Russia’s Arctic Build-Up / from Norway’s Independent Barents Observer


VSF: Russia is building up a massive military presence in her Arctic lands. This is ostensibly to protect Russia’s oil and gas that will be shipped to China and others in Arctic waters that are now in meltdown, through the Bering Strait [between the Chukchi Sea & Alaska]. Obviously Russia is very serious about these military installations as millions of Russian rubles are being spent, including building ice-breaker ships, floating nuclear power stations, and more submarines.

The ARCTIC: Russia’s Franz Josef Land Islands / Oct.3, 2018. Note the parallel lines of radiation & green-algae water; some enhancements.                                   

The Barents Observer from Norway is an excellent resource to learn what Russia is doing up in the Arctic. Here is a collection of recent reports that make one pause and reflect.  Surely Russia would not be making this enormous investment, if Putin thought the world was coming to an end?  So is Putin simply taking advantage of an eventual ‘ice-free’ Arctic, or has Russian transmitter technology – like the scalar wave Woodpecker weaponry – encouraged assisted the melt? I have seen endless lines radiation in Russian territories.

The ARCTIC: Novaya Zemlya & the KARA Sea / March 2, 2019. Ice breaking up, cracked. The contrast etc. are enhanced for clarity.                                                         

State oil company might redirect millions of tons to Arctic coast
In a sign of support for growing shipping on the Northern Sea Route, Rosneft mulls building of a 600 km long pipeline from its Vankor oil fields to the Kara Sea.
February 28, 2019

A growing sense of distress has made its way through government offices and leading industrial companies as planners have grappled with the question how to boost shipping on the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to 80 million tons of goods by year 2024. It is the target set by Vladimir Putin and the President has made clear that ministers and business leaders are the ones that are going to make it happen.
Rosneft might now comes to the rescue.
The company makes clear that it might build a pipeline from the Vankor area in north Siberia to the Arctic coast of the Taymyr Peninsula. The pipeline will be about 600 km long and have capacity to carry at least 25 million tons of oil per year, newspaper Kommersant reports.
The end destination of the pipeline would be a new terminal built in the Sever Bay, near the town of Dikson.
If built, the new infrastructure would provide the shipments needed to fulfil Putin’s 80 million ton target for the Northern Sea Route. It would mean relief both for government and the leading industrial companies in the area. Among them is Rosatom, the state nuclear power company that has got the main responsibility for development of the NSR.
The Vankor fields include oil reserves of about 500 million tons. Production in the area started in 2009 and production in 2018 amounted to 17,6 million tons, newspaper Vedomosti reported.


With more dark clouds in horizon, Russian Arctic meteorologists get almost a billion for studies of the weather
The Transarktika-2019 starts as the Russian Arctic is undergoing unprecedented climate change with average temperatures far beyond normal. In parts of the region, the average temperatures have increased with up to five degrees Celsius in less than 30 years.
At the same time, regional Russian industrial activities are rapidly on the increase and shipping on the Northern Sea Route is bigger than ever. And far more is to come. The target set by President Putin is 80 million tons of goods on the route by year 2024, an 8-fold increase from year 2017.
«In order to provide safe shipping in this region, with these major volumes, it is absolutely necessary with a developed system of hydrometeorological service,» Roshydromet Director Maksim Yakovenko underlined in a recent interview with news site
It is the observation network that constitutes the by far most expensive part of the research, Yakovenko says and makes clear that the stations are scattered over the Arctic in inaccessible and remote areas.
Over the last 30 years an number of the country’s Arctic research stations have closed and abandoned. But now revival is on its way, Yakovenko underlines. The goal of the institute is renovate and reopen a big number of the former stations.
«We plant to modernise forty station, all of which are located in inaccessible areas, and 30 abandoned stations will be revived.»

Moscow accuses Norway of northern military buildup – Here is map of submarine ports

2/3 of Russia’s naval forces, including about 30 nuclear powered submarines, are based on the Barents Sea coast. 

