Putin Asserts Russia's 'Arctic Power' with Launch of Nuclear Icebreaker

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday promoted Russia’s Arctic power at a flag-raising function and dock launch for two nuclear-powered icebreakers that will guarantee year-round navigation in the Western Arctic.

Presiding via video link from the Kremlin at the launch ceremony in the former imperial capital of St Petersburg in northern Russia, Putin said such icebreakers were of vital significance for the nation.

“Both icebreakers were laid down as part of a huge serial project and are part of our large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet, to fortify Russia’s status as a great Arctic power,” Putin said.

The Arctic is taking on more prominent strategic significance because of climate change, as a shrinking ice cap opens up new sea lanes. Vast oil and gas resources lie in Russia’s Arctic regions, including a liquefied natural gas plant on the Yamal Peninsula. Putin smiled as the Yakutia nuclear icebreaker was launched into the water at the docks and stood as the Russian national anthem graced the raising of the Russian flag on the Ural icebreaker which will start work in December.

The 173.3-metre (569 feet) Yakutia, with a displacement of up to 33,540 tonnes, can smash through the ice of up to three meters. It will enter service in 2024. Two other icebreakers in the same series, the Arktika, and the Sibir, are already in service, and another, the Chukotka, is scheduled for 2026. Putin said a super-strong nuclear 209-meter icebreaker known as “Rossiya”, with a displacement of up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027. It will be able to break through ice four meters thick.

“They are required for the study and development of the Arctic, to ensure safe, sustainable navigation around this region, to increase traffic along the Northern Sea Route,” Putin said.

“The development of this most significant transport corridor will allow Russia to more fully unlock its commodity potential and establish efficient logistics routes, including to Southeast Asia.”

Putin, who came to power in 1999 promising to end the chaos set off by the collapse of the Soviet Union, has quietly strengthened Russia’s presence in the Arctic, where Russia has more than 24,000 km (15,000 miles) of coastline extending from the Barents Sea to the Sea of Okhotsk. Since 2005, Russia has reopened tens of Arctic Soviet-era military bases, modernized its navy, and developed new hypersonic missiles designed to evade U.S. sensors and defenses.

Arctic experts say it would take the West at least 10 years to catch up with Russia’s military in the region if it chose to do so.

By Archana

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