As Russia pushes to develop the Arctic and seeks new energy markets amid sanctions over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin underlined Russia’s influence in the Arctic region as the country launched two nuclear-powered icebreaker ships in St Petersburg, Russia’s erstwhile imperial capital. Putin addressed the ceremony via video link from Kremlin. During the address, Putin said such icebreakers were of strategic importance to the country.
“Both icebreakers were laid down as part of a large serial project and are part of our large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet, to strengthen Russia’s status as a great Arctic power,” Putin said.
Arctic region, long thought to be just cold seas and frozen wastelands, is gaining greater stategic importance as new sea lanes open up due to climate change.
Putin smiled as the Yakutia nuclear icebreaker was launched into the water in the docks and stood as the Russian national anthem graced the raising of the Russian flag on the Ural icebreaker which will begin work in December.
The 173.3-metre (569 feet) Yakutia, with a displacement of up to 33,540 tonnes, can smash through ice of up to three metres. It will enter service in 2024.
Two other icebreakers in the same series, the Arktika and the Sibir, are already in service, and another, the Chukotka, is scheduled for 2026.
Putin said a super-powerful nuclear 209-metre icebreaker known as “Rossiya”, with a displacement of up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027. It will be able to break through ice four metres thick.
“They are needed for the study and development of the Arctic, to ensure safe, sustainable navigation in this region, to increase traffic along the Northern Sea Route,” Putin said.