“Contrary to the historical traditions of neighborly relations and cooperation in the Arctic, Oslo continues to escalate tension and increase the risk of military action. This will not be left without a response,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday at her weekely press briefing.
Last year, Navy Captain Per-Thomas Bøe with Norway’s Defense Ministry confirmed to the Barents Observer that NATO submarines are more frequently given permission to sail inshore the coast, especially in northern Norway. “3 to 4 per month,” he said.
With more naval activities in Arctic waters, U.S. and British submarines choose to surface in northern Norway for crew change or receiving supplies, rather than sailing all south to Norway’s main naval base Haakonsvern outside Bergen or to submarine ports in the U.K.
Civilian port
With the 2009 closure of Olavsvern naval base near Tromsø, allied submarines have lacked a secured port facility in the north. To compensate, Norwegian authorities are now allowing for port calls to Grøtsund / Tønsnes civilian industrial port a-half-hour-sailing north of Tromsø.
“There are more and more examples of Norway’s active participation in the implementation of NATO’s plans to increase the Alliance’s presence in the Arctic region. In 2019, this list will be supplemented with a contribution to creation of infrastructure for servicing submarines in the North Atlantic. In particular, a separate port for receiving nuclear submarines will be equipped not far from Tromsø in northern Norway,” Zakharova said according to the transcript from the briefing.
Grøtsund harbor is 375 kilometers (as the crow flies) west of Norway’s border to Russia’s Kola Peninsula.
In comparison, 2/3 of Russia’s naval forces, including about 30 nuclear powered submarines, are based on the Barents Sea coast. Zapadnaya Litsa, where the 4th generation multi-purpose attack submarine of the Yasen class has homeport is 40 kilometers from the border to Norway. Within a distance of 110 kilometers are the naval ports of Vidyayevo, Gadzhiyevo, Polyarny and Severomorsk where all multi-purpose and ballistic missile submarines, as well as the surface warships of the Northern Fleet are based.


MiG-31is a supersonic interceptor aircraft. Photo:
Russia resumes North Pole patrols with fighter jets
Combat ready MiG-31BMs will protect Russia’s northern regions by circumnavigate the airspace around the North Pole, Defense Ministry announces.

February 02, 2019
Regular patrols by fighter jets on combat duty on the top of the world have not been seen since the end of the former Cold War. While exercise flights were made to the North Pole in 2018, such flights will now become regular, Izvestia reports from Defense Ministry sources.
Two squadrons of MiG-31BM from the Northern- and Pacific Fleets will be in charge.
With flights from both east and west, the Russian fighter jets aim at controlling the entire Arctic air space north of mainland Siberia to beyond the North Pole.
From Russia’s European Arctic region, the patrols will be carried out by the 98th Guards Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment at the air base in Monchegorsk on the Kola Peninsula. See video below.
The MiG-31BM is a supersonic long-range interceptor fighter capable of flying up to 3,000 km without refueling. The plane can fly at a speed up to 3,000 km/h. With such speed, the North Pole is just about half an hour away after takeoff from Monchegorsk.


Repressive authority steps up blocking of independent news media
Obey restrictions imposed by media regulator Roskomnadzor or risk being blocked in Russia.
… Over the last couple of years, the number of repressive actions from Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor has been mounting and the targets are no longer only from Russia. Just few days before it sent the letter to the Barents Observer, it warned the BBC that it could face blockage in Russia following what it called «extremist contents» in one the broadcaster’s news reports.
A big number of Russian independent media organisations fight a practically constant battle against Roskomnadzor and move in and out of court rooms. In August 2018, the independent online journal 7×7 was fined an unprecedented 800.000 rubles and few weeks later the newspaper New Times was fined as much as 22 million rubles. Both media houses managed to cover the fines through crowdfunding and today continue independent reporting.
Roskomnadzor’s blocking of undesired websites is expanding and more than 330 thousand websites and webpages are now on the authority’s list of internet resources prohibited in Russia.
In December 2018, the media regulators blocked one of the websites of Aleksey Navalny and earlier the same year the MBK Today, a news site supported by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was also blocked.

