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Russia and India are looking at expanding the use of the Northern Sea shipping route that passes through the Artic and which could include the building of processing facilities, Russia’s Interfax agency reported on Wednesday.

Alexei Chekunkov, Russia’s minister for the development of the Far East and the Arctic, is visiting India and a key issue in his talks with Indian officials was the “reliable and safe” transportation of goods through the Northern Sea Route using Russian and Indian ports, Interfax reported.

“It was especially noted that the cost of delivering a container from Vladivostok to India is a third lower than the cost of shipping a container from Moscow,” the news agency quoted a Chekunkov statement as saying. India, which has not explicitly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, emerged as the largest buyer of Russian oil after China last year.

Russia cannot meet arms delivery commitments because of war, Indian Air Force says

Russia wants the Northern Sea Route - which runs along Russia’s northern coastline and is the shortest shipping route between East Asia and Europe - to become a major shipping lane and has invested heavily in infrastructure there.

It is not currently used in winter due to thick ice. But spurred on by the warming of the Artic, Moscow plans to begin year-round shipping by end of this year.

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