Saturday, May 6, 2017

Parade Interrupted

Diesel submarine Kolpino moored on Neva River (May 3, 2017)
[credit: Sergey Kharitonov]

What should have been a traditional event marking Victory Day in St. Petersburg has ended in a mystery. Every ship that had already arrived in St. Petersburg has suddenly left, and those that were on their way have reversed course.

Patrol combatant Serpukhov underway near Kronshtadt (May 5, 2017)
[credit: Aleksey Akentyev]

In previous years, residents of St. Petersburg could walk along the Neva River on Victory Day and Navy Day and see several ships and even a submarine anchored on the river or moored at quays or floating piers on both sides of the river. And that's how this year's Victory Day preparations began on May 2 with the arrival of a new diesel submarine (Kolpino) and two light frigates (Urengoy and Zelenodolsk). On May 3, they were joined by two mine warfare ships (Aleksandr Obukhov and RT-57). On May 5, three Baltiysk-based warships (Liven, Morshansk, and Serpukhov) arrived in the St. Petersburg area and were expected to take their places on the Neva River over the next few hours.

But that's when the mystery began. Minutes after arriving near Northern Shipyard, all three warships reversed course and headed to Kronshtadt. The fleet commander's launch (Burevestnik), which was moored at a Neva River quay, also left port en route to Kronshtadt.

Today, all the remaining naval ships departed St. Petersburg heading to Kronshtadt. And Liven, Morshansk, and Serpukhov, which never got the chance to moor on the Neva River, departed Kronshtadt heading back to sea, presumably to Baltiysk.

As defense officials have provided no explanation as to the sudden departure of all scheduled Victory Day participants, everyone is left scratching their heads.

Weather forecast for St. Petersburg, May 7-9

One popular theory is that the weather in the St. Petersburg will be extremely poor over the next few days. Yes, it will be rainy or overcast most of the time. And the winds will kick up to 7 meters per second (15.7 miles per hour or 13.6 knots) on May 8. But is that too high for ships to be moored on the Neva River?

Another theory is that the Baltic Fleet may be subjected to a surprise inspection in the next few days, and the ships are returning to their respective bases to prepare.

Of course, it's not a surprise if you already know about it.