New Arctic [Russian] naval base built in 6 months
The construction of the new base in Tiksi is almost completed, Northern Fleet commander Nikolay Yevmenov says.
January 30, 2019

Yevmenov in early September 2018 met with regional authorities to discuss the building of the base. Less than half a year later, the naval base is almost ready for operations.
According to the Northern Fleet, the buildings on site are built with modules and will house air defense units. They are now 95 percent ready, a press release informs.
The complex includes 11 objects, among them a dormitory, an administrative building, a diesel-run power station, water and fuel reservoirs, cantina, garages and more. All the buildings are interconnected with each other, enabling easy passage between the facilities.
Similar base complexes have previously been built in the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and the New Siberian Islands.
Naval commander Yevmenov daily receives status reports on the construction process. When announcing the plans for the base last year, he promised that it would be built in the record-short six-month period.
The base is located on the coast of the Laptev Sea, near the town of Tiksi.


Russia builds another military base in East Arctic
As the Northern Fleet unfolds a series of exercises in Russian east Arctic waters, Head Commander Nikolay Yevmenov announces the construction of a new base on the coast of the Laptev Sea.


Norway tired of Russia’s electronic warfare troubling civilian navigation: “Unacceptable and risky”

Military forces on the heavily militarized Kola Peninsula have blinded GPS signals in Norwegian air space five times over the last 17 months.    

While Moscow denied all accusations of being behind interference of GPS navigation over Finnmark and Troms last fall, no comments have been voiced this time about the recent January jamming. Russia’s Oslo Embassy has not replied to requests from the Barents Observer to comment on the case.
Chief of Police in Eastern Finnmark, Ellen Katrine Hætta, fears for the emergency preparedness in Norway’s northernmost region.
“What now happens is deeply worrying and could put public safety at risk,” she said after pilots flying regional routes from Tromsø to Kirkenes again reported about interruption of their on-board GPS navigation systems.
Hætta says «we depend on good GPS signals to quickly locate areas with people missing in extreme weather.»
Minister of Justice and Public Security, Tor Mikkel Wara, shares the Chief of Police’s concerns. Wara writes in an email to the Barents Observer that Russia’s jamming “leads to increased risks for accidents in the transport sector.”

The minister is also concerned about consequences for life and health and emergency response teams’ ability to act. “Interference of navigation instruments could cause a weakening of search- and rescue units.”
In Vardø, a tiny island on the Barents Sea coast, Ståle Sveinungsen and his fellow officers keep their eyes on maritime safety for all ships in Norwegian waters, from the North Sea in the south to beyond Svalbard in the Arctic.
On a day with clear skies, they can see over to Russia’s Fisherman Peninsula in the eastern horizon.
At Vardø Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), someone is always on duty monitoring the ships’ movements.
Sveinungsen says it is dangerous if the navigator on bridge does not understand that satellite navigation signals are gone. “The fact that ships may lose GSP signals would be unfortunate and there may be risks.”
full report:


An Arctic winter tale of global warming
The zooplankton Calanus finmarchicus belongs to one of the largest animal groups in the world when it comes to biomass, though the animal itself is no larger than 3 millimeters. The annual biomass production in the North Atlantic of this species is about 200–400 million tons; corresponding to the weight of the entire human population.
The zooplankton graze on phytoplankton, an even larger, but hardly visible marine resource. At high latitudes the phytoplankton start to grow and reproduce late winter/early spring. This strong seasonal cycle is regulated by the length of daylight. It is critical that the zooplankton wake up in time to feed on the blooming phytoplankton. Likewise, regional fish species must spawn in time for the fish larvae to feed upon the zooplankton – the perfect menu during the fish’s earliest stages.

This fine-tuned ecosystem machinery has supported us northerners since the ice sheet retreated from the North Atlantic Ocean. Traditional fisheries for cod and herring have provided food and livelihood for villages along the coast of Norway for more than a thousand years. Fisheries still contribute heavily to national and international economies and global trade. Last year Norway exported 2.7 million tonnes of seafood of NOK 99 billion. The sector depends heavily on the spring bloom booth in Norway as well as in Russian fisheries economy.

Long-term plankton observations have shown a gradual northward displacement of the Calanus species since the 1960s. At the same time, we have seen an increase in the average ocean temperatures. The finmarchicus has been gradually displaced by its southern and less nutritious warm-water cousin Calanus helgolandicus in the North Sea – “the fish pond” of northwestern Europe. The change had tremendous consequences for the ecosystem and the fisheries, and it was an eye-opener to scientists and stakeholders.
Will the southern helgolandicus progress even farther north? What will happen to the nutritious finmarchicus? If pushed northwards by global warming, the finmarchicus is not easily replaced. We risk losing a key piece of the food web puzzle at a critical moment.

