The High North Tour 2021: The Guard on the Russian Border has Escaped the Pandemic

Battalion Chief Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Marius Nilsen meets High North News on the Pasvik River ice, just a few yards away from the Russian border. (Photo: Arne O. Holm)

Pasvik: The garrison in Sør-Varanger, guarding the Norwegian-Russian border, has escaped corona infections so far. Now, Battalion Chief Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Marius Nilsen prepares the reception of soldiers who have been on Easter leave.

"We have managed well so far and are well prepared to receive personnel after Easter", Nilsen says to High North News.

"It has been a demanding year, but we are currently in a place in which we allow conscripts to go home on leave, just not as often as before. We have a rigid and solid system and so far, we have managed very well".

I meet the battalion chief on the ice of the Pasvik River, just a few meters from the Russian border.

The garrison in Sør-Varanger is also referred to as the “Border Guard”, and Battalion Chief Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Marius Nilsen’s mission is to control and monitor the almost 200-kilometer-long border between Norway and Russia.

Professional relationship

"It is a unique area. Not only is it a border between Norway and Russia, but also between the East and the West. In addition to our military assignment, we also support the local Police Chief and the Border Commissioner in maintaining existing bilateral agreements between Russia and Norway", Nilsen says.

As chief of the first line of defense against Russia, Nilsen acknowledges that we live in a time of increased security policy tension, instability, and unpredictability.

"Russian aggression is part of that package, however, locally in this area and on the other side, border cooperation remains solid. We have a professional relationship with the Russian border authorities, completely in line with political directions given".

"Increased presence of Norwegian army forces and land forces in Finnmark, both in my division and in Porsanger, has been a political goal and a political direction for years. That reflects the time we live in right now. However, I do not believe that causes any reactions on the other side", says Battalion Chief Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Marius Nilsen to High North News.

Watch the entire interview with Nilsen on top of this page. (Subtitles available in English.)

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.