Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called Thursday for a "big cleanup" in the Arctic Region to remove oil barrels and litter scattered around polar stations.
"We need a really big cleanup for the region and the disposal of litter and fuel barrels, which have been accumulating around stations, military bases and northern settlements for decades," Putin told a regional conference of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in Yekaterinburg.
"I was there last year and took a closer look: this is something terrible, litter is lying around in quantities you cannot even imagine, and those barrels are rusting, leaking substances into the environment," Putin said.
He said Arctic ecosystems are very fragile and such mishandling may result in irreversible damage for the region's environment.
Putin reiterated that Russia will not backtrack on its territorial claims on the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleev ridges in the Arctic region.
"Russia is certainly set to expand its presence in the Arctic. We are open for dialog with our foreign partners, our neighbors in the Arctic region, but, naturally, we will protect our geopolitical interests firmly and consistently," Putin said.
Russia has laid claim to large parts of the Arctic shelf, which is believed to contain rich oil and gas deposits, saying it is an extension of its own continental shelf. The claim was rejected by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf over lack of information.
Russia is expected to prepare additional data supporting its claim by December 2013 and submit it in early 2014.