Russia threatens retaliation over Norway Arctic island goods ban
Russia has accused Norway of imposing restrictions that block goods destined for Russian-populated settlements on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, and has threatened unspecified “retaliatory measures” unless Oslo resolves the matter.
Svalbard, located midway between Norway’s north coast and the North Pole, is part of Norway, but Russia has the right to exploit the archipelago’s natural resources under a treaty signed in 1920, and some settlements on the archipelago are populated mainly by Russians.
Norway, which is not in the European Union but enforces EU sanctions against Russia, has said sanctions would not affect the transport of goods by ship to Svalbard. But much of the freight for the archipelago’s Russian settlements passes first through a checkpoint in mainland Norway, which is closed to sanctioned Russian goods.
“We demanded that the Norwegian side resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday after summoning Norway’s charge d’affaires in Moscow.
“We indicated that unfriendly actions against Russia will inevitably lead to appropriate retaliatory measures,” the ministry said.
Norway’s restrictions have disrupted the work of the Russian consulate-general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, and a Russian coal mining settlement there, the ministry said.
Vehicles carrying food and medical supplies to Spitsbergen have been stuck on the border, the ministry said.
Since invading Ukraine in February, Russia has been hit with sanctions restricting the transit of its goods through Europe.
Earlier this month, Lithuania began enforcing restrictions on some goods shipped by rail to Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad. Russia said the restrictions on goods by Lithuania amounted to a “blockade” and has promised unspecified retaliation.
Also on Wednesday, Norwegian authorities said a cyberattack likely by Russian hackers had temporarily knocked out public and private websites in Norway in the past 24 hours.
The distributed-denial-of-service (DDOS) attack targeted a secure national data network forcing the temporary suspension of online services for several hours, the Norwegian National Security Authority said.
A criminal pro-Russian group seems to be behind the attacks, NSM head Sofie Nystrom said. She added that the attacks “give the impression that we are a piece in the current political situation in Europe”.