The soldiers of Pechenga are fighting in Ukraine. Only kids were left marching in this year's 'victory parade'

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Normally, the 9th of May parades in the towns of Nikel and Zapolyarny include a big number of heavily armed men from the local brigades.

But this year was different. Photos of the parade shared on social media VK by local authorities show about 30 teenagers and children marching in the streets of Nikel. They all carried military uniforms. Some of them had guns. Some of them were hardly more than ten years old.

The kids belong to the militant youth organisation Yunarmiya (Young Army) and other local military-style organisations.

Pechenga Mayor Andrei Kuznetsov on 9th of May. Photo: Pechenga administration on VK

“Every year in the course of these 79 years we have honoured our victorious fighters, we dearly preserve the history and memory of the ones that did not return from war, the ones that helped us towards victory, who helped our country rise from zero after the horrible war –  all of them!” local Mayor Andrei Kuznetsov said in a speech.

He added a reference to the ongoing war against Ukraine.

“We await our men back from the special military operation alive, healthy and victorious.”

The municipality of Pechenga is located along the border to Norway and Finland and houses the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade and the 200th Motorised Rifle Brigade, both of them regarded as Russian elite forces. The region previously belonged to Finland and was battlefield for heavy fighting between Nazi German and Soviet forces during the 2WW. It was ceded to the USSR after the war. 

 

Nikel youth warriors parading on 9th of May. Photo: Organisation Molodaya Gvardiya (“Youth Guards”) on VK

 

This year, the two local brigades clearly did not give priority to the local 9th of May parades. Soldiers from the far northern units took part in parades  in Murmansk City, as well as Moscow. But first of all, the soldiers from Pechenga are occupied in Ukraine.

The 61st Naval Infantry Brigade is believed to be engaged in heavy fighting in the river delta of the Dnepr, while the 200th Motorised Rifle Brigade is believed to fight in occupied parts of the Kharkiv region, as well as occupied parts of the Donetsk region.

The two brigades have lost many hundred men. A Norwegian intelligence report from early 2023 estimated that the brigade had lost up to 80 percent of their former capacity.

Leaders of the brigades are also suspected of grave abuses of their own soldiers.

Recently, a young soldier from the 200th Brigade in a video told about the state of affairs. He identified himself with full name, military number tag, as well as location at the frontline, and described barbaric conditions on the battlefield. 

“…the situation is difficult. My own people want to nullify me, to shoot me,” he said.