The base was officially unveiled a few years ago and has since acquired some additional capabilities, according to the Russian military. It now boasts a dedicated unit for electronic surveillance, and has beefed up its airfield to land heavier planes like the nuclear-capable Tu-95 bombers. A battery of mobile anti-ship Bastion missiles has boosted its defensive capabilities against naval attacks.
The base primarily serves as a node in Russia’s integrated air defence system, though what other functions it may have is anyone’s guess, RT’s Igor Zhdanov has learned in conversations with military personnel there.
The base is located in the Franz Josef Land archipelago and was constructed as part of Russia’s effort to secure its northern border. It was also a test of technologies that were used to build the Northern Clover, the more utilitarian-looking new base on Kotelny Island. Both facilities were designed to operate autonomously for extended periods in the harsh climate with maximum self-containment and minimal environmental impact.
The media tour, which RT took along with other international media outlets, came ahead of a session of the Arctic Council in Reykjavik, Iceland. The council includes eight nations that have claims on Arctic waters due to their geographic locations, with Russia accounting for the largest share thanks to its lengthy landmass.
Before the summit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed what he called “lamentations” by the US and its allies over the Russian military presence in the region. He said: “It’s long been well known to everyone that this is our territory, this is our land, we are responsible for ensuring that our Arctic coast is safe. And everything our country does there is absolutely legal and legitimate.”
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