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Russia wants its borders in Arctic marked

September 18, 2008

MOSCOW, Sept 17: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered his officials on Wednesday to draft a law marking out Russia’s borders in the Arctic, where it is competing with the West for control of vast energy resources.

Medvedev did not specify where the borders should lie but Russia has claimed large swathes of territory and any unilateral action would breach a deal between the five Arctic Sea countries to let the United Nations rule on their rival claims.

“We must finalise and adopt a federal law on the southern border of Russia’s Arctic zone,” Medvedev said in televised remarks to Russia’s Security Council.

“It is our duty to our direct descendants. We have to ensure the long-term national interests of Russia in the Arctic,” he said.

The UN has asked Arctic states to submit their territorial claims for consideration by May 2009. But Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council, said Medvedev wanted the draft law on the border ready by December this year.

International law states the five countries which control the Arctic coastline — Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark via Greenland — are allowed a 320 km (200 miles) economic zone north of their shores.

But these rules have created a tangle of claims and rivalries over the Arctic — potentially a very valuable prize.

Around 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 per cent of its undiscovered gas lies under the Arctic seabed.—Reuters