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Daily Telegraph: Russia claims North Pole with Arctic flag stunt: If upheld, Russia could have access to oil and gas potentially worth more than £1 trillion

Daily Telegraph North Pole Graphic

Map of disputed Arctic region

Daily Telegraph: Russia claims North Pole with Arctic flag stunt

By Matthew Moore
Last Updated: 2:08pm BST 01/08/2007

An audacious Russian mission to claim the North Pole for Moscow is due to reach its climax in the next 24 hours, after a week-long journey through thick ice-sheets.
Two Russian vessels – including an atomic icebreaker – are expected to reach the Pole this afternoon.

There they will release two mini-submarines which will drop a metal tube containing a Russian flag onto the seabed. The release is likely to take place tonight or tomorrow morning, according to organisers.

The gesture, while symbolic, marks an escalation of the growing international dispute over who owns the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,240 mile underwater mountain range that crosses the polar region. It is thought to contain rich oil and gas deposits.

Moscow believes the research mission will prove that the ridge is a geological extension of Russia, and can therefore can be claimed by Russia under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Denmark believes that the ridge is in fact an extension of the Danish territory of Greenland.

The US and Canada are also anxious to defend their Arctic territory, with both planning billion-pound investments in new patrol ships.

More than 100 Russian scientists are on the Akademik Federov, the expedition’s research vessel.

While on their dive the mini-submarines are due to collect specimens of Arctic flora and fauna, as well as researching the geography of the Lomonosov Ridge.

They will reach a depth of 14,000 feet before dropping the flag cannister.

The most difficult part of the mission, scientists say, will be getting them back to their point of departure to avoid them being trapped under the ice.

The expedition comes amid an outpouring of nationalist fervour after Russian scientists claimed in May that they had evidence to back up a long-held claim to nearly one million miles of the Arctic.

If upheld, Russia could have access to oil and gas deposits potentially worth more than £1 trillion.

In a speech on a nuclear ice-breaker earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin urged greater efforts to secure Russia’s “strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests” in the Arctic.;jsessionid=R4YA22ACPBC1TQFIQMFCFF4AVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/08/01/wpole101.xml

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