Moscow has finalised its legal claim to annex 1.2-million square kilometres of resource-rich Arctic wilderness, and will send its final petition to the United Nations next month, the Russian government has announced.
"We believe that the research results of the Arctic-2007 expedition are sufficient for a bid to include the Lomonosov Ridge in Russia's economic zone," Russian Minister of Natural Resources Yury Trutnov told journalists.
"Russian scientists believe that the data for submitting a claim is sufficient. We will fight for Russia's right to this area," he added.
An international race to claim Arctic territory began after a Russian expedition planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole last July and Moscow announced its bid to take control over the territory, which is estimated to hold 10-billion tons of oil and gas, plus other minerals and fish stocks.
Canada, the US, Norway and Denmark have all moved in recent months to bolster their own claims to adjacent Arctic territory. The 1982 Law of the Sea Convention establishes a 12-mile offshore territorial limit for each country, plus a 200-mile "economic zone" in which it has exclusive rights.
But the law leaves open the possibility that the economic zone can be extended if it can be proved that the seafloor is actually an extension of a country's geological territory.
Russia says that three scientific missions to the Arctic this year have gathered enough evidence to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge, which underlies the North Pole, is actually an extension of the Siberian continental shelf and therefore rightfully Russian territory. Trutnov said Russia is ready to begin exploring for petroleum and other resources in the region as soon as the special UN commission renders a verdict on Moscow's claim.