Russia accuses Norway of Arctic blockade and threatens reprisals

·3-min read
Russia accuses Norway of Arctic blockade and threatens reprisals

Moscow accused Norway on Wednesday of blocking the transit of goods to Russians living in the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and threatened Oslo with retaliation.

"We demanded that the Norwegian side resolve this issue as soon as possible," Russia's foreign ministry diplomacy said in a statement, announcing that the Norwegian chargé d'affaires in Moscow had been summoned.

"We stressed that unfriendly actions towards Russia lead to retaliatory measures," it added.

Russia claims that Norway blocked supplies of equipment and food at the Storskog land border crossing that were to be loaded onto a ship bound for Svalbard for Russian miners in the archipelago.

According to Sergei Gushkin, the Russian consul on the Arctic archipelago, the cargo consisted of 20 tonnes of goods, including seven tonnes of foodstuffs, spare parts and essential equipment to prepare for the winter.

Norway is blocking the goods in the application of European sanctions adopted against Russia because of its war in Ukraine, the diplomat said.

"I think Norway has not thought through joining the EU sanctions," he added.

Gushkin said Russia was exploring alternative supply routes, including from Europe or by sea from the Russian city of Murmansk.

Where is Svalbard?

Svalbard, a thousand kilometres from the North Pole, is twice the size of Belgium and is sometimes referred to as NATO's "Achilles heel in the Arctic".

A 1920 Paris treaty recognises Norway's sovereignty over Svalbard but also guarantees that 46 other signatory states — including Russia — are free to exploit the natural resources there "on a perfectly equal footing".

For decades, Russia and the former USSR has been mining coal in these territories, which are inhabited by fewer than 3,000 people of some 50 nationalities.

The deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, Konstantin Kossachev, has accused Oslo of violating the Treaty of Paris.

"The Norwegian authorities are trying to ensure that Russian minors are left without food, which is in itself amoral. This violates human rights, and the principles of humanism," he wrote on Telegram.

The Russian consul, however, denied that there was any risk of food shortages.

Norway hit by cyberattacks

On Wednesday, Norwegian authorities also reported that a cyberattack had temporarily knocked out public and private websites.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that to his knowledge the attack “has not caused any significant damage.”

The distributed-denial-of-service (DDOS) attack targeted a secure national data network, the Norwegian National Security Authority said (NSM). It forced several public and private websites to temporarily suspend their online services.

A criminal pro-Russian group seems to be behind the attacks, NSM head Sofie Nystrøm said.

She added that the attacks “give the impression that we are a piece in the current political situation in Europe.”

The incident came two days after a similar attack temporarily knocked out public and private websites in Lithuania, with a pro-Moscow hacker group reportedly claiming responsibility.

That incident after Russian officials threatened to retaliate because Lithuania restricted the transit of sanctioned goods to the exclave of Kaliningrad.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting