Russia denounces Norway’s ‘Spy Mania’

The Russian Embassy in Oslo criticized what it called Norway’s “spy mania” on Wednesday, a day after the Scandinavian country announced the arrest of a suspected Russian sleeper agent.

Norway’s PST counterintelligence service said on Tuesday it had arrested a supposedly “illegal” Russian agent posing as a Brazilian researcher at the University of Tromso in northern Norway.

In an email to AFP, the Russian embassy in Oslo said on Wednesday that it did not know “who or what it is”.

“In general, the spy mania has been actively promoted in Norway lately,” he said.

In addition to the alleged spy, Norway has arrested nine Russian nationals in recent weeks on charges of flying drones in its airspace in violation of a ban in place since the war in Ukraine or photographing sensitive sites in restricted areas.

Russian fishing trawlers, which are still allowed to dock in some Norwegian ports despite an EU ban, and research vessels have also drawn suspicion in Norway.

“This is all politically motivated,” the embassy said.

Norway, which has overtaken Russia as Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas since the war in Ukraine, has tightened security at strategic sites.

The move was taken after mysterious drones were seen near some oil and gas facilities following the alleged sabotage of Nord Stream’s two Baltic Sea pipelines.

According to PST, the suspect arrested on Monday is an “illegal agent”, a term used to refer to agents who live undercover in a foreign country and build a network of contacts, establish information channels and infiltrate circles that have access to sensitive information.

The PST called for his expulsion, saying that “he poses a threat to fundamental national interests”.

Sentenced to a four-week detention order, the 37-year-old suspect was researching Norwegian politics in northern Norway – which it shares a 198 kilometer border with Russia – and hybrid threats.

According to local media, he arrived at the University of Tromso in the fall of 2021 and lived alone in the Arctic city, a highly strategic region.

His lawyer told local media that the man had dismissed the allegations and was “in shock”.

Before coming to Norway, he studied at the Center for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary in Canada.

Arrests of undercover agents are rare. A sensational case is that of Anna Chapman, a Russian businesswoman living in New York arrested in 2010.

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