Moscow: The Arctic ecosystem is very fragile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said, and called for a "big clean-up" in the region to remove litter scattered around polar stations.
"We need a really big clean-up for the region, and the disposal of litter and fuel barrels, which have been accumulating around stations, military bases and settlements for decades," Putin said.
"I was there last year and took a closer look - this is something terrible, litter is lying around in quantities you cannot even imagine, and those barrels are rusting, leaking substances into the environment," he said.
The Prime Minister said such mishandling may result in irreversible damage for the region`s environment.
Putin reiterated that Russia will not backtrack on its territorial claims on the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleev ridges in the Arctic region.
"Russia is certainly set to expand its presence in the Arctic. We are open for dialogue with our foreign partners, our neighbours in the Arctic region, but, naturally, we will protect our geopolitical interests firmly and consistently," Putin said.
Russia has laid claim to large parts of the Arctic shelf, believed to contain rich oil and gas deposits, saying it is an extension of its own continental shelf.
The claim has been rejected by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf over lack of information.
Russia is preparing additional data supporting its claim and would submit it in 2014.