(QHA) -

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his military leadership they should build up their forces in the Arctic as a priority, BBC reports.

Commending the recent restoration of an airfield in the region, he said Russia needed to use every means to protect its national interests in the region.

He was speaking after Canada announced plans to claim the continental shelf under the North Pole.

Russia and Denmark also lay claim to parts of the resource-rich shelf.

Mr Putin has spoken about the need to increase Russia's military capacity in the Arctic before but this was one of his most direct orders yet.

It is a sign of the growing manoeuvring by the Arctic nations for the potentially valuable resources beneath the northern seas, according to BBC.

The Arctic is estimated to have 30% of the world's undiscovered gas and 15% of the undiscovered oil. Climate change and advances in drilling technology mean these reserves are becoming easier and cheaper to exploit.