Moscow threatens reprisals after accusing Norway of blocking transit to Svalbard

Russia's foreign ministry said Wednesday it summoned Norway's charge d'affaires, accusing Oslo of blocking access to the Svalbard archipelago and vowing retaliation.

Pictured is Svalbard.
Russia has accused Norway of blocking supplies from reaching miners on Svalbard. File photo: People arrive back from a ski tour , 2022, in Longyearbyen, located on Spitsbergen island, in Svalbard Archipelago, northern Norway. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP

The Russian foreign ministry said Norway’s restrictions disrupted the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, and a Russian coal mining settlement there.

“We demanded that the Norwegian side resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the Russian foreign ministry said. “We indicated that unfriendly actions against Russia will inevitably lead to appropriate retaliatory measures.”

Russia claims that the supply of food, medicine, building materials and spare parts for means of transport were being blocked by Norwegian authorities. 

The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian House of Lords, Konstantin Kosachev, said that Norwegian authorities have cited sanctions imposed in Russia as the reason for stopping supplies. 

Earlier this month, E24 reported that Norway had stopped a shipment of several tonnes of food to Russian miners on on Spitsbergen at Storskog border station.

Vehicles carrying food and medical supplies to Spitsbergen have been stuck on the border since, the Russian foreign ministry said.

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 has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century.

Russia insists on calling the archipelago Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard, the official name since shortly after the treaty handing them to Norway was signed in 1920.

READ ALSO: NATO’s ‘Arctic Achilles heel’ in Norway eyed up by China and Russia

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Norwegian consul filmed insulting Russians at hotel

Norway’s foreign ministry said it "deeply regretted" an incident after which security footage was shared on social media appearing to show a Norwegian consul insulting Russians at a hotel reception.

Norwegian consul filmed insulting Russians at hotel

In the video, posted on a Telegram channel reputed to be close to the Russian security services on Saturday, a woman introduced as Elisabeth Ellingsen, Norwegian consul in the Arctic city of Murmansk, appears exasperated as she waits for a clean room.

“I hate Russians… Just give me a room… I’m used to clean rooms, I’m from Scandinavia,” she says in the edited version of the footage on the Mash channel.

On Saturday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 500,000 times.

The Norwegian foreign ministry said it “deeply regretted” the incident.

“The sentiments expressed do not reflect Norwegian policy or the Norwegian attitude towards Russia and the Russian people,” it told news wire AFP, adding that the ministry was dealing with the incident “through the appropriate channels”.

According to the website of the Norwegian embassy in Moscow, the Norwegian Consulate General in Murmansk has been temporarily closed since July 1st, due to the “difficult” situation in bilateral relations.

The Norwegian foreign ministry did not specify whether the incident took place before or after the temporary closure of the consulate.

The diplomatic incident comes at a time of great tension in relations between Russia and the West over Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, which has prompted a volley of European and US sanctions against Moscow.Russia’s foreign ministry on Saturday called the incident “outrageous”.

Russian diplomatic spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Telegram: “The Russian foreign ministry is considering a reaction to this outrageous act of hatred, nationalism and xenophobia.”