This news comes as Norway and other countries move to secure critical infrastructure in the wake of Nord Stream gas pipeline sabotage. It comes after weeks of reports of drone sightings at vast offshore oil and gas fields, as well as recent sightings 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.
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.
Store’s comments came 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.
Police Prosecutor Anya Mikkelsen Endebgur told Barents Observer. “The content of the drone is of great importance to the cause.”
Young Yakunin, who appeared 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 attorney, John Christian Elden, said in an email that his client, a British citizen, had studied, worked and had family there.
Elden did not deny that Yakunin flew a drone, but said it was illegal to do so for Russian citizens, not British citizens.
Jakunen’s arrest comes nearly a week after 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.
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.