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Putin touts Russia’s ‘Arctic power’ with new nuclear icebreaker

The president vows to develop his country’s nuclear fleet despite the current difficulties in Russia’s economy and production.

President Vladimir Putin hailed Russia’s might in the Arctic on Tuesday at a flag-raising ceremony and the dock launch of two nuclear-powered icebreakers that will ensure year-round navigation in the western Arctic.

Presiding via video link from the Kremlin at the launch ceremony in St. Petersburg in northern Russia, Putin said such icebreakers were of strategic importance for the country.

“Both icebreakers were established as part of one large serial project and are part of our large-scale systematic work to re-equip and resupply the national icebreaker fleet, to strengthen Russia’s status as a great power in the Arctic,” Putin said. .

The Arctic is taking on greater strategic importance due to climate change, as shrinking ice cover opens up new shipping lanes.

Large oil and gas resources lie in Russia’s arctic regions, including a liquefied natural gas plant on the Yamal Peninsula.

The Kremlin chief has vowed to develop his country’s nuclear fleet despite ongoing difficulties in Russia’s economy and production, in an apparent reference to Western sanctions over Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.

“We will increase the capabilities of our nuclear icebreaker fleet,” Putin said.

He said this should be achieved “using domestic equipment and components.”

The Russian leader added that Moscow was “open to cooperation with our partners” and that “despite the current difficulties, we will definitely implement everything we have planned.”

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Putin smiled as the nuclear icebreaker Yakutia was launched into the water at the docks and stood up as the Russian national anthem graced the raising of the Russian flag on the Ural icebreaker, due to start operating in December.

The 173.3-meter (569-foot) Yakutia, with a displacement of up to 33,540 tons, can break through ice up to three meters. She will enter service in 2024.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the ceremony to raise the Russian national flag on the Ural nuclear-powered icebreaker and the launch of Russia’s newest and largest nuclear icebreaker Yakutia via video link from the residence Novo-Ogaryovo State on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, November. 22, 2022 [Sputnik/Aleksey Babushkin/Kremlin via Reuters]

Two other icebreakers in the same series, Arktika and Sibir, are already in service, and another, Chukotka, is scheduled for 2026.

Putin said a super-powerful 209-meter nuclear icebreaker known as “Rossiya”, with a displacement of up to 71,380 tons, would be completed by 2027. It will be able to break ice four meters thick.

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

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

Putin, who came to power in 1999 promising to end the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, has quietly strengthened Russia’s presence in the Arctic, where Russia is more than 24,000 km (15,000 miles) from coast, stretching from the Barents Sea. to the Sea of ​​Okhotsk.

Since 2005, Russia has reopened dozens of Soviet-era military bases in the Arctic, modernized its navy and developed new hypersonic missiles designed to evade US sensors and defenses.

Arctic experts have said it would take the West at least 10 years to catch up with the Russian military in the region, if it chooses to do so.


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