What is Russia trying to tell? Second maritime artillery shooting in June next to Norway border
Russia has again issued warnings to both seafarers and pilots to stay away from a large area just east of Grense Jakobselv and the maritime delimitation border between the two countries in the Varanger fjord.
“This is a somewhat unusual location for a Russian NOTAM,” says Kristian Åtland, an expert on Russian military with the Norwegian Research Defence Establishment (FFI). He has for years studied how the Northern Fleet uses military NOTAM-warnings (Notice to Airmen) as a signaling tool to neighboring countries.
The area now marked for artillery shooting is exactly similar to the one from June 1 and 2.
“The Northern Fleet’s training activities usually take place further east, typically east of the Rybachy Peninsula, and often further from the shoreline. This is pretty close to the shore and not far from the maritime border between Norway and Russia,” says Åtland to the Barents Observer.
He underlines that Russia is not doing anything illegal. Every country has the right in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to conduct such activities in international waters. Very few, though, do so just next to the shores of a neighboring country. Unless it is aimed at sending a military signal.
“The planned live-fire event may well be intended to send some sort of signal to Norway and its allies. The fact that this is the second Russian NOTAM event in this area in the last month indicates that it is more than a random ‘one-off’ case,” says Kristian Åtland.
He adds that “time will show” whether this will become part of a new Russian “pattern of military behavior” in the southern Barents Sea.
It is unclear if the shooting will come from shore or by warships sailing in the area. The Sredny Peninsula is a well-known training area for coastal forces of the Northern Fleet. Pechenga is home to both the 200. Motorized Rifle Brigade and the 61. Naval Infantry Brigade.
The press service of the Northern Fleet has not reported about planned Navy shootings in the area, or which vessels currently are out exercising in the Barents Sea.