Russia steps up navy presence in Arctic: military
Russia is strengthening its naval presence in the Arctic, a senior Russian military official said on Saturday, stoking concerns of a scramble to secure rights to the region's energy-rich seabed.
"The reinforcement in the Arctic of all Northern and Pacific Fleet units is continuing," Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.
The admiral said a proposal had been made to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that battleships be deployed in Russia's Arctic ports to protect polar sea routes.
The melting of the polar icecap could open up new sea routes between Asia and Europe across Russia's vast northern fringe. Furthermore, geological surveys indicate that the Arctic contains huge reserves of oil and natural gas.
Vysotsky's comments are likely to irk other Arctic nations such as Canada and the United States, who dispute Russia's territorial claims in the region.
Last month Putin called for a "zone of peace" in the Arctic, and dismissed predictions of a "battle for the Arctic".
© 2010 AFP