Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week announced it had submitted a revised bid claiming 1.2 million sq km of Arctic sea shelf to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).
The country's previous bid in 2002 were rejected for lack of evidence. Under Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Russia now argues it has a right to extend its control up to 350 nautical miles.
Canada, Norway, Denmark and the US are also attempting to claim territories in the Arctic. The sea shelf is believed to hold a large amount of oil and gas which Russia estimates could be worth up to US$30 trillion.
According to Russian news channel RT, The application claims for Lomonosov Ridge, Mendeleev-Alpha Rise and Chukchi Plateau, Russia believes the territories to be belonging to “submarine elevations that are natural components of the continental margin.” The Podvodnikov and Chukchi Basins that divide the three territories were also added to the claim.
RT said a statement from the Russian Ministry of Forsign Affairs read: “The Russian application covers an underwater space covering an area of about 1.2 million sq km at a distance of over 350 nautical miles from the coast. To justify Russia’s bid for expansion, Russian experts used extensive scientific data collected during many years of Arctic research."
Tensions increased in the Arctic earlier this year when it was revealed Russia had started a major military exercise in the region, involving 40,000 servicemen, 41 warships and 15 submarines, according to academic news site The Conversation.
Author Duncan Depledge, a postdoctoral researcher at Royal Holloway University said: "For centuries the extent to which a nation state could control its coastal areas was based on the so-called cannon-shot rule – a three-nautical-mile limit based on the range of a cannon fired from the land. But this changed after World War II, leading to the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) in 1982.
"Under UNCLOS, every signatory was given the right to declare territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of up to 200 for commercial activities such as fishing and oil exploration. Signatories could also extend their sovereignty beyond the limits of this EEZ by up to an additional 150 nautical miles if they could prove that their continental shelves extended beyond 200 nautical miles from the shore."
In 2008, Russia, Canada, the US, Norway and Denmark issued the Ilulissat Declaration, committing to the “orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims” using the legal framework provided by the law of the sea. This has been reflected in the continental-shelf claims they have submitted to the UN over the past 15 years: Russia (2001), Norway (2006), Canada (2013) and Denmark (2014).
"These submissions are all claims for an extension of exclusive rights to continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles from each land border," says Depledge.
"Among the claimants, Russia has been asked by the UN to submit further scientific evidence in support of its case. This has not yet happened to the other states, but since it will take time for their claims to be assessed, this may yet change. Until the US ratifies UNCLOS, it can’t submit a claim.
"In material terms, Russia currently has the most to gain from industrially developing its Arctic zone. The Russian Arctic contains significant reserves of hydrocarbons, diamonds, metals and other minerals with an estimated value of more than $22.4 trillion (£15.2 trillion)."
Back in March, depledge said that state officials in Russia were positioning the situation as a test of whether the international scientific community will accept Russian science.