Sochi Olympic torch reaches North Pole aboard icebreaker

Oct. 20, 2013 at 1:49 PM
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MOSCOW, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- A Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker Sunday took the Olympic flame for the Sochi Winter Games to the North Pole, organizers said.

Sochi organizing committee head Dmitry Chernyshenko said on Twitter the torch reached the North Pole for the first time after leaving from the port of Murmansk aboard the vessel, RIA Novosti reported.

"In spite of everything the flame burned excellently," Chernyshenko wrote. "The weather's warm, just [5 degrees Fahrenheit]."

The appearance of the flame at the pole is part of a series of attention-grabbing stunts in advance of the Russian games, including sending an unlit torch into space and taking it up Russia's highest mountain.

But it also puts a spotlight on President Vladimir Putin's new emphasis on developing Russia's arctic resources and asserting its national sovereignty in the region.

The country has significantly boosted hydrocarbon extraction there in the last decade, discovering more than 1,000 oil and gas fields while also identifying deposits of diamonds and other rare metals, The Moscow Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin announced last month that the Russian Northern Fleet had returned to the arctic on a permanent basis in a bid to enhance the strategic potential of the Russian Navy.

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