Dangers luring at depth
The change in temperature is accompanied by another danger ascending from the deep ocean. Ocean acidification, gradually making water undersaturated with calcium carbonate, is an increasing challenge of a global ocean inhaling CO2 particularly in cold waters at high latitudes. The deepest level with supersaturated calcium carbonate is lifted by about 10 meters per year, and the acidification has already entered the lower levels of the finmarchicus’ winter hideout.
Acidification comes with additional costs to maintenance of life and are amplified with increasing temperatures and at high latitudes where the environment has been quite stable. How this, along with other stressors will affect the complex ecosystems and key commercial fish species is presently hard to predict. But certainly, we will experience large changes which will become increasingly challenging the longer we hesitate to act. We are facing consequences on the ecosystems that can be irreversible and with large economical changes for the coastal societies and national structures.


Sulfur cloud from Kola forces Norwegians to stay indoor

The smelter in Nikel is only a few kilometres from Russia’s border to Norway.
Cecilie Hansen, former Mayor of Kirkenes, says the plant should be forced to reduce production when pollution exceeds Norwegian air quality standards.

January 25, 2019
“The factory reduces production when sulfur dioxide levels in the town of Nikel exceeds certain concentration. Why shouldn’t they be forced to do the same when their poisonous smoke covers our homes,” Cecilie Hansen asks rehetorically.
Hansen lives near Svanvik, the area where municipal authorities on the Norwegian side of the border on Friday triggered the health-warning alarm.
“Persons with heart- and cardiovascular diseases should limit outdoor activities and stay away from the Svanvik-area,” the warning sent by SMS to all mobile phones in the area reads.
The same warning is posted on the municipality’s portal.
It is the first time a modern mobile phone warning has been sent in regards to air-pollution in the Norwegian border area.
“It is the highest levels we have seen over the last two years,” says Tore Berglen to the Barents Observer. Berglen is Senior Scientist with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and is in charge of the measuring system in the border areas to the Kola Peninsula. NILU has a branch department at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) centre at Svanhovd in the Pasvik valley.

The port of Murmansk. Photo: Atle Staalesen
Explosive growth in Russia’s Arctic seaports
Goods volumes in Sabetta increased by more than 130 percent and Murmansk had its best year ever.

Atle Staalesen / January 25, 2019

Goods volumes across the Russian Arctic were up almost 25 percent in 2018, information from the Russian Transport Ministry shows. A total of 92,7 million tons was handled by regional seaports, of which almost 70 percent was oil products and liquified natural gas.
The by far biggest growth is found in Sabetta, the port handling liquified natural gas produced by Novatek in the grand Yamal LNG project. The port located on the northeastern tip of Yamal Peninsula in 2018 handled a total of 17,4 million tons of goods, an increase of 130 percent from 2017.
The remote seaport has in only few years become one of Russia’s most powerful infrastructure objects.
Also the other key seaports in the Russian north are experiencing a significant growth. Port installations in Murmansk in 2018 handled a total of 60,7 million tons, which is 18,1 percent more than the previous year.
Never before in the post-Soviet period has Murmansk had such high shipping volumes. The previous high was set in 2010 when 56,6 million tons was handled.
Several companies are involved in terminal activities in Murmansk, among them the Murmansk Commercial Seaport. In 2018, the company handled 16,25 million tons, which is a 3,5 percent increase from 2017, port General Director Aleksandr Masko said in a recent press conference.

Russia to deploy 16 nuclear-powered doomsday drones on combat duty from Barents Sea
Moscow’s new scary class of nuclear weapons will be deployed from two submarines sailing for the Northern Fleet, each to carry a maximum of eight drones.

