Russian diplomat staged Navy Parade at Norway’s Svalbard archipelago

“Barentsburg welcomes you” reads the big sign in the hillside above the port. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The world’s northernmost diplomat, GRU-affiliated Andrei Chemerilo, led the military-inspired small flotilla in the waters outside Barentsburg on Sunday.

Five small boats participated as Russian officials honored the country’s navy on July 30.

All civilian watercraft in the town of Barentsburg were presented, the Consulate General writes on Telegram. The parade included the Consulate’s own boat, the self-propelled barge “Pyramiden”, the mining company Arktikugol’s boat “Barentsburg”, as well as two boats used by Russia’s Arctic Science Expedition currently at Svalbard.

Barentsburg is Russia’s mining settlement at Svalbard. Although there is a minimum of coal left to be dug out from the tunnels deep inside the permafrost under the town, Moscow keeps activities going to maintain a foothold on the strategically important archipelago.

No Norwegian courtesy flags were visible. Russian flags, however, were in plenty. Arktikugol’s boat, nowadays repainted to the tricolor after sailing with Ukrainian colors for years, carried no less than five Russian flags. In addition to a Soviet-era Navy flag on top of the mast.

Most Ukrainian miners left Barentsburg after Russia launched the all-out war in February last year.

Navy Day parades 

Simultaneously as the Russians at 78 degrees North praised their country’s military strength at sea, official Navy Day parades took place in major fleet cities, like Kaliningrad, Severomorsk, Vladivostok, Sevastopol, and Novorossiysk.

Although a strong geopolitical symbolic statement, the navy parade at Svalbard was small compared to the one in St. Petersburg where Vladimir Putin together with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu praised the Russian fleet in front of 45 warships.

“Our sailors give all their strength, show true heroism, fight valiantly,” Putin said to the servicemen. A video recording of the speech is posted on the portal of the Kremlin. He did not mention the war in Ukraine or any of the hundreds of marines from the Northern Fleet brigades on the Kola Peninsula killed on the battlefields in Ukraine.

Andrei Chemerilo was appointed Consul General of Russia to Svalbard in July last year, a few months after Putin sent tens of thousands of soldiers into Ukraine.

Chemerilo graduated from the Irkutsk Higher Military Aviation Engineering School in 1995, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow informs.

Affiliated with GRU

According to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK and the Dossier Center, the diplomat is affiliated with Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. Chemerilo denies any such connections, but the journalists could tell that they found his former address in Moscow to be with the GRU Conservatory by the Military Academy under the Ministry of Defense.

The Russian diplomat writes on Telegram that the naval parade in Barentsburg is a “tradition”.

That tradition, however, is limited to the period Chemerilo has represented war-time Russia at Svalbard. The First time the Russian Navy flag was raised on boats in Grønfjorden was last July, shortly after Andrei Chemerilo was appointed to be Putin’s diplomat in the Norwegian Arctic.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Northern premiers say Canada can’t have Arctic security without infrastructure, The Canadian Press

China: Satellite imagery reveals construction progress on new Chinese Antarctic base, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: Danish policy prioritizes low-conflict Arctic amidst Russian tensions, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandTrial fence on Finland-Russia border nears completion, Lapland phase next, Yle news

Greenland: Growing focus on Arctic puts Greenland at higher risk of cyber attacks: assessment, Eye on the Arctic

IcelandIceland authorizes U.S. submarine service visits, Eye on the Arct

Norway: NATO scrambled to meet Russian bombers, aircraft north of carrier strike group, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Northern Fleet will not send nuclear sub to main Navy parade, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: US bombers land in northern Sweden for first time, Radio Sweden

United States: Biden welcomes Finland to NATO, meets with Nordic leaders, The Associated Press

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *