Russia's defense ministry said it has built a giant military base in the far northern Arctic, establishing a sprawling presence where Russia hopes to retrieve oil and other mineral riches.
The ministry said on October 20 that the building erected on the large island of Alexandra Land, which is part of the Franz Josef Land archipelago, is 97 percent complete.
Named the "Arctic Trefoil," or three-lobed leaf, the massive three-pointed structure is colored red, white, and blue like the Russian flag. It is a permanent structure located on the 80th parallel north and has an area of over 14,000 square meters.
Russia is building up its Arctic military infrastructure as part of a recently updated naval doctrine, which proclaims the region as a top priority due to its mineral riches and strategic importance.
(click to enlarge)
Russia has already built a similar military base called the "Northern Shamrock" on Kotelny Island in the East Siberian Sea further south, on the 75th parallel.
Russia has increasingly asserted itself as an Arctic nation. This year, it filed a United Nations claim for a vast swathe of the region including the North Pole, and it has been holding war games in the area.
Parts of the same area are claimed by Canada, Norway, and the United States, among other Arctic nations.
The new Arctic Trefoil structure can house 150 soldiers and stock enough fuel and food to let them work and live there independently for a year and a half, the ministry said.
The soldiers can move around the base from one building to another without going outside to face winter temperatures which can reach minus 47 degrees Celsius. Roads have been built and fuel can be pumped in from tankers.
"No one has implemented similar projects at such a high latitude until now," said Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Korolyov, adding that "the air-defense units on combat duty in Russia's northernmost point are combat-ready and capable of performing their assigned missions."
Franz Josef Land is a chain of islands between the Barents and Kara seas north of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.
Russia has maintained a border post there but the military presence was withdrawn in the 1990s. It returned last November, when the Northern Fleet dispatched air-defense contingents there.
This year, Russia reopened a landing strip there equipped for large transport planes so it could deliver building materials.
Russia has plans to build 13 aerodromes and six cantonments in the Arctic. Besides the Alexander Land project, building is under way in the village of Rogachyovo on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, Sredny Island on the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, Cape Schmidt, and Wrangel Island in Chukotka.
A total of 57,700 tons of construction materials were delivered to these areas in the first half of the year.
With reporting by AFP and TASS