Artur Chilingarov, Russian polar scientist and member of parliament, dies at 84

Victory Day Parade in Moscow

(Reuters) - Artur Chilingarov, a Russian polar scientist and explorer and veteran member of parliament, died on Saturday, the speaker of the state Duma lower house said. He was 84.

Chilingarov was born in the city then known as Leningrad to Russian and Armenian parents and spent much of his childhood in Russia's North Caucasus region.

From the early 1970s he was in the forefront of Russian scientific achievements in the Arctic and Antarctic, a participant in missions to both poles and a proponent of emphatically staking Russia's claim to the Arctic.

Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Chilingarov's achievements were "an example to us all." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had been friends with the scientist for years and offered his condolences.

In 1999, Chilingarov was in charge of an extended helicopter flight in the Arctic to prove it was a viable means of transport. He led a 2007 Arctic expedition in a submersible to a depth of 4,261 metres (13,979 feet), planting a Russian tricolor titanium flag on the sea bed near the North Pole.

Named a Hero of the Soviet Union and Russia, the country's highest honour, he first was elected to the Duma in 1993.

A senior member of Putin's United Russia party and a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences, he served several terms in both houses of parliament, remaining a Duma member until his death.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski; Editing by Chris Reese)