MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin pledged Thursday that Russia will expand its presence in the Arctic, adding that work is underway to restore a major Soviet-era military base there.
Speaking at a meeting with activists of the main Kremlin party, United Russia, Putin said the Arctic region is essential for Russia’s economic and security interests. He said the Russian military has been restoring a base on the New Siberian Islands that was shut down after the Soviet collapse. The facility is key for protecting shipping routes that link Europe with the Pacific region across the Arctic Ocean, he said. Last month, a Russian navy squadron visited the archipelago.
‘‘The Arctic is an unalienable part of the Russian Federation that has been under our sovereignty for a few centuries,’’ Putin said. ‘‘And it will be so for the time to come.’’
Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Norway have been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.