Immediately following the Defense Council meeting that morning in Moscow, KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov handed Marshal Akhromeyev a list of NWTVD senior officers and their staffs. Notes were scribbled aside each name denoting certain officer’s reliability or lack thereof. In essence, the list told Akhromeyev who the chekists were in the Northwestern Theater of Military Operations. More importantly, some of Chebrikov’s scribblings let Akhromeyev know which officers the KGB was monitoring closely. The Chairman did not, of course, reveal the reasons why certain men were being watched and Akhromeyev was seasoned enough not to inquire.
At Northwestern TVD headquarters GRU officers arrived at 0500. They took the NWTVD commander, his deputy, and twelve other officers at or above the rank of colonel into custody. Over the next ninety minutes, other groups of GRU officers fanned out across the Kola Peninsula making more arrests and dismissals at other headquarters sites and military installations. The commander of the Red Banner Northern Fleet was spared but a handful of his senior commanders and staff officers were relieved of their duties. The general in charge of the 10th Independent Red Banner Air Defence Army was not as fortunate. He was sacked, and arrested along with the commanders of its subordinate air divisions.
The dismissals and arrests massacred the NWTVD’s chain of command and left many senior slots that needed to be filled as soon as possible. The man who would be charged with assuming command of the theater was on a plane headed to the Kola as the arrests were taking place. He was Colonel General Vladimir Arkhipov and until 0300 hours he had been the commander of the Moscow Military District. His next command would be significantly larger. Marshal Akhromeyev accompanied the general on the flight north and with the help of some senior officers from the general staff worked to prepare Arkhipov for the task awaiting him.
The Il-86 Camber landed at Olenya Airbase on the Kola Peninsula. Arkhipov and his party deplaned and headed to a waiting Mi-17 helicopter that flew them to NWTVD’s wartime headquarters. Twenty minutes later, they strode into the operations center of the underground complex and the new commander of the Northwestern Theater of Military Operations went to work. As he did, Akhromeyev took some time to be fully updated on the theater situation and then departed.
After receiving briefings on the flight up, and once he was on the ground, Arkhipov was unsure about the future of operations in Finland. A blitz across the Finnish wedge had been a plausible enough idea in theory. Reality, however, proved to be another story entirely. The 54th Motor Rifle Division (MRD) was bogged down halfway across the wedge with little prospect of reaching the Finnish-Norwegian border without significant support and reinforcement. One of the first questions Arkhipov had asked after arriving at the headquarters was why the 54th MRD had not been reinforced sooner. When no satisfactory answer was given, the general gave his first orders as theater commander. The 54th MRD was to adopt a defensive posture for the next 24 hours. During that time period, Arkhipov planned to determine what the next step would be in Finland and to get it moving. Air cover would be allocated to the division, and close air support assets were to be included as well.
In Norway all ground operations were also to be halted for a 24 hour period. As was the case with Finland, Arkhipov needed the time buffer to become current on events and then determine if the ground situation was salvageable. Soviet troops in Northern Norway were ordered to adopt a temporary defensive posture. This went for all units except for those at Andoya. His predecessor had written off the naval infantry dug in at the airbase. Communication with the remaining battalion was spotty at best. Arkhipov countermanded his predecessor’s decision and had new orders communicated south. The troops at Andoya were to hold out for as long as possible. Even though they were facing imminent defeat, those men could still be of service to their comrades in other areas of the theater.