A naval mission to plant a Russian flag beneath the North Pole, laying claim to a huge swathe of Arctic territory, is underway.
The action is in breach of a deal between the five Arctic countries to let the UN decide on their rival claims.
The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has ordered his officials to draft a law marking out Russia’s borders in the Arctic where it is competing with the West for vast energy resources.
“Our first and most important task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for the Russia of the 21st century. The main question is to ensure reliable defense for our national interest in the
region,” he said.
International law states that Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark, via Greenland, are allowed a 320 kilometre economic zone north of their shores.
It is estimated around 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered oil and and 30 per cent of its undiscovered gas lies under the Arctic seabed.
As global warming melts the ice cap, it could open the region up for oil and mineral exploration.
Last year a mini-sub symbolically planted a Russian flag on the Arctic seabed. As part of this latest mission, two Russian Mir submarines plan to dive 4,200 metres below the North Pole to carry out tests, and plant a capsule and another Russian flag.
Poles apart: Russia sets seabed borders