Three Russian warships making their way to the Chittagong port in Bangladesh have become a focal point of interest, generating curiosity, especially with the presence of two submarines and a fire-fighting tanker among them. Tass, the Russian state news agency, conveyed that the fleet includes the destroyers Admiral Tributs and Admiral Panteleyev, along with the oceanic tanker Pechenga. This occurrence signifies the return of Russian naval influence at a Bangladeshi port after fifty years, and the official announcement of their arrival was made by Russia on Sunday.
The Embassy of Russia in Bangladesh shared images on its official Facebook page, declaring, “The Russian Pacific Fleet Squadron’s arrival at Chattogram Port marks a significant milestone in the bilateral ties between Russia and Bangladesh. It’s been half a century since Russian or Soviet naval vessels last made a port call in Bangladesh.”
According to Ashik Imran, the Russian Honorary Consul in Chittagong, as reported by Tass, the ships are in the region exclusively for a friendly visit. “This indicates a remarkably elevated level of relations between the two states.” The ambassador informed the news agency that Russian warships were last deployed to the area with the primary objective of eliminating underwater mines.
How Russian Warships Safeguarded Chittagong Post-Independence?
Dating back to the early 1970s, the historical significance of this event lies in Bangladesh’s triumphant quest for independence during a nine-month-long liberation war when it was still recognized as East Pakistan. The Chittagong port played a vital role by enabling the smooth entry of military and relief supplies, contributing significantly to the nation’s struggle for autonomy. Yet, concerns about potential threats and the vulnerability of the newfound nation compelled the deployment of a substantial naval force to safeguard its interests.
Following the attainment of independence, Russian warships conducted a targeted mission to clear mines from the Chittagong port. Post war of independence, the waters of Chittagong port were laden with numerous mines, leading to the sinking of several ships.
Despite facing harsh working conditions, the team managed to carry out all tasks efficiently. The Chittagong port demining operation spanned from April 1972 to June 1974, with over 800 Soviet Navy members dedicating 26 months to clear the mines recovering 26 ships, collectively displacing around 100 thousand tons. This encompassed not only modern vessels but also those that had sunk in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, on July 13, 1973, Yuri Redkin, a seasoned sailor from the floating workshop, gave his life in service. His final resting place is marked by a military ceremony at the Bangladesh Naval Academy on the Patenga Cape, overlooking the confluence of the Karnaphuli River and the Bay of Bengal. The burial site, known as ‘Redkin Point,’ is open for visitors to explore. Additionally, in Chittagong’s Laldighi Park, there stands a commemorative stele honoring the courageous efforts of the Soviet Navy, who played a vital role in supporting the people of Bangladesh.
The Russian ambassador said that “Bangladesh authorities reached out to several countries for assistance in resolving the mine problem, and despite a few nations demanding significant financial compensation for their help, Bangladesh was in a financial crunch. It was only the Soviet Union that extended humanitarian aid during that critical period.”
What might the sudden visit mean?
Given the rarity of such visits, widespread attention has been drawn to this event, prompting discussions on its implications and significance. Furthermore, it offers a chance for people to personally witness Russia’s naval strength and its active role in regional affairs.
Moreover, the arrival of Russian warships has instigated dialogues and assessments on the wider repercussions for Bangladesh’s maritime security, regional equilibrium, and global relations. This occurrence has kindled discussions on the changing geopolitical landscape in the area and the strategic role Bangladesh plays in the global maritime arena.
Additionally, the docking of Russian warships in Chittagong port has prompted inquiries into the conceivable economic and strategic advantages such visits might offer the host nation. This has engendered talks about the potential for enhancing maritime trade, promoting technological collaborations, and fortifying diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Russia.
As the Russian Pacific Fleet Squadron graces the shores of Chattogram, it symbolizes more than just a friendly visit—it’s a maritime reunion bridging decades and a testament to the enduring camaraderie between Russia and Bangladesh. The ripple effect of this visit extends far beyond the waters, inviting the world to witness the convergence of history, diplomacy, and maritime prowess on the shores of Bangladesh.