The president vows to develop his country’s nuclear fleet despite current difficulties in Russia’s economy and production.
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday touted Russia’s Arctic power at a flag-raising ceremony and docked launch of two nuclear-powered icebreakers that will guarantee year-round sailing in the Western Arctic.
President Putin presided over a launching ceremony in St. Petersburg in northern Russia via video link from the Kremlin, saying such an icebreaker is of strategic importance to the country.
“Both icebreakers have been laid down as part of a series of large-scale projects to refit and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet in order to strengthen Russia’s position as an Arctic powerhouse. It’s part of a serious work,” Putin said.
The Arctic assumes greater strategic importance as climate change opens up new sea lanes due to shrinking ice caps.
Russia’s Arctic has vast oil and gas resources, including the liquefied natural gas plant on the Yamal Peninsula.
The Kremlin’s prime minister has pledged to develop his own nuclear fleet, despite current difficulties in Russia’s economy and production, in clear reference to Western sanctions for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Putin said he would “increase the capacity of nuclear icebreakers.”
He said this should be accomplished “using domestic equipment and components.”
The Russian leader added that Moscow is “open to cooperation with our partners” and that “despite current difficulties, we will make sure to carry out everything we have planned.”
Putin smiled as a Yakutian nuclear-powered icebreaker washed into the water on a dock and stood as the Russian national anthem hoisted the Russian flag on a Ural icebreaker.
At 173.3 meters (569 feet), the Yakut has a maximum displacement of 33,540 tons and can break through up to 3 meters of ice. She will enter service in 2024.
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-powered icebreaker known as ‘Rossiya’ with a maximum displacement of 71,380 tons will be completed by 2027. It could break through four meters of ice.
“It is necessary for research and development of the Arctic, to ensure safe and sustainable navigation in the region and to increase traffic on the Northern Sea Route,” Putin said.
“The development of this most important transport corridor will enable Russia to more fully unlock its export potential and establish efficient logistics routes, including in Southeast Asia.”
Putin, who came to power in 1999, has quietly strengthened Russia’s presence in the Arctic, promising to end the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. 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 U.S. sensors and defenses.
Arctic experts say it will take at least a decade for the West to catch up with Russian forces in the region.