Norway arrests Russians for flying drones near energy infrastructure


BRUSSELS — Norwegian officials warned Thursday that at least seven Russians — including the son of a close associate of President Vladimir Putin — have been detained in recent weeks for flying drones or taking pictures near sensitive areas, More arrests are likely, prompting Norwegian authorities to launch an investigation. Domestic Intelligence Service.

Norway and other countries are taking steps to protect critical infrastructure after the Nord Stream gas pipeline was damaged. Since then, there have been drone sightings in Norway’s vast offshore oil and gas fields and Norwegian airports.

On Wednesday, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gal Stoll accused “foreign intelligence” — and indirectly Russia. “It is unacceptable for foreign intelligence agencies to fly drones over Norwegian airports. According to Norwegian broadcaster NRK, the Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway.”

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Offshore oil and gas facilities are at the heart of Norway’s economy. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has become an important supplier to energy-starved Europe.

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

Authorities also disclosed the arrest of a dual Russian-British man accused of flying a drone over the Arctic Ocean archipelago of Svalbard, allegedly violating a rule banning Russian citizens from flying drones in the country.

The man, Andrei Yakunin, 47, is the son of Vladimir Yakunin, the former president of Russian Railways and a confidant of Putin. The elder Yakunin was sanctioned by the United States following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Police prosecutor Anja Mikkelsen Indbjor told the Barents Observer that when the young Yakunin was arrested, police also seized drones and electronic equipment. “The content of the drone is very important to this case.”

Andrei Yakunin, who was featured in a FT story about skiing in Norway’s remote Arctic using his 88-foot sailboat, has reportedly asked the court to treat him as a British citizen.

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

Eldon did not deny that Yakunin flew the drone, but said it was illegal for Russian citizens, not British citizens.

Yakunin was arrested nearly a week after Norwegian police detained a Russian man flying a drone over Tromso airport in northern Norway. On Friday, authorities seized a “large amount” of photographic equipment, including drones and memory cards. Police also found photos of the airport in the Norwegian town of Kirkenes, near the Russian border, and a Norwegian military helicopter.

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A 50-year-old Russian man was detained the same day on Norway’s border with Russia after he was found carrying two drones and several electronic storage devices, the Associated Press reported. A few days later, four other Russians were detained for taking pictures in areas where photography was not allowed, according to Norwegian officials.

Norwegian authorities say the risk of attack on critical infrastructure is high, but generally low, and the drones may be designed to create fear.

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