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On Northern Tour, Putin Urges Greater Arctic Presence For Russia


Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visit the remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land on March 29.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev traveled to the Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land on March 29, visiting a region that Putin said is important to the country's economy and security.

Putin said he had ordered the government to step up development of the region, calling for "large infrastructure projects, including exploration and development of the Arctic shelf."

Russia has ramped up its activity in recent years in the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

"Natural resources, which are of paramount importance for the Russian economy, are concentrated in this region," Putin said.

He ordered the Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB) to "ensure our country's defense capacity" and "protect our interests in the Arctic."

Russia has recently completed construction of a military runway on the archipelago and has announced the goal of establishing a permanent military base there.

In what may have been a choreographed display of solidarity and defiance days after large anticorruption protests that focused on corruption allegations against Medvedev, state media showed the two side-by-side in numerous images from the trip.

Bundled against the cold, they climbed an observation tower on Alexandra Land, the westernmost island of the 192-island group, to look at an area that reports said has been cleared of Soviet-era waste.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and presidential aide on the environment Sergei Ivanov were also on the trip.

Based on reporting by AP, RIA, TASS, and Interfax

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