If you thought Santa Claus was as American as apple pie and baseball, think again. The jolly old elf might soon need to apply for a Russian passport if the country’s new claim over a vast swathe of the Arctic, including the North Pole, is approved. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said they are claiming 1.2 million square kilometres (about 463,000 square miles) of the north. If their claim is approved by the United Nations committee that arbitrates sea boundaries, Moscow will have control over the economic matters in the region, including oil and gas drilling and the manufacturing of toys for good little girls and boys.

Russia, polar ice, North Pole, oil exploration, oil drilling, arctic oil, Arctic sea, Arctic land rights, Law of the Sea

Greenpeace Russia Arctic campaigner Vladimir Chuprov responded to the claim with a warning about the vulnerability of the Arctic.

“The melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Unless we act together, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes.”

This is not the first time Russia has tried to assert its rights over the area. Under Stalin, they claimed a wedge of the Arctic extending from their borders to the North Pole. In 2002, a similar claim was rejected by the UN because it was not supported by enough scientific evidence. In 2007, that didn’t stop Moscow from planting a rust-proof titanium Russian flag directly below the North Pole.

Related: Obama administration approves Shell to resume Arctic oil drilling

What was once seen as a land suitable only for polar bears and walruses has been gaining greater attention as shrinking polar ice has opened new territories for exploitation. In 2008, the US Geological Survey estimated the Arctic houses 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered, technically recoverable resources of oil and natural gas. The United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway all have a potential claim to the North Pole and areas of the Arctic. Russia expects a decision on its claim by this fall, the ministry said.

Via The New York Times

Lead image via Shutterstock, others via US Geological Survey, North Pole image via US Navy, kayaktivists image via Backbone Campaign.