MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian military unit will be permanently stationed in the Arctic by 2018, the defense minister said on Thursday.
Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies on Thursday that the "creation and arming" of the Arctic military unit should be completed by 2018. Shoigu also said Russia is building several new bases in the Arctic as well as rebuilding six Soviet-era air bases there.
"We are not hiding this from anyone: we are have practically finished building bases on the Novosibirsk Archipelago and on Kotelny island," Shoigu said, adding that modern military technology was "necessary for guarding borders" in the Arctic.
The Kremlin announced its intentions to bring its military to the Arctic in 2008 but has yet to station troops there.
Shoigu announced on Tuesday that a base on the Franz Josef Land archipelago is nearly complete. Some 150 troops will be able to live on the base for up to 18 months without outside contact when it opens.
Russian officials have previously said that the air base facilities are essential for protecting shipping routes that link Europe with the Pacific region across the Arctic Ocean.
In tandem with the military expansion, Russia is building the Yamal LNG plant in the Ob River estuary in collaboration with the French energy company Total. It will produce gas, liquefy it and ship it to European and Asian markets.