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The terms continental shelf of Russia or Russian continental shelf have two related meanings. Geologically, it is the total of the continental shelves adjacent to Russiamarker. In the context of the international law as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas over which Russia exercises sovereign rights.

The Siberian Shelf in the Arctic Seamarker is the largest (and least explored) of the Russian shelves, a region of strategic importance because of its oil and natural gas reserves. Other parts of the Russian shelf are typically named after the corresponding seas: Barents Shelf (Barents Sea Shelf), Chukchi Shelf (Chukchi Sea Shelf), etc. With the exception of internal Russian seas, these geological shelves are shared with other countries which share the corresponding seas. For example, the Chukchi Shelf is shared between Russia and the United Statesmarker according to the 1990 USA-USSR maritime boundarymarker.

2001 extension claim

On December 20 2001, Russiamarker made an official submission into the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (article 76, paragraph 8). In the document it is proposed to establish new outer limits of the continental shelf of Russia beyond the previous 200 mile zone, but within the Russian Arctic sector. The territory claimed by Russia in the submission is a large portion of the Arctic, including the North Polemarker. One of the arguments was a statement that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain ridge underneath the Pole, and the Mendeleev Ridge are extensions of the Eurasian continent. In 2002, the UN Commission neither rejected nor accepted the Russian proposal, recommending additional research.

Additional research

Additional research for the Russian claim is planned over 2007–2008 as part of the Russian program for the International Polar Year. The program will investigate the structure and evolution of the Earth's crust in the Arctic regions neighbouring Eurasia, such as the regions of Mendeleev Ridge, Alpha Ridge, and Lomonosov Ridge, to discover whether they are linked with the Siberianmarker shelf. Major means of research are the Akademik Fedorov research ship, the Russia nuclear icebreaker with two helicopters and geological probe devices, and Il-18 aircraft with gravimetric devices.

In June 2007, a group of 50 Russian scientists returned from a six-week expedition on the Russia with the news that the Lomonosov Ridge was linked to Russian Federationmarker territory, supporting Russia's claim over the oil-and-gas rich triangle. The territory contained 10bn tonnes of gas and oil deposits, the scientists said. Former Russian President Vladimir Putin then used this information to restate the 2001 Russian claim.

On August 2, 2007, Russian explorers in a submersible planted the national flag on the seabed below the North Pole in symbolic support of the 2001 claim. A mechanical arm dropped a specially made rust-proof titanium flag onto the Arctic seabed at a depth of .

International response

In response to Russiamarker's planting the national flag on the seabed over the North Pole, Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay stated, "This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'". In response to these words the Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov said: "I was amazed by my Canadian counterpart's statement that we are planting flags around. We’re not throwing flags around. We just do what other discoverers did. The purpose of the expedition is not to stake whatever rights of Russia, but to prove that our shelf extends to the North Pole".

Research results

In mid-September 2007, Russia's Natural Resources Ministry issued a statement:

See also


  1. The Battle for the Next Energy Frontier: The Russian Polar Expedition and the Future of Arctic Hydrocarbons, by Shamil Midkhatovich Yenikeyeff and Timothy Fenton Krysiek, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, August 2007
  2. Outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines: Submissions to the Commission: Submission by the Russian Federation CLCS. United Nations
  3. Area of the continental shelf of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Ocean beyond 200-nautical-mile zone - borders of the 200 mile zone are marked in red, territory claimed by Russia is shaded
  4. Applications table at the website of the Russian International Polar Year program
  5. IPY ACTIVITIES - Russian plans for Arctic Ocean Activities in summer 2007 at AARI
  6. Russia Claims the North Pole, TIME, July 12, 2007.
  9. Russian sub plants flag under North Pole, Reuters, published 2007-08-02, accessed 2007-08-02
  10. Cold War Goes North - Kommersant Moscow

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