"An expedition aimed at strengthening Russia's claim to much of the Arctic Ocean region reached the North Pole on Wednesday afternoon and immediately began preparations for unloading two mini-submarines that will mark the sea floor with a capsule carrying Russian flag.
The Rossiya atomic icebreaker had plowed a path to the pole through a sheet of multiyear ice, clearing the way for the Akademik Fedorov research ship to follow, said Sergei Balyasnikov a spokesman for the Arctic and Antarctic research institute that prepared the expedition.
The voyage, led by polar explorer and Russian legislator Artur Chilingarov, has some scientific goals, including the study of Arctic plants and animals. But its chief aim appears to be to advance Russia's political and economic influence by strengthening its legal claims to the gas and oil deposits thought to lie beneath the Arctic sea floor.
"I think that one of the tasks, at least for public consumption, is to put a claim and enlarge our territory by achieving the recognition of the Arctic shelf as a continuation of Russia's Eurasian part," Sergei Pryamikov, director of the international department of the St. Petersburg-based institute, told Russia's RTR Television.
In the coming hours, Russian scientists at the pole hope to dive in two mini-submarines to a depth of more than 13,200 feet, and drop a metal capsule carrying the Russian flag onto the sea bed. Balyasnikov said the dive was expected to start Thursday morning and last several hours. Each submarine will carry three people.
"For the first time in history, people will go down to the sea bed under the North Pole," Balyasnikov told The Associated Press. "It's like putting flag on the moon."
The symbolic gesture, along with geologic data being gathered by expedition scientists, is intended to prop up Moscow's claims to more than 460,000 square miles of the Arctic shelf — which, by some estimates, may contain 10 billion tons of oil and gas deposits. (...)"
Full text: Usatoday.com/
Notícia em português: Publico.pt