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Russia expands military presence near Finnish border: Alakurtti Base readied for action

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Satellite images obtained by Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, have revealed that Russia is intensifying its military activities near the Finnish border, specifically at the Alakurtti military base. These developments come amidst growing international concern over Russia’s military actions and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Construction at Alakurtti Military Base
The Alakurtti military base, located approximately 50 kilometers from the Finnish border, has seen significant developments in recent months. Satellite images show the rapid construction of three large buildings at the base, which are now utilized by Russia’s Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade. This development marks the first tangible investment in the region’s military infrastructure in years.

The construction process has been notably swift, with the buildings going from foundation to full height in just one day. A novel construction method employing a robust plastic-coated fabric roof attached to a lightweight metal frame was used. Major (Ret.) Marko Eklund, a military expert specializing in Russia, notes that this technology appears to be able to withstand extreme cold conditions. Eklund highlights that similar methods were employed in the 2010s when Russia swiftly erected new garrisons along the Ukrainian border.

The new structures at Alakurtti are estimated to be slightly over 100 meters in length and around 25 meters wide, offering a floor area of approximately 2,500 square meters each. Eklund suggests that each building could comfortably house the combat vehicles of one battalion, equating to roughly 40 MT-LB armored personnel carriers.

Satellite images also reveal rectangular, light-colored areas adjacent to the new halls, likely the foundations for additional planned structures. These foundations have been in place since at least 2017, indicating an unfinished construction project. Eklund speculates that the cost-effective new model may have rendered traditional equipment halls, made of sheet metal and concrete, obsolete.

Russian troop deployments and arctic strategy
The Alakurtti base is home to the 80th Separate Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade, consisting of approximately 2,000 troops. However, a significant portion of these troops has been deployed to Ukraine in support of Russia’s military efforts there. The brigade specializes in operating in harsh Arctic conditions and is equipped with armored personnel carriers but not main battle tanks.

Despite the new halls at Alakurtti, much of the base’s equipment remains exposed to the elements. Nevertheless, the rapid construction method employed suggests that additional structures could be swiftly added if required, potentially in response to Russia’s concerns about Finland’s NATO membership.

Petrozavodsk Military Storage Site
In addition to developments at the Alakurtti base, Yle’s satellite images have identified a new large military storage site in Petrozavodsk, located approximately 175 kilometers from the Finnish border. This town, known as Petroskoi in Finnish, hosts Russia’s largest concentration of military equipment in proximity to the Finnish border.

These developments have raised concerns and questions about Russia’s intentions in the region, as well as its potential implications for regional security. The international community will undoubtedly continue to monitor these developments closely in the coming months.

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