Russian deputy PM busts sanctions on Svalbard

Norway on Sunday expressed anger that Russia's deputy prime minister had visited its Arctic Svalbard archipelago, even though he is banned from entering Norwegian territory as part of sanctions in response to Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict.

Russian deputy PM busts sanctions on Svalbard
Russian foreign minister Dmitry Rogozin amid others from the Russian group who travelled to Svalbard on the weekend. Photo: Twitter
"We are not too happy about it," Rune Bjastad, a spokesman for the Norwegian foreign ministry, told AFP.
Dmitry Rogozin landed in Svalbard on Saturday and promptly announced his arrival over Twitter. 
"North Pole. Our Station-2015. Anniversary of the 'Battle on the Ice' on Lake Chudskoe. But it's all quiet & as planned," wrote the Russian deputy prime minister.
Rogozin is among around 150 Russians and Ukrainians placed under an EU travel ban.
Norway is not a member of the EU but has aligned itself with the bloc's sanctions against Russia.
Although Svalbard falls under Norwegian sovereignty, access to the archipelago is governed under a separate international treaty which allows everyone access.
Because of this, Norway earlier this spring took the step of "clearly informing the Russian embassy in Oslo that people on the (blacklist) were not welcome in Svalbard," another foreign ministry spokesman, Frode Overland
Andersen, said. "It is therefore regrettable that Rogozin has been to Svalbard," he said.
"We have asked the Russian authorities for an explanation," he added.
Rogozin arrived in Svalbard on a direct flight from Russia, and left Norway on Sunday, the foreign ministry said.


Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.