap due to global warming.
Under international law, the five countries with territory inside the Arctic can only claim a 300-kilometre economic zone around their coastlines.
But Russia is claiming a far larger portion extending as far as the North Pole, arguing the Arctic seabed and Siberia are on the same continental shelf.
Since leaving Murmansk, the Russian mission has made good progress towards the pole and the first research dives are expected early next week.