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Russia against increasing military presence in Arctic - Lavrov


TROMSO, April 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has no plans to increase its military presence in the Arctic or to deploy weapons in the region, the Russian foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"We [Russia] are not planning to increase our military presence in the Arctic and to deploy armed forces there," Sergei Lavrov said following a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Norway's Tromso.

The Russian Security Council posted on its website last month a document entitled: The Fundamentals of Russian State Policy in the Arctic up to 2020 and Beyond.

The document outlines the country's strategy in the region, including the deployment of military, border and coastal guard units "to guarantee Russia's military security in diverse military and political circumstances."

According to the document, Russia will create by 2020 a group of forces to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic.

The top Russian diplomat also said that the meeting, which was addressed by the former U.S. vice president Al Gore, did not discuss the issue of banning military forces from the Arctic region.

Gore, who won the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change, told delegates that "we must take action now" to prevent climate change. Arctic territories, seen as the key to huge untapped natural resources, have increasingly been at the center of mounting disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark in recent years as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice.

President Dmitry Medvedev said in September at a Russian Security Council session that the extent of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic should be defined as soon as possible.

Russia has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge in the summer of 2007 - to support its territorial claims in the region.

Moscow pledged to submit documentary evidence to the UN on the external boundaries of Russia's territorial shelf by 2010.

The Arctic Council was established in 1996 to protect the unique nature of the Arctic region. The intergovernmental forum comprises Denmark, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

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