Marines from the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade. Photo: Atle Staalesen

Anniversary celebrations in Arctic Spetsnaz base Sputnik as number of marines killed in Ukraine rises

Most of its soldiers are warring in the neighbouring country, but the Naval Infantry Brigade located near the border to Norway and Finland today still celebrated its 80th birthday.
May 05, 2023


“The Northern Fleet marines that solve assignments in the special military operation [sic] are great examples of bravery and heroism, they efficiently resolve their assigned tasks and smoothly and decisively act under complicated conditions,” Northern Fleet Head Commander Aleksandr Moiseev says in a greeting to the warriors of the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade in Sputnik.

The brigade was established on the 5th of May 1943 as part of the Red Army efforts to push back German Nazi forces from the Kola Peninsula. Its full name is the 61st Separate Kirkenes Naval Infantry Brigade of the Northern Fleet Decorated with the Order of the Red Banner.

It was the Soviet army unit instrumental in kicking Germans out of Kirkenes, the Norwegian border town, in October 1944. It is today based in Sputnik, the military town located only few kilometres from NATO countries Norway and Finland.

“The Northern Fleet’s infantry brigade has always distinguished itself with bravery, endurance, heroism and self-sacrifice, belief in the ideals and faithfulness to the Motherland,” Moiseev underlines.

At the same time, the admiral confirms that “the lion’s share of the commanders and servicemen of the units is at the moment executing tasks in the special military operation.”

Several hundred Russian marines have been killed in Ukraine. But Moiseev does not say a word about the heavy losses of his men.

According to several sources, among the more than 400 documented losses of marines in Ukraine, at least 33 are from Sputnik.



Senior Lieutenant Ivan Nitkin from Umba served in the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade. He was killed in November 2022. Photo: VK


Among them is Ivan Nitkin from the village of Umba in the Kola Peninsula. The 46-year senior lieutenant with fighting experiences from Syria was killed on the battlefield in Ukraine on the 2nd of November 2022. Nitkin’s military career started with his conscript service on board Russia’s aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov.” In 2008, the man with an attraction for martial arts signed a service contract with the Armed Forces in the Pechenga region and got training as sniper. In 2012, he graduated from a military school in Northwest Russia and in the period 2014-2016 served in a sniper unit. In 2017 he got title as lieutenant and in 2020 senior lieutenant, a commemoration post on VK reads.

The Naval Infantry Brigade in Sputnik has soldiers from all over Russia. Some of them are from the host region of Murmansk, and several of the northerns are among the ones killed in Ukraine.

Artyem Shurko came from Kovdor and served in the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade. He was killed in April 2022. Photo:

In addition to Ivan Nitkin, the 23 year old Artyem Shurko is on the lists of men killed. Shushko came from Kondor, the mining and metallurgy town in the Kola Peninsula. The soldier served as operator of an infantry unit when he was killed on the 8th of April, informs.

In addition to the names documented, there is believed to be a significant number of undocumented men killed, many of them likely still left in the black soil of Ukraine.

According to a Norwegian intelligence report, the Russian military capacities in the Pechenga area near the border to Norway and Finland has been reduced to only a fifth of former power.

The 61st Naval Infantry Brigade is considered an elite unit and its marines have taken part in several wars, among them Chechnya, Syria and Ukraine. In late 2021, a paratroop storm battalion from Sputnik was sent to take part in Russia’s so-called peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Northern Fleet informs.





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