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UKRAINE

Norwegian PM urges Putin to end Ukraine invasion in phone call

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, on Thursday, had an hour-long conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and pleaded with him to end hostilities in Ukraine.

Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
Norway's PM has urged Putin to end the war in Ukraine. Pictured: Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre holds a press conference with Danish and Norwegian business leaders on potential cooperation on CO2 capture, at Amager Bakke in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 9, 2022. Photo by Olafur Steiner Gettsson/ Ritzau Scanpix / AFP)

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had an hour long conversation with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday morning, the Norwegian governemnt announced.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a brutal attack on a free country and an innocent people who are now being subjected to unimaginable suffering. I urged the president to end the hostilities in Ukraine, withdraw Russian forces and allow humanitarian access,” Støre said in a statement on the government’s website.

“I emphasised in particular that there must be unimpeded humanitarian access to the civilian population in Mariupol, and that a negotiated solution to the war must be sought,” Norway’s PM stated. 

The conversation, which lasted an hour, is the first official contact between the two leaders since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th.

Oslo said the call took place at Norway’s request after consultations with Nordic, American and European allies.

“We have no illusions about how much we can achieve, but we must leave no stone unturned in the current situation”, Store said.

The prime minister told a press conference that the exchange was “civil with clear messages from both sides” and “not necessarily the last”.

Bordering Russia, Norway generally has good relations with its eastern neighbour, although these have been strained since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In response to the war in Ukraine, Norway, which is not a member of the European Union, has adopted almost the same sanctions against Moscow as the EU.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Norwegian parliament by video conference, asking Oslo for additional arms and to increase its energy supply to Europe and Ukraine in order to reduce reliance on Russian exports.

READ MORE: Norway urged to supply EU and Ukraine with more energy by Zelensky

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RUSSIA

Norway says it hasn’t breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

Norway is not breaching a century-old treaty covering the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard by blocking Russian cargo to the islands, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday after Moscow threatened retaliatory measures.

Norway says it hasn't breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

“Norway does not violate the Svalbard Treaty,” foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt told AFP. “Norway does not try to put obstacles in the way of supplies” to a Russian coal mining settlement in the area, she said, after Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires over the issue.

Moscow accused Norway of disrupting the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago — which it insists on calling Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard – which has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century. The Svalbard Treaty handing sovereignty to Norway was signed in 1920.

Huitfeldt argued the shipment that was stopped at the Norwegian-Russian border “has been stopped on the basis of the sanctions that prohibit Russian road transport companies from transporting goods on Norwegian territory”.

Goods transport “does not have to go via mainland Norway by Russian truck”, she said, suggesting other solutions could be found to supply the mining community.

Svalbard was exempt from a ban on port calls by Russian-flagged vessels, “and we have clearly signalled our willingness to consider a dispensation from the flight ban”, the minister said.

The situation in the town of Barentsburg, home to the Russian miners, was “normal”, she said.

“Residents have access to food and medicine,” Huitfeldt said. “It is not Norwegian policy to try to force Russian companies or citizens away from Svalbard, or to put obstacles in the way of the business that takes place in accordance with Norwegian laws and regulations.

“At the same time, Norway’s necessary reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine may also have practical consequences for Russian companies on Svalbard, as in Norway in general,” Huitfeldt said.

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