Scientist says tests back Russia Arctic claim
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian scientist said on Thursday that fresh test results back his country's legal bid to take control of the Arctic, just weeks after a submarine planted the Russian national flag on the North Pole's seabed.
The race to claim ownership of the Arctic, home to vast untapped gas and oil reserves, has intensified with Canada, Denmark, Norway and the U.S. all vying with Russia to build their political and legal case to claim jurisdiction.
Valery Kaminsky, the director of the Russian Maritime Geological Research Institute, said new research demonstrated that the undersea Lomonosov mountain chain links Siberia to the Arctic.
That contention -- disputed by other countries' scientists -- is the key to Russia's claim for ownership of the Arctic.
"The way the geological strata are layered confirms the Lomonosov Ridge is of the same nature as the continental shelf," Kaminsky said in an interview on Vesti-24 television station.
"We have a continuous interface of the ridge with the geographical shelf," he said.
He said researchers used aircraft to survey 600 km (373 miles) of the underwater ridge at 35 separate points. The next phase of the research then involved taking physical samples from the sea bed using submersibles.
He did not say when the fieldwork was conducted.
Russia lodged a claim in 2002 with the United Nations commission which adjudicates on Arctic territorial rights. Since then, it has been attempting to gather scientific evidence to back its legal arguments.
Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States all have territory with the Arctic Circle. Each controls an economic zone in the Arctic which extends 320 km (200 miles) north of their coastlines.
Under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, coastal states can claim the seabed beyond those economic zones, if they can show it connects to the continental shelf on which they are located.
Denmark this month announced it would speed up its own scientific efforts to establish a similar legal basis to justify control of the Arctic through Greenland, which it administers.
Russian geologists have previously estimated the Arctic seabed has at least 9 billion to 10 billion tonnes of fuel equivalent, about the same as Russia's total oil reserves.