Russians use Norwegian border crossing to get in and out Europe

With Vladimir Putin's move to invade Ukraine, Russians have found it harder to travel in and out of Europe, but many have turned to the border crossing with Norway as an alternative.

Russians use Norwegian border crossing to get in and out Europe
Russians are using the border in Kirkenes to travel into Europe as a result of clsoed airspace .A general view of the Norwegian border crossing station at Storskog on November 11, 2015 near the town of Kirkenes in northern Norway. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP.

A small Norwegian town in the Arctic Circle has become a route for Russians to travel in and out of Europe, newspaper VG reports. 

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has led to European airspace being closed to Russian aircraft and most international airlines cancelling flights to and from Russia. Now, many Russians are using the border near Kirkenes to journey in and out of Europe.

Below you can see Kirkenes on the map, the black line towards the bottom right is the Russian border. 

Aleksander Kotelnikov, who runs a taxi company that shuttles people between Kirkenes on the Norwegian side of the border and Murmansk on the Russian side, has said that entry and exit via Kirkenes was one of few logical choices for those who want to travel between Russia and the West. The other routes available to Russians were via Istanbul and Dubai.

The taxi company owner added that the route via Kirkenes was most popular for people who would typically fly between Oslo and Moscow. 

“Now those who would normally fly Oslo-Moscow come here to Kirkenes, then we drive them across the border to Murmansk, and then they fly domestically to Moscow,” he told VG.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Norway’s border with Russia

Prior to the airspace ban, a flight between Moscow and Olso took 2.5 hours.

The police in Finnmark have said that there are no restrictions barring Russian nationals who have a Schengen visa, residence permit, or border permit, from travelling into Norway via Kirkenes. 

Refugees previously used the border crossing near Kirkenes to travel from Russia into Norway. The route gained national and international headlines due to Russian laws prohibiting foot crossings and Norwegian ones preventing people from driving migrants across the border. This led to refugees using bicycles to cross the border.

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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.