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Redefining the Russian Arctic

Major parts of the Russian North might no longer be "Arctic"

A new federal law will deprive significant areas in the Russian north their status as “Arctic” and introduce new rules of conduct for the region.

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The Russian Law on Arctic Territories is expected to considerably shrink the extension of Russian Arctic land territories and lay down “new rules of the game” both for the ones living and working there.

According to a draft version of the legislative document, the Komi Republic will be among the areas, which are to be redefined, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports. Also parts of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Oblasts might be affected. According to Murmansk Senator Igor Chernishenko, only the areas which have direct access to the Arctic coast will be defined as “Arctic” in the law. That would mean that major areas of the Murmansk inland, like Polyarnye Zori, Kovdor, Kirovsk, Apatity, Monchegorsk and Olenegorsk will no longer be “Arctic”, Murman.ru reports.

Status as “Arctic territory” includes favourable taxation and investments, as well as beneficial social and economic conditions for the local population.

The draft law also proposes a number of new rules of conduct in the region, among them within the field of transportation. Infrastructure development will be a priority, and the state, and not private companies, will be in the driver’s seat. According to the draft legislation, the privatization of Arctic-based airline companies will be banned.

The adoption of the new Arctic Law will subsequently be followed up with the elaboration of an Arctic Development Programme, which is to outline priorities as well as propose the necessary financial instruments, Rg.ru reports.

The Russian government has earlier confirmed that the new law will be adopted in the course of 2013. The Ministry of Regional Development is leading the process. As previously reported, the ministry in a tender announcement last year offered bidding consultancy companies five million RUB for the first drafting of the legislative document.

Commenting on the draft law, Senator Chernishenko says that the specialists who have developed the model for the new Russian Arctic zone, “have not taken our proposals into account, and instead chosen the voluntaristic path: all coastal areas will be Arctic, while the areas located 20-50 km inland will not be”.