Russia's Arctic research is aiming to secure the country's right to a piece of the Arctic shelf, Vladimir Putin said on Thursday at his last annual news conference as Russian president.
"As to our research, it is certainly aimed at proving that the Russian Federation has the right to a part of the shelf, but we are conducting it in line with international laws, under the auspices of the UN," Putin said.
Last August as part of a scientific expedition, two Russian mini-subs made a symbolic eight-hour dive beneath the North Pole to bolster the country's claim to the Arctic Lomonosov Ridge in the country's economic zone, and planted a titanium flag on the seabed.
The expedition irritated a number of western countries and particularly Canada, and Peter MacKay, the Canadian foreign minister, accused Moscow of claiming the right over this territory.
The Russian president said he was surprised with Canada's reaction saying "Why be so nervous, as we must hold normal dialogue within the framework of the UN, which has certain procedures for this."
"Americans once planted their national flag on the Moon. Why should we be worrying about this? The Moon did not become the property of the U.S.," Putin said.
Russia's oceanology research institute has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge last summer - to back Russian claims to the region.
The area is believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves and other mineral riches, likely to become accessible in future decades due to man-made global warming.
Researchers have conducted deepwater seismic probes, aerial and geophysical surveys, and seismic-acoustic probes on the Akademik Fedorov and Rossiya icebreakers.
In 2001, Russia first claimed its right to the territory, but the UN demanded more evidence.
Under international law, the five Arctic Circle countries - the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia - each have a 322-kilometer (200-mile) economic zone in the Arctic Ocean.