Norway arrests Russians for flying drones near energy infrastructure

Suspension

BRUSSELS – Norwegian officials warned Thursday of the possibility of more arrests after at least seven Russians – including the son of a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin – were arrested in recent weeks for flying drones or taking photos near sensitive areas, leading to the Investigation by the Internal Intelligence Service.

Norway and other countries are moving to secure critical infrastructure in the wake Nord Stream natural gas pipeline sabotage. Since then, drone sightings have been reported in Norway’s vast offshore oil and gas fields and at Norwegian airports.

On Wednesday, Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Store, blamed “foreign intelligence” – and indirectly pointed the finger at Russia. “It is not acceptable for foreign intelligence to fly drones over Norwegian airports. The Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway,” he said.

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Offshore oil and gas facilities are central to Norway’s economy. Since Russia launched its large-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has become an important resource for energy-hungry Europe.

The store made the comments hours after a drone was spotted near Bergen Airport, the country’s second most populous city, temporarily shutting down air traffic.

Authorities also revealed the arrest of a Russian-British dual national accused of flying a drone over Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, allegedly for violating a rule that prevents Russian citizens from flying drones in the country.

The man, Andrei Yakunin, 47, is the son of Vladimir Yakunin, the former head of Russian Railways and a close confidant of Putin. Sanctions on the Yakunin the Elder were imposed by the United States following the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea.

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Police Prosecutor Anya Mikkelsen Endebgur told Barents Observer. “The content of the drone is of great importance to the cause.”

Andrey Yakunin, featured in a Financial Times article about using his 88-foot sailing yacht To go skiing in Norway’s remote ArcticHe was asked by the court, reportedly, to consider him a British citizen.

His lawyer, John Christian Elden, said in an email that his client, a British citizen, had studied, worked and had a family in Britain.

Elden did not deny that Yakunin flew a drone, but said it was illegal to do so for Russian citizens, not British citizens.

Yakunin was arrested nearly a week later by the Norwegian police Russian man arrested To fly a drone over an airport in Tromsø in northern Norway. On Friday, authorities confiscated a “significant” amount of photographic equipment, including drones and memory cards. Police also discovered photos of the airport in Kirkenes, a Norwegian town near the Russian border, and a Norwegian military helicopter.

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A 50-year-old Russian man was arrested the same day at Norway’s border with Russia after it was found that he was carrying two drones and several electronic storage devices, according to To The Associated Press. Four more Russians were arrested days later for taking photos of areas where filming is not allowed, according to Norwegian officials.

Norwegian authorities have said there is an increased, but generally low, risk of attack on critical infrastructure, and that the purpose of the drones may be to create fear.

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