A mini-submarine dropped a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole Thursday, in a symbolic claim of the polar region's oil and minerals.
If recognized, the claim would give Russia control of almost half of the Arctic seabed, an area as large as the Prairie provinces that could be abundant in natural resources such as oil and gas.
The region is currently divided among Canada, the United States, Norway, Russia and Denmark. Russia is claiming a larger area, saying that the Arctic seabed and Siberia are linked by the same continental shelf. The UN rejected the claim, citing lack of evidence, but the country is set to resubmit the application in 2009.
The Russians are not the only ones eyeing the Arctic seabed. Denmark hopes to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of the Danish territory of Greenland, not Russia.
Canada, meanwhile, plans to spend $7.5 billion to build and operate up to eight Arctic patrol ships in a bid to help protect its sovereignty.
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said planting a flag will not change the claim to the region.
"There is no question over Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. We've made that very clear. We established a long time ago that these are Canadian waters and this is Canadian property," MacKay told CBC News.
"You can't go around the world these days dropping a flag somewhere, this isn't the 14th or 15th century. "