MOSCOW, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday ordered the military to increase its presence in the arctic and to open more military bases in the region next year.
Speaking at a meeting of the Defense Ministry Board, Putin urged officials to "pay special attention to the deployment of infrastructure and military units in the arctic," RIA Novosti reported.
The president said Russia is actively developing the region, believed to hold untapped oil and gas reserves, and needs to protect its interests there.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said a combined force from the country's armed services will be deployed to the arctic in 2014. At least seven shuttered airfields in the continental part of the arctic and ports in the New Siberian Islands and the Franz Josef Land archipelago will be reopened.
The arctic has attracted more interest from countries such as the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark as shrinking ice fields have made exploration in the region more feasible.