Vladimir Putin, who has made no secret of his plans to extend Russian influence in the Arctic Circle, appears to be establishing a significant military footprint in the area. Norwegian scientists reported spotting a Russian submarine surface in the Arctic Circle. The event, which was recorded by the scientists in their blog Oct. 16 and released to Britain’s the Daily Telegraph Tuesday, comes just a week after the Sweden investigated reports of a Russian submarine operating off its coast.
"In the evening we spotted lights at a distance," the scientists recorded in their blog. "Turned out to be a submarine at the surface in position: 89° 17.5' N, 172° 42.9' W. We were not able to identify it."
The two men, Yngve Kristoffersen, 72, and Audun Tholfsen, 42, approached the vessel and got within 100 meters before it submerged.
Pictures obtained by the two scientists clearly show the large conning tower and the bulbous bow of the submarine. The Telegraph reported the submarine is likely the 13,700 ton Delta class boat Orenburg, which is a newly refurbished ballistic missile bomber, originally commissioned in 1981, but is now used as a classified deep-sea research vessel.
The encounter, Kristoffersen said, was probably the result of the Russians following sounds from the scientific research group's equipment. “We have a generator and sonar, submarines and listening for the sound. I guess they followed the sound to see what it was,” he said.
But Russia has made no secret of its intentions in the Arctic Circle. Just last week the Kremlin announced it would be creating a 6,000-strong force around its own Arctic coastline and will open bases across the icecap, where vast reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals remain untouched.
The confrontation came just days before a Russian submarine was allegedly spotted inside Swedish waters in the Baltic Sea, initiating the biggest search by Swedish forces since the end of the Cold War when Russian subs would regularly pass through Swedish waters.