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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scientists Say Russia Could Claim Chunk of North Pole

Scientists say Russia could lay claim to millions of square kilometers of territory under the Arctic Ocean, following their discovery of a link between a major underwater ridge and Russia's coastal shelf.

The Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute said an expedition had determined that the Lomonosov Ridge running across the North Pole was an extension of the Eurasian continent, Izvestia reported Friday.

The six-week expedition on a nuclear icebreaker measured 700 square kilometers of seabed and conducted a series of detailed scans and acoustic measurements of the relief, the newspaper reported.

"The Lomonosov Ridge forms an inalienable part of Russia's Siberian platform," institute deputy director Viktor Posyolov said, Itar-Tass reported.

The discovery could not be independently confirmed and no Russian officials could be reached for comment Friday.

The reports said the find meant that Russia could potentially claim an area the size of Germany, France and Italy combined, which may contain up to 10 billion cubic meters of hydrocarbons, along with diamonds and metal ores.

International law says a country can claim rights to seabed within 320 kilometers of its continental shelf.

Russia has repeatedly claimed wide swaths of undersea Arctic territory, though four other polar countries -- Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States -- have objected to its bid, which was first presented to the United Nations in 2001.

Experts say global warming is opening up the Arctic to new economic pressures, as receding ice exposes new areas of ocean and tundra to exploration, and ice-free zones result in shorter shipping lanes.