Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns West to stay away from the Arctic

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday warned Western countries against staking claims in the Arctic, as global warming makes the region more accessible and a site of global competition, the Moscow Times reports.

Lavrov's comments came ahead of a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council that comprises Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland on Wednesday and Thursday in Rejkavik.

"It has been absolutely clear for everyone for a long time that this is our territory, this is our land," Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow.

"We are responsible for ensuring our Arctic coast is safe," he said.

As climate change makes the Arctic more accessible, global interest in the region's natural resources, its navigation routes and its strategic position has grown among members of the Arctic Council as well as China.

In a speech last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia "is exploiting this change to try to exert control over new space," including through modernising bases, and also pointed to a growing presence of China.

On Monday he welcomed Denmark's plans to boost its military presence in Greenland and the North Atlantic with $245 million worth of investments into surveillance drones and a radar station on the Faroe Islands.

President Vladimir Putin in recent years has made Russia's Arctic region a strategic priority and ordered investment in military infrastructure and mineral extraction, exacerbating tensions with Arctic Council members.

The United States, for its part, has pushed back against what it considers Russian and Chinese "aggressivity" in the region.

In 2018, the U.S. Navy deployed an aircraft carrier in the Norwegian Sea for the first time since the 1980s.

And in February, Washington sent strategic bombers to train in Norway as part of Western efforts to bolster its military presence in the region.

Lavrov on Monday said he was emphasising "once again — this is our land and our waters. When NATO tries to justify its advance into the Arctic, this is probably a slightly different situation and here we have questions for our neighbours like Norway who are trying to justify the need for NATO to come into the Arctic."

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