Russia says it has collected enough proof to back its Arctic shelf claims

The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf will see Russia's new evidence early next year.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - October 23, 2019
The Russian icebreaker 50 let Pobedy (“50 years of Victory”) sails through ice on a voyage to the North Pole. (Christopher Michel / CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)

The Russian Ministry of Defense says it has obtained comprehensive new proof that supports its claims on the Arctic shelf.

The new information will be assessed by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in a meeting in February, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov confirms.

The high-ranking government official spoke in last week’s meeting in the Marine Board, a forum that includes top federal and regional officials involved in maritime developments. The meeting took place in the newly renovated facilities of the Admiralty in St. Petersburg.

According to Borisov, Russia now has the data needed to support its claims in the region.

“I presume that these studies will be sufficient for the complete basis of our claims that will be assessed by the Commission,” the deputy premier underlined.

In the Marine Board meeting was also Nikolay Yevmenov, Head Commander of the Russian Navy.

“The assembled materials allow us to build a clear and detailed model of the Arctic sea bottom’s contours,” he underlined in the meeting. Based on the new data, a bathymetric map has been made that with a high level of precision outlines, classifies and defines the main characteristics of the underwater landscapes, Yevmenov explained.

The materials are based on more than half a century of scientific work, and the analysis has been conducted by the Navy together with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The last part of the data has been assembled in the course of 2019. Through this summer, the research vessel Akademik Fyodorov has sailed more than 5,600 miles and conducted complex studies that are fully in line with the requirements of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Admiral Yevmenov underlined.

Russia in August 2016 officially handed in its new claims to the UN commission. It includes 1.2 million square kilometers of territory. The bid comes after the country in 2001 unsuccessfully applied at the CLCS. Then, the UN body deemed the submitted materials insufficient.

The claims submitted are partly overlapping with claims submitted by Denmark and Canada.

That, however, does not seem to concern the Russian side.

“The CLCS is an independent expert body, not an arena where countries compete,” Sergey Donskoy, the former Russian Natural Resource Minister, underlined as he submitted the claims. “We are confident that the Commission members will make their decisions objectively based on the norms of international law.”

Russian authorities in 2015 said they believed the CLCS could complete the full assessment of the Russian claims in course of three years.