* General Staff working on plan to boost presence in Arctic
* Russia set to start producing Bulava nuclear missile
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, July 1 Moscow will create two brigades
to protect its valuable Arctic resources, Russia's defence
minister said on Friday.
Moscow has walked a fine line between cooperation and
aggression in the Arctic which the world's top energy producer
believes could hold huge reserves of natural gas and oil.
"The General Staff is currently working on plans to create
two such units," Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was quoted
as telling media by state-run news agency Itar-Tass.
Declining to go into detail, he added: "The location will be
determined, as well as weapons, numbers and infrastructure for
Global warming has boosted expectations that the Arctic may
provide mining, fishing and shipping prospects for the countries
that have claims on the region -- Russia, the United States,
Denmark, Greenland, Canada, Norway and China.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia
would boost its presence in the region to protect its interests.
"As for our own geo-political interests (in the Arctic) are
concerned, we shall be protecting them firmly and consistently,"
Putin told a meeting of his ruling United Russia party on
Thursday in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.
Late last year Russia delineated new Arctic borders with
Norway and agreed to ease frontier controls in the hope of
further cooperation in oil and gas exploration.
Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) runs
two major gas projects in the Arctic, including one with Statoil
(STL.OL), while state-run oil major Rosneft (ROSN.MM) and BP
(BP.L) operate at three Kara Sea fields.
Serdyukov also said that Russia was in a position to start
production of its intercontinental Bulava missile following the
most recent successful test of the armament this week.
His ministry has said the missile, which the Kremlin wants
to make the cornerstone of its nuclear arms programme, will
undergo four more tests this year before being introduced into
Previous failures -- seven out of 15 tests -- had called
into question the viability of the programme.
"The Bulava flew well. And that's good news," Interfax news
agency quoted him as saying. "We understand exactly that in this
case it is possible to start serial production of the rocket."
Russia is looking to modernise its armaments and Putin has
promised to spend nearly 20 trillion roubles ($718.4 billion)
over the next decade upgrading its armed forces.
One missile can hold six to 10 nuclear warheads, which would
deliver an impact of up to 100 times the atomic blast that
devastated Hiroshima in 1945.
(Editing by Robert Woodward)