Norway arrests Russians for flying drones near energy infrastructure


BRUSSELS — Norwegian officials warned on Thursday there could be more arrests after at least seven Russians — including the son of a close associate of President Vladimir Putin — were arrested in recent weeks for flying drones or took photos near sensitive areas, which prompted an investigation by the domestic intelligence service.

Norway and other countries are working to secure critical infrastructure following the sabotage of Nord Stream gas pipelines. Since then, drone sightings have been reported in Norway’s vast offshore oil and gas fields and at Norwegian airports.

On Wednesday, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store blamed “foreign intelligence” – and indirectly pointed the finger at Russia. “It is not acceptable for foreign intelligence services to fly drones over Norwegian airports. Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway,” he said, according to the TV channel. Norwegian NRK.

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Offshore oil and gas installations are at the heart of the Norwegian economy. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has become a key supplier to energy-starved Europe.

Store made the remarks hours after a drone was spotted near the airport in Bergen, the country’s second most populous city, temporarily halting air traffic.

Authorities also revealed the arrest of a dual Russian-British national accused of flying a drone over Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, which allegedly violated a rule prohibiting Russian citizens from flying drones. in the country.

The man, Andrey Yakunin, 47, is the son of Vladimir Yakunin, former chairman of Russian Railways and Putin’s confidant. The elder Yakunin was sanctioned by the United States following the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.

When young Yakunin was arrested, police also seized drones and electronic devices, police prosecutor Anja Mikkelsen Indbjor told the Barents Observer. “The content of the drone is of great importance to the case.”

Andrey Yakunin, who was previously featured in a Financial Times article about using his 88ft sailboat to go skiing in the Norwegian Arctic, has reportedly asked the court to consider him a British citizen.

His lawyer, John Christian Elden, said in an email that his client is a British citizen, who studied, works and has family in Britain.

Elden did not deny that Yakunin flew a drone, but said it was illegal for Russian citizens, not British citizens.

Yakunin was arrested nearly a week after Norwegian police arrested a Russian for flying a drone over an airport in Tromso, northern Norway. On Friday, authorities seized a “large” amount of photographic equipment, including the drone and memory cards. Police also discovered photos of the airport in Kirkenes, a Norwegian town near the Russian border, and of a Norwegian military helicopter.

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A 50-year-old Russian man was arrested the same day at the Norway-Russia border after he was discovered carrying two drones and several electronic storage devices, according to the Associated Press. Four other Russians were arrested days later for taking photos of areas that are not allowed to be photographed, according to Norwegian officials.

Norwegian authorities have said there is an increased, but overall low risk of attacks on critical infrastructure, and that the purpose of drones could be to spread fear.

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