Putin to boost military presence in Arctic

Expanding Russia’s military presence in the Arctic region is among the armed forces’ top priorities, president Vladimir Putin has declared.

At a meeting with the top military officers, Mr Putin said Russia was “intensifying the development of that promising region” and needs to have “every lever for the protection of its security and national interests there”.

He emphasised the importance of the Soviet-era base at the New Siberian Islands, which the military started to overhaul this year. Russian officials have described the facility as key for protecting shipping routes that link Europe with the Pacific region across the Arctic Ocean.

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He also said that Russia will restore a number of Arctic military air bases that fell into neglect after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas.

In 2007 Russia staked a symbolic claim to the seabed by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a submarine at the North Pole.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military next year will form a dedicated group of forces in the Arctic to protect Russia’s national interests in the region.