The Russian spoke to members of an expedition to clean up polluted areas of the Franz Josef Land archipelago
Excerpts from President Putin's speech at an Arkhangelsk dockside follow:
"This is a symbolic event for Russia. First, it confirms our growing presence in the Arctic. We will increase our efforts and work in many areas here, developing new deposits and building new infrastructure, above all ports, roads, bridges and so on. Of course, we will also bolster our military presence here too. In all of this work we will strive for a balance between development and preservation of the natural environment.
Your expedition is in effect the start of a big new project to give the Arctic a thorough clean-up. On Franz Josef Land alone, as many of you probably know, there are more than 500,000 barrels containing various fuels and lubricants, and many of them are already leaking and rusting.
There are 15,000 tons of scrap metal, 15,000 tons in this one place alone! This is a colossal job, and it is work that we will have to do not only on Franz Josef Land, but throughout the entire Arctic from Murmansk to Chukotka. This is a huge but very useful and needed undertaking for our country and indeed for the world in general.
I know that 135 people are taking part in this expedition, including scientists, technical specialists, and skilled workers. I sincerely wish you success."