Norwegian state cleared of wrongdoing in Russia spy case

An Oslo court on Tuesday acquitted the Norwegian state, which had been sued by a concrete producer for financial losses due to the country's intelligence agencies' clumsy approach to recruiting informants.

Norwegian state cleared of wrongdoing in Russia spy case
Former border inspector Frode Berg appears in court as a witness for Norwegian company Olen Betong on February 5th. Photo: AFP

Olen Betong had accused the Norwegian internal (PST) and external (E-tjenesten) intelligence services of contacting two employees working in Russia's Murmansk region in 2010 to turn them into informants.

The company, which has business interests in Russia's north-west, said the intelligence services had made repeated indiscreet contact over the last decade, which was noticed by Russian government agencies.

Olen Betong claimed this led to the loss of an important contract in Russia and legal trouble for company founder Atle Berge and employee Kurt Sto.

The pair were arrested and interrogated in Murmansk before being declared persona non grata in Russia for ten years.

Olen Betong had sought 140 million Norwegian kroner (13.9million euros) in damages from the state.

Although the state admitted that contacts were made by the intelligence services, it maintained they did not act carelessly and that discussions about security were part of normal operations.

In its verdict, the court sided with the state and found that the was “no basis for liability for E-tjenesten or PST, neither objectively nor on the basis of negligence.”

Atle Berge on Tuesday said he would most probably appeal the decision.

The five-day trial featured high profile witnesses like ex-foreign minister and current Labour opposition leader Jonas Gahr Støre.

Another witness was Frode Berg, who was imprisoned in Russia but released
last year in a spy swap.

Berg was sentenced to jail for 14 years in April 2019 after admitting to acting as a courier for Norwegian intelligence.

READ ALSO: Norwegian company sues state over 'risky' spy recruitment in Russia

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Monday 

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Monday with The Local’s short roundup of important news. 

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Monday 
Oslo Operahus. Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

Norwegian government to unveil more details around Covid certificate 

On Monday, the government will issue guidelines on how exactly its Covid-19 certificate will be used domestically.

At 3pm, the government will hold a press conference where they will reveal more about how the Covid-19 certificates will work.

The certificate launched on Friday, but so far, the government have been sparing with details on how it will be used. 

READ MORE: Explained: How to access Norway’s Covid-19 certificate 

They have, however, revealed the certificate would be used for access to large events as well as tours and cruises within Norway. 

We will have all the details on how the certificate will be used covered in an article later today. 

Ministry of Defence: No signs of espionage 

There is no evidence to suggest that Danish data cables were used to actively spy on Norwegian politicians by the US, Defence Minister Frank Bakke Jensen has told parliament. 

At the end of May, Danmarks Radio reported that the US used Danish data cables to spy on politicians across Europe. 

“These are serious allegations that the government takes very seriously. Based on what we know, it does not look like there has been activity (espionage) directed at Norwegian politicians,” Jensen said in a statement. 

READ MORE: Norway summons US embassy top official over spying claims 

“Systematic espionage is completely unacceptable. We are clear to the Danish and American authorities about this. We are also in active dialogue with Danish and American authorities and services about the information regarding this matter,” he added. 

One in ten Norwegians plan summer holiday abroad 

Only ten percent of respondents to a new survey have said they plan on going on holiday abroad this summer. 

According to the survey by employer organisation, Virke, the majority, 60 percent, said that their travel plans have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fewer children are being adopted from abroad in Norway 

In 2020, 46 children were adopted from abroad in Norway, half the number of foreign adoptions compared to 2019.

According to new figures from Statistics Norway, the number of foreign children being adopted in Norway is also less than 10 percent of what it was in 1998 when 795 foreign adoptions were registered. 

A total of 243 adoptions were recorded in Norway last year, almost 100 less than the year before. 

One of the reasons fewer foreign children are being adopted is that countries that have previously released children for adoption abroad can now take care of these children themselves, according to Statistics Norway.

96 new coronavirus cases

On Sunday, 96 new cases of Covid-19 were registered in Norway, 89 fewer than the seven-day average of 185. 

Fewer cases tend to be registered on weekends and public holidays than on weekdays. 

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 0.9. This means that every ten people that are infected will, on average, only infect another nine people, indicating that the infection level is declining.

Total number of Covid-19 cases in Norway. Source: NIPH