The 61st Independent Red Banner Naval Infantry Regiment – also called the Kirkenes regiment because of the unit’s participation in the liberation of Eastern Finnmark in October 1944, will be expanded and reorganized into a brigade before the end of the year, TASS reports, citing Russia’s Ministry of Defense.
The 61st Naval Infantry Brigade will get a new sniper company, and already existing units will become larger. The brigade is located in the Sputnik camp in Pechenga, not far from the border to Norway.
The change is part of a larger operational reorganization that Russia has started of its military forces in the North. On December 1 the Northern Fleet becomes base in a new United Strategic Command, that will have as its main objective to defend Russia’s interests in the Arctic.
The United Strategic Command (Obedinyonnoye strategicheskoye kommandovaniye, OSK) “Sever” will consist of the Northern Fleet and units of other military branches located in the northern parts of the country. This will probably include the 200. motorized infantry brigade based in Pechenga close to the border to Norway. This unit became part of the Northern Fleet in December 2012. Also newly formed units on Novaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands and Franz Josef Land will also be part of OSK “Sever”.
The naval infantry regiment in Pechenga was established in 1943. It became part of the Northern Fleet in 1966. In 1980 the unit was reorganized as a brigade, and stayed like that until 2009, when it was turned into a regiment again.
Soldiers in the Northern Fleet’s Naval Infantry are considered to be among the best in Russia, and have taken part in several military operations in Soviet times and in the Caucasus in the 1990ies.
Right now more than 60 “black berets” are on campaigns on board Northern Fleet vessels in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, the Ministry of Defense’s website reads.