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Russia to reopen Arctic naval base

Vladimir Radyuhin
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Greenpeace activists board Gazprom’s ‘Prirazlomnaya’ Arctic oil platform somewhere off Russia's coast in the Pechora Sea on Wednesday in a bid to stop it drilling for oil in the environmentally sensitive area.— Photo: AFP
Greenpeace activists board Gazprom’s ‘Prirazlomnaya’ Arctic oil platform somewhere off Russia's coast in the Pechora Sea on Wednesday in a bid to stop it drilling for oil in the environmentally sensitive area.— Photo: AFP

Russia will reopen a major naval base in the Arctic and resume regular naval patrols in the region even as it laid claim to a vast swath of the Arctic seabed.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia is going to rebuild a naval base off its Arctic coast that was abandoned 20 years ago.

“We have decided to rebuild a naval base and overhaul an airfield… in order to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the Northern Sea Route,” Mr. Putin said at a videoconference with the Russian Defence Ministry.

He added that the naval facility would “mark a new step in the opening up of the Northern Sea Route” and would help “effectively control” the Russian section of the Arctic Ocean.

A few days ago a convoy of 10 Russian warships led by missile cruiser Peter the Great and accompanied by four nuclear-powered icebreakers reached the Kotelny Island in the Novosibirsk Archipelago in the eastern part of the Northern Sea Route, after travelling 2,000 nautical miles from Severomorsk near Finland. They brought fuel, food, construction materials and personnel who will reconstruct a major Soviet-era naval base shut down in 1993.

The move comes a month after Russia submitted to the United Nations a claim to extend its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone by another 150 miles or 1.2 million square kilometres. Moscow argues that it has scientific evidence proving beyond doubt that seabed it claims is continuation of its continental shelf.

Melting ice has facilitated commercial shipping along the Northern Sea Route which skirts Russia’s Arctic coastline. As of early September, 495 ships received permission to travel the route this year, up from zero just five years ago. Russia has also drawn up plans to develop offshore oil and gas fields in the Arctic, which is believed to hold more than a fifth of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon resources.

The Russian Defence Ministry said that next year it will start establishing naval outposts in Novaya Zemlya and the Franz-Josef Land archipelagos in the Arctic Ocean.


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