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Russia intensifies construction of military facilities in Arctic

September 30, 2015, 9:33 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The projects are implemented on the Franz Josef Land archipelago, the Novaya Zemlya, the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, on the Wrangel Island and Cape Schmidt (Chukotka) and on the New Siberian Islands
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© ITAR-TASS/Institute of Geology press service

MOSCOW, September 29. /TASS/. The Russian Federal Agency for Special Construction (Spetsstroy) has increased to 1,500 the number of engineers working on the construction of Defense Ministry’s facilities in the Arctic, says Spetsstroy’s report received by TASS on Tuesday. According to the report, about 13 government contracts on the construction of military garrisons and airfields are being implemented.

The projects are implemented on Alexandra Land (Franz Josef Land archipelago), in the Rogachevo settlement (the Novaya Zemlya), on Sredny Island (the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago) on Wrangel Island and Cape Schmidt (Chukotka) and on Kotelny Island (the New Siberian Islands). As many as 57,700 tonnes of construction materials were delivered there in the first half of the year, and 24,200 more tonnes of cargo have been prepared at ports for dispatch.

"Currently, 1,490 workers with 337 equipment units are engaged in the construction of Spetsstroy’s facilities in the Russian Arctic zone. An additional group of 105 highly skilled workers and engineering staff will arrive at the islands soon," Spetsstroy reported. "The work is going non-stop and in two or three shifts during the polar night."

In mid-September, Russian Northern Fleet’s Arctic brigade units landed on the Kotelny Island. They started to build a base camp. A total of 230 troops and 30 tracked vehicles were dispatched to the island. The next step will be the development of new territories: a scientific research expedition of military hydrographers in the waters near the Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya has found nine previously unknown islands in the Borzova, Sedova, Vilkitskogo and Glazova gulfs.

Before the 1990s, Russia had a developed airfield infrastructure in the Arctic. The Defense Ministry is now actively restoring these Soviet airbases. The Temp strategic airfield on the Kotelny Island has been restored first, and now - airstrips in Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, Anadyr Rogachev, Nagurskoe and bomber base of the Northern Fleet on the Kola Peninsula are being developed. The Russian Air Force and aerospace defense force groupings are being expanded in the Arctic. According to Air Force Commander Viktor Bondarev, "normal regiments and full divisions will be deployed there."

In 2014, President Vladimir Putin included the defense of the country’s Arctic borders in the list of the main tasks of the Armed Forces. To this end, the Arctic Joint Strategic Command North was established in 2014 by the Russian military on the basis of the Northern Fleet, then it was reinforced with manpower and hardware from the Western, Central and Eastern Military Districts stationed in circumpolar areas. Russia is also in the process of building of 10 airfields and 13 air-defense radar stations in the New Siberian Islands, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya and other points of Russian Arctic. The ground element of the command will incorporate two Arctic motorised infantry brigades, Air Defense forces consisting of Pantsir-S1 missile and other systems, and the Northern Fleet will become its main striking force. Furthermore, by 2017 the Tiksi airport complex will be operational, and it will be garrisoned with upgraded MiG-31 interceptors.

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