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Russia arrests Norwegian citizen for espionage

December 19, 2017

Russia's FSB security services have detained a Norwegian citizen for allegedly obtaining confidential military documents. Norway's Foreign Ministry has confirmed it is providing "consular services" to the accused.

Border between Russia and Norway | The Yekaterininsky Boundary Stone
Russian guards patrol the border crossing with Norway, marked by the Yekaterininsky Boundary Stone.Image: Imago/ITAR-TASS/L. Fedoseyev

Russian said on Tuesday that it had placed a Norwegian citizen in pre-trial detention for allegedly obtaining confidential documents relating to Russia's navy.

The man charged with espionage was identified in the Russian media as Frode Berg, a retired member of the Norwegian Border Commission, a government agency tasked with overseeing the 200-kilometer (120 mile) border between the two countries.

Read more: Norway's prime minister says Russia 'has become more unpredictable'

The Norwegian was reportedly detained in a sting operation by Russia's FSB security agency. A spokesman for Moscow's Lefortovsky court said he is set to remain in detention for at least two months.

The hearing reportedly took place on December 6, meaning he would remain in custody at least until February 5.

Russian charged for 'treason'

Meanwhile, Alexei Zhitnyuk, a former Russian policeman, has been accused of handing the documents to the Norwegian and is being charged with treason.

According to Russian state media, Zhitnyuk was contacted by Norwegian intelligence while doing security work for a company contracted to deliver electrical equipment for the Russian navy.

Norway and Russia icy relationship

A spokesman for Norway's Foreign Ministry said that consular delegates had visited the detained citizen, who is receiving "legal representation" and "consular assistance in accordance with our guidelines for imprisoned citizens abroad." Norwegian officials declined to confirm the suspect's identity, citing confidentiality rules in consular cases.

Norway, a NATO member, has seen relations with Russia dramatically sour since the outbreak of the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Both countries also lay claim to regions in the Arctic, which holds some the world's richest oil reserves.

Read more: Russia submits revised Arctic claim to UN

Earlier this year, Norwegian intelligence accused a group with suspected links to Moscow of targeting the country's foreign ministry and military, among other institutions.

A new Arctic freeze with Russia?

dm/jm (Reuters, dpa, AFP)