( RIA Novosti ) - Russia's foreign minister said the Arctic expedition currently underway is designed to demonstrate scientifically that the energy-rich shelf near the North Pole is an extension of Russian territory.
Russian researchers in two mini-submarines dove 14,000 feet under the Pole Thursday to take soil and fauna samples on the seabed, leave a Russian flag and a message to future generations in a capsule, and establish a video link with the International Space Station (ISS), mission organizers said.
"The goal of the expedition is not to reserve Russia's rights but to prove that our shelf reaches the North Pole," Sergei Lavrov said.
A senior U.S. official said Tuesday Washington would ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in order to join a commission to examine Russian and other states' claims to Arctic waters. The U.S. also plans to send its own icebreaker to the Pole, also for research purposes, August 6.
Lavrov said Russia would proceed from international law in the shelf decision. Under international law, the five countries with territory inside the Arctic Circle - Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway, and Denmark, which controls Greenland - can claim only a 200-mile economic zone around their coastlines.
The U.S. geological survey suggested the Arctic seabed contained up to 25% of the world's oil and natural gas reserves, and other mineral riches made accessible as the ice cap melts due to global warming.