Staunton, October 2 – Five days ago, the Norwegian internet paper AldriMer reported that a unit of Russian special services had been observed on the Spitzbergen Archipelago and were carrying their weapons, something prohibited by the agreement governing that region (aldrimer.no/russiske-spesialstyrker-pa-norsk-jord/).
Despite the fact that the portal had photographs and multiple sources, the Russian government and Russian media immediately denounced the whole thing as “fake news” and “a provocation” threatening war in Europe (norway.mid.ru/ru/embassy/press-centre/news/kommentariy_posolstva_v_svyazi_s_publikatsiey_sayta_aldrimer_no_po_povodu_yakoby_deystviy_rossiyskog/ and regnum.ru/news/polit/2737689.html).
In reporting on this in Moscow’s Novaya gazeta, Russian journalist Tatyana Britskaya says that the Norwegians are especially concerned about this both because many have watched the dystopian television series “Occupied” about a Russian occupation of Norway and because there is good evidence that Russian units have visited Spitzbergen before (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/10/02/82194-po-rabote-ezdili).
Britskaya provides a detailed summary of one such visit which involved forces from Chechnya who did little to conceal what they were doing but rather posted pictures and comments about going to the Arctic in 2016. Such violations of international law, nothing new by Putin’s Russia, are necessarily disturbing and clearly intended to keep the West off balance even if Moscow doesn’t follow them up.