Russia’s Arctic Brigade in Alakurtti is counting its many dead

Some of the soldiers from the 80th Motorised Rifle Brigade killed in Ukraine. (VK page Podslushano v Alakurtti / The Independent Barents Observer)

The troops trained to defend the Russian Arctic are taking a big toll in the muddy battlefields of Ukraine.

It is unclear how many soldiers from the brigade that has been killed since Russia launched its massive onslaught on Ukraine one year ago. But a local information resource  is commemorating more than 65 men.

The soldiers are all presented in an online photo album. They might constitute only a portion of the actual number of killed.

The soldiers serving in Alakurtti come from all over Russia, and are believed to be Russia’s best men in Arctic warfare.

The 80th Motorised Rifle Brigade in Alakurtti – branded as the Arctic Brigade – was established in December 2014. It belongs to the Northern Fleet and its mandate is to defend Russia’s vast Arctic territories, from the Kola Peninsula in the west to the New Siberian Islands in the east.

Nevertheless, it is well known that the Arctic fighters have been heavily represented in Ukraine. Finnish broadcaster Yle in June 2022 obtained satellite images that showed that more than 100 vehicles had departed from Alakurtti since mid-May. The vehicles included dozens of armored personnel carriers, and their number roughly equals a battalion’s combat division, or about 800 soldiers.

Normally, there are about 2,000 soldiers stationed at Alakurtti.

Among the soldiers killed is Denis Vasilchenko. According to local authorities in his home town, Vasilchenko was killed in the village of Sukhanovo near Kherson on the 19th of October. The warrant officer had fought in Ukraine since the beginning of March 2022 as commander in an intelligence unit.

“The heroic deeds of Denis Sergeevich Vasilchenko are without doubt an example for all of us, and especially the young guys that now are about to make decisions about their direction in life and future profession,” Head Commander of the Northern Fleet Aleksandr Moiseev underlined in a speech this week.

Widow and two sons are awarded the Hero of Russia award on behalf of their killed husband and father Denis Vasilchenko. (Northern Fleet press service)

In a ceremony in Northern Fleet headquarters Severomorsk, the warrior was post-mortem awarded one of the most prestigious medals in Russia — the Golden Star for Heroes of the Russian Federation.

Vasilchenko had combat experience from Chechnya and for several years served on Northern Fleet submarines before he transferred to Alakurtti. According to the Northern Fleet press service, the fighter destroyed two tanks and killed 18 Ukrainian soldiers before he himself was killed.

Among the killed from the Arctic Brigade is also Viktor Voronkov, an experienced 42 year old soldier that originally came from Kargopol, Arkhangelsk region. Voronkov in the period 2004-2015 served on contract for the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade in Sputnik, Murmansk region, and then later in the Arctic Brigade, where he commanded an unit of special intelligence unit. Also Voronkov was killed outside Kherson in October.

The fighter is now honoured in Kargopol. In the school where he studied, a wall of “heroes of the special operation” shows his name, photo and life history, the school informs.

Alakurtti is located in the Kola Peninsula about 50 km from the border to Finland.

Before the 2WW, the town was part of Finland. It was attacked and annexed by Stalin following the the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in 1939.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: One year after Russia’s Ukraine invasion, circumpolar diplomats take stock, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Russian shoppers take Norway’s Schengen shortcut to Arctic Finland, Yle News

Greenland: Historic Hans Island agreement with Canada moves from Copenhagen to Greenland, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Climate, integration & Arctic among priorities in Iceland’s Nordic Council of Ministers program, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Last Norwegian businessmen in Murmansk mum on customers, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Putin’s hope for Sarmat missile launch from Plesetsk failed, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden, Norway and Finland cooperating to attract workers to the Far North, Radio Sweden

United States: A year after Russia invaded Ukraine, a walrus discovery is caught up in geopolitics, Alaska Public News

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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