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UKRAINE

EXPLAINED: How Norway could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Tensions between Russia and western nations have flared up following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Local takes a look at Norway's reaction to the crisis and how the country could be affected.

Norwegian PM Jonas Gahr Støre.
Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store delivers a statement with the European Commission president ahead of their meeting at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on February 23, 2022. Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/ POOL / AFP

What’s Norway’s relationship with Russia like in general? 

Norway’s shared border with Russia has meant that relations between the two countries can sometimes be more nuanced than other countries’ relations with Russia.

The Nordic country shares a border with Russia in what’s referred to as the High North. The country is also a member of the Barents Cooperation, a programme between Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Next year the cooperation will be 30 years old.

The aim of the programme was to establish a regional cornerstone for cooperation in northern Europe. Norway also has a bilateral fishing agreement with Russia, and the two countries also have a deal on joint search and rescue operations in the Barents Sea.

Norway also established the first-ever agreement on visa-free travel between Russia and a Schengen member state, allowing visa-free travel between Kirkenes, north Norway and the two Russian towns of Nikel and Zapolyarny.

At a government level, relations between the two nations is somewhat frostier. In 2010, the two countries were in a territorial dispute over the Barents Sea, which was later resolved.

Several espionage cases have marred ties between Norway and Russia in recent years. Hackers believed to be linked to Russia have been accused of several cyber attacks, and in 2020, a Russian diplomat was expelled on suspicion of espionage.

Russia in 2017 arrested a Norwegian national accused of espionage and in 2020 expelled a Norwegian diplomat following one of their own diplomats being dismissed from Norway over espionage suspicions.

The presence of the GLOBUS radar system in Norway and its proximity to Russian naval bases has also contributed to tensions between the two nations. 

How has Norway responded to the invasion of Ukraine? 

Norway has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“This attack is a serious violation of international law and endangers the lives of innocent people. The Russian authorities have full responsibility for throwing Europe into this very dark situation. Therefore, Russia must immediately stop its military actions and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told news wire NTB.

Norwegian embassy personnel in Ukraine have been relocated from Kyiv to Lviv, western Ukraine as a result of the invasion.

On Tuesday, Norway said it would join the EU in sanctioning Russia over Ukraine, despite not being an EU member.

Norwegian authorities in Narvik, on Wednesday night, boarded a large luxury yacht owned by a former KGB officer and friend of Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky.

The operations manager in the Nordland Police District, Mari Lillestø, told public broadcaster NRK that the boarding was a routine check due to the vessel having non-Schengen passengers on board.

Former Norwegian intelligence chief Ola Kaldager told NRK that the vessel was probably in northern Norway to observe the Cold Response military exercises unofficially.

“It is not particularly surprising. This is something the Russians have been doing for years when there have been large, allied exercises in northern Norway,” Kaldager said.

How will it affect Norway economically? 

Several markets have seen their stock markets fall since Russia launched its military attack on Ukraine. Oslo’s stock exchange has also declined, although not to the same extent as other European markets.

Overall, the market was down 1.3 percent on Thursday morning.

While Norway’s stock market has been negatively affected by the invasion, oil prices have continued to rise throughout the week.

Norway is western Europe’s largest oil and gas exporter, with its energy sector set to see increased revenues from oil and gas due to the invasion.

Additionally, Norway’s own energy supply is mostly reliant on hydroelectric power, meaning that electricity prices are unlikely to be as affected as in other countries.

Travelling to Ukraine

Since February 11th, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised against all travel to Ukraine.

The government has also urged Norwegian citizens to leave the country.

“I urge all Norwegian citizens who are still in Ukraine to leave the country. We have been in contact with those who have registered via reiseregistrering.no or in the Reiseklar app”, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement on Thursday.

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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