Russia has lifted its opposition to marine reserves proposed for the Antarctic, with Moscow for the first time laying down its demands to agree to the giant areas being protected.
Opposition by Russia and a handful of other nations stymied two reserve proposals when they were put before Antarctic nations for the third time last year.
A 1.6 million square kilometre reserve off East Antarctica backed by Australia, France and the European Union is in the balance, as is a 1.25 million square kilometre proposal in the Ross Sea put forward by the United States and New Zealand.
Russia told the annual Antarctic Treaty meeting that wound up in Brasilia this week it had been depicted "in open opposition" to the marine reserves, but that "in the main" it was not against them.
However, it said their boundaries had nothing in common with bio-geographical habitats, but instead in many respects just repeated boundaries of the maritime Antarctic sectors declared by some territorial claimants in Antarctica.