Bill on Russian Arctic drafted

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Jan 23 2013
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The draft federal law on the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation was published Wednesday on the website of the Ministry of Regional Development.

According to the proposed bill, the Ministry of Regional Development will become an authorized federal body to be in charge of the Russia’s Arctic.

The document suggests the National Strategy for Arctic Development should be the basis for social and economic development of the Russia’s Arctic. This Strategy document is to be updated each 8 years. 

The bill says state environmental expertise should become obligatory for commercial activities in the Arctic zone. Any activity in the Arctic should be regarded as environmentally hazardous unless proven otherwise. 

The document prohibits privatization of airlines in the Arctic. Transportation across the tundra outside motor roads is not allowed if it destroys soil and vegetation cover. 

Shipping services in the Arctic should have strong Russian content meaning that at least 70% of all cargo should be transported by Russian vessels.

The bill ensures state support for development of transport, industrial, and energy-related infrastructure, scientific and innovative activities, implementation of the national investment policy, and labour relations and social benefits. 

On top of the existing social benefits for the Russian northerners, the bill introduces subsidies to cover expenses related to construction or purchase of new housing for those people who have lived in the North for longer than 6 years and are in desperate need for accommodation. Besides, those Russians who have to travel from the North to other parts of Russia for medical reasons (treatment, special medication, etc) may get 50% compensation for their travel expenses. 

According to the document, the Russia’s Artic zone includes the entire Murmansk region; Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area; Chukotka Autonomous Area; and a few municipalities and districts of Karelia, Arkhangelsk region (including islands), Sakha, Komi, and the Krasnoyarsk region.

On the international level, the bill establishes legal regime for Russian legal entities and individuals residing on the Svalbard archipelago. Those Russians who are legally registered on Svalbard have a right for development of the continental shelf of the archipelago, reads the document. The bill prohibits any interference of other states into commercial activities of Russian individuals and legal entities if those activities do not violate international treaties signed by Russia. 

More experts are expected to comment on the initiative. Adjustments could be submitted till January 29.
 
Illustration: a mock-up of the Kola Peninsula as exhibited in the Murmansk Museum of Local History.