January 14, 2019

The new weapons system has been rumored for a few years. Barents Observer first reported about the unmanned underwater torpedoes, described as a doomsday weapon, in December 2016.
In March last year, President Vladimir Putin was first to confirm the existence of the nuclear-powered drone, saying it could travel «extreme depths, intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times faster than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels, including some of the fastest.»
Putin was bragging about the capabilities of the new underwater weapon during his annual state-of-the-nation speech, saying it «is quiet, highly maneuverable and have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit.»
«There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding it,» Putin said with a proud, but serious voice.

… news agency TASS quotes a source in the military-industrial complex that the navy has plans to put up to 32 such underwater drones on combat duty, half with the Pacific Fleet and the other half with the Northern Fleet.


The formations believed to be created by eruption of natural gas from the ground are of growing concern both to researchers and the oil and gas industry in the far Arctic peninsulas of Yamal and Gydan.
One of the biggest formations is located only about four kilometers from a gas pipeline leading from the huge Bovanenkovo field, a project operated by Gazprom. This formation is now growing and has reached a diameter of more than 60 meter and a depth of about 200 meters.
The first sinkholes were discovered in 2014 and since then at least ten big-size holes have been mapped. In addition, there are indications that several more major holes are in the making. Researchers told RIA Novosti that they on the two Arctic peninsulas have discovered several small hills which they believe could be «gas bubbles» ready to burst.
According to researchers at the Institute of Earth Cryosphere in Tyumen, there is methane gas seeping out from the formations.


Arctic crab invasion comes to nuclear waste graveyard

Soviet authorities are believed to have dumped about 17,000 containers with solid radioactive wastes in Arctic waters and primarily in the Kara Sea. More than 900 containers are located on the bottom of the Blagopoluchie Bay. Also a number of reactor compartments were dumped, as well as three nuclear subs and other nuclear materials.

Satellite images reveal Russian navy’s massive rearmament on Kola Peninsula
September 16, 2018
About 50 brand new reinforced large weapons bunkers are under construction at Okolnaya Bay just north of Severomorsk.
The major expansion of storage facilities for both nuclear missiles and conventional long-range high-precision cruise missiles will significantly boost Russia’s military power and strengthen the bastion defence capability in the Barents- and Norwegian Sea.
By comparing one, two and four years old satellite photos with Google Earth images recently made public, Barents Observer’s study clearly shows the progress. Both in Okolnaya Bay and at Gadzhiyevo submarine base some 15 kilometers further west. Where only the initial roadwork could be seen four years ago, foundations came two-three years ago, while concrete walls and roof are now in place at most of the bunkers.
You have to launch Google Earth to see the external sattelite pictures linked in this article. Links will open in new window.
Security is unlike anything seen at other weapons deposits. Double or triple layer barriers of barbed wire fencing are preventing unauthorised entry. The pictures also show extraordinary large road checkpoints to some of the sites indicating where nuclear weapons likely are stored. Each of the bunkers is about 1,000 square meters, has meters thick concrete walls and are placed about 100 meters from each other.
Last year, the Barents Observer published satellite images from Gadzhiyevo where construction took place. Viewing the same valley today, ten reinforced bunkers seems nearly completed.


Putin ordered nuclear exercise with launches of multiple missiles
Ballistic missiles were launched from submarines in the Barents- and Okhotsk Seas. Long-range aircraft were also in the air with dummy nukes.
October 11, 2018

A video posted by Russia’s defense ministry Thursday evening shows how the crew on board the Northern Fleet’s Delta-IV ballistic missile submarine “Tula” prepared for the launch of a missile.
“Tula” has Gadzhiyevo on the Kola Peninsula as homebase and can be armed with 16 Sineva missiles carrying nuclear warheads.

Other videos on the site of the Defense Ministry shows a launch of another ballistic missile from a Pacific Fleet submarine in the Okhotsk Sea. The missiles crisscrossed each other over the Arctic and hit targets at respective shooting ranges at the Kanin Peninsula in Arkhangelsk Oblast and on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East,
Also, long-range bombers armed with dummy nuke cruise missiles took of from the airfields in Engels (Saratov), Ukrainka (Amur) and Shaykovka (Kaluga). Videos show all three types of Russian long-range bombers able to carry nukes; Tu-22, Tu-160 and Tu-95.
“On October 11, 2018, on the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation – Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin, an exercise of strategic nuclear forces was held,” the statement from the Defense Ministry in Moscow reads.

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