The EU has warned Vladimir Putin over militarisation of the Arctic
European politicians said it was unacceptable that Moscow is building up forces within the arctic circle and urged its sabre-rattling leader to back off.
The Kremlin has been staking an increasingly bold claim to the Arctic region in recent months, and has even urged the United Nations to officially declare it as Russian territory.
But in a strongly worded statement the EU said that the northern region, which is largely made up of a huge ice sheet, is international land and should remain as such.
The relationship between Brussels and Moscow has been deteriorating for years, ever since Mr Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula and sent forces in to help separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin leader has been building up forces near the North Pole
The EU said the Arctic must remain a neutral zone
In a resolution proposed to the European Parliament, Estonian MEP Urmas Past said: “The Arctic has long been an area of constructive international cooperation and it has remained a low-tension cooperative regional order in the world.
“We want to keep it that way. There is a need to avoid the militarization of the Arctic. Also, the respect for international law in the Arctic is essential.”
The resolution warned that the Arctic is set to become a global flashpoint in recent years as nations shift their eyes northwards and vie for its precious resources.
It explicitly stated that “Russian military forces in the region, the building and reopening of bases and creation of an Arctic military district of Russia”.
Instead, they stressed the Arctic must remain a demilitarised area and hailed the “important role of the Arctic Council for maintaining constructive cooperation, low tension, peace and stability” in the region.
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Russia, whose economy is struggling, has long had hungry eyes on the Arctic ice which it is thought could contain vast reserves of oil, precious gems and minerals.
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Putin recently announced plans to bolster the country's naval presence in the region, sparking fears that the country could attempt a military-led land grab.
And in 2015 Russia submitted a claim to the UN for a large swathe of Arctic ice covering an astonishing 500,000 square miles, parts of which have already been claimed by Denmark.
Russian officials spuriously claimed that tectonic plate maps show that the disputed territory is part of Russia's "continental character".