Sunday, August 7, 2022

Russia accuses Norway of blocking Arctic and threatens retaliation

Moscow on Wednesday accused Norway of blocking shipments to Russians living in the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, and threatened Oslo with retaliation.

“We ask the Norwegian side to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, announcing that Norway’s chargé d’affaires in Moscow had been summoned.

“We stress that unfriendly actions against Russia can lead to retaliatory measures,” it added.

Russia claims that Norway at the Storskog land crossing blocked the supply of equipment and food that would be loaded onto a ship bound for Svalbard for Russian miners to use on the archipelago.

According to Sergei Gushkin, the Russian consul in the Arctic Islands, the shipment included 20 tons of cargo, including 7 tons of food, as well as spare parts and basic equipment to prepare for the winter.

The diplomat said Norway was preventing the shipments from applying European sanctions against Russia because of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I don’t think Norway has ever considered joining EU sanctions,” he added.

Russia is exploring alternative supply routes, including from Europe or by sea from the Russian city of Murmansk, Gushkin said.

A thousand kilometers from the North Pole and twice the size of Belgium, Svalbard is sometimes regarded as NATO’s “Arctic Achilles’ heel”.

A treaty concluded in Paris in 1920 recognized Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard, but also guaranteed that nationals of signatories – now 46 including Russia – could mine “on a basis of complete equality” natural resources there.

For decades, Russia — and the Soviet Union before it — has mined coal in these regions, which are home to fewer than 3,000 people from about 50 countries.

On Telegram, Konstantin Kossachev, vice-president of the Federal Council, accused Oslo of violating the Paris Treaty.

“Norwegian authorities are trying to ensure that Russian minors are without food, which is inherently immoral. It violates human rights and humanitarian principles,” he complained.

However, the Russian consul denied there was any risk of food shortages.

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