This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Russia has launched a nuclear-powered icebreaker as it looks to strengthen its position in the Arctic Ocean to capitalize on its growing commercial potential.
At a launch ceremony in St. Petersburg on May 25, officials toasted the Ural, the third vessel in a plan to reinforce its fleet with some of the largest and most powerful icebreakers ever built.
“They are the ships from new generation icebreakers of that class that we pin our hopes on in exploration of the Northern Sea Route. It is a principally new ship,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said at the ceremony.
Thawing ice in the Arctic is beginning to give increased access to much of the planet’s remaining undiscovered reserves of oil and natural gas and large deposits of zinc, iron, and rare-earth metals, prompting nearby states as well as world powers such as China to rush and claim territory or boost their presence in the region.
Moscow’s is locked in a race with rivals Canada, the United States, Norway and China to dominate the Arctic through a corridor running from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska, a faster route for sea cargo traveling from Asia to Europe.
The two other icebreakers in Russia’s Project 22220 series are the Arktika (Arctic) and Sibir (Siberia),
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia’s Arctic icebreaker fleet could total 13 or more by 2035.