MOSCOW, September 20 (RIA Novosti) - Preliminary research results released by Russian scientists are allowing the country to claim 1.2 million sq km of potentially energy-rich Arctic territory, the Natural Resources Ministry said Thursday.
"Preliminary, September 20, results of an analysis of the Earth's crust show that the structure of the underwater Lomonosov mountain chain is similar to the world's other continental shelves, and the ridge is therefore part of Russia's landmass," the ministry said.
Russia's Oceanology research institute had undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge in the summer 2007 - on orders from the ministry to back the claims to the 460,000-square-mile area believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves and other mineral riches likely to become accessible in future decades due to man-made global warming.
Researchers conducted deepwater seismic probes, aerial and geophysical surveys, and seismic-acoustic probes on the Akademik Fedorov and Rossiya icebreaker.
The ministry said scientists would provide final research results in December 2007.
In August, Russian researchers also descended 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) below the North Pole in two minisubs to take seabed samples to bolster the claim to the Polar territory.
The mission fueled patriotic sentiments at home and attracted criticism from rival Arctic powers. As well as collecting geological samples, the explorers planted a titanium Russian flag on the seafloor.
In 2001, Russia first claimed its right to the territory, but the UN demanded more evidence.
Under international law, the five Arctic Circle countries - the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia - each have a 322-kilometer (200-mile) economic zone in the Arctic Ocean at the moment.