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BARENTSBURG LEADER BLASTS ’FAKE NEWS’ ABOUT UKRAINE: Calls to expel Russia’s top diplomat in Norway after he supports ’special military operation’ against ’Nazi ideology’

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Russians, Ukrainians and Norwegians in Svalbard may be continuing their neighborly co-existence despite the invasion to the south, but the head of the Russian settlement of Barentsburg (and Russia’s top diplomat in Norway) is stirring up an outrage and calls for his expulsion after expressing his support for Russia’s “special military operation” and insisting Norwegian media reports are “fake news.”

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Random weirdness for the week of March 29, 2022: Yet another UFO visits Svalbard, where people and NFTs are fleeing toward to be saved from the sun and pillagers

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Read Time:4 Minute, 1 Second

UFO (hey, it’s unidentified to us) over seas of Svalbard via Google Earth

We’re not sure why it qualifies as news, even for a British tabloid, since UFOs and their occupants have a sizeable presence in Svalbard (source: internet), but a shoutout nonetheless to Edward Jones (not to be confused with the financial guru who’s high on coke) for spotting the latest invader in a Google Earth image of the seas near the coast. Of course there’s tons of naysayers saying it’s actually Jesus, Michael Jackson, Bobba Fett piloting Slave One (thus not an “unidentified” alien craft) or even a passing seagull…but in terms of getting headlines they’re not keeping up with the Jones’  version of The Truth.

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RAINBOW DISCONNECTION: Greenpeace’s (in)famous ship Esperanza is retiring after two decades, including lots of Svalbard voyages that shamed the powerful and themselves

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Read Time:6 Minute, 46 Second

Photo of Greenpeace ship Esperanza during a “seizure” of a Statoil rig near Bjørnøya courtesy of Greenpeace

They staged Svalbard’s first-known political protest by seizing the coal pier at the Svea coal mine – then got busted upon departure for having vast amounts of undeclared beer.

They shamed Norway’s government by exposing oil exploration tests in Svalbard that were hastily abandoned. But their seizure of an oil rig near Bjørnøya was laughed off by Statoil since it was dry and abandoned, and drilling had already moved further north.

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MARCHING ON HIGH: New temperature record for month as Ny-Ålesund hits 5.5C on Wednesday – 17C above normal – and 42.6mm of rain falls; Longyearbyen also gets wet thaw

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Photo by Ine-Therese Pedersen / Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Surely there are upsides to mountainsides and streets being filled with tons of flowing slush during a torrential rain. But for experts and mere mortals opining about a record heat wave hitting Svalbard on Wednesday the only optimism was about returning to typical subzero winter conditions – and even that brings its own deluge of problems.

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GAS PAINS: Fuel in Longyearbyen tops 10 kroner a liter in wake of Ukraine invasion – which is 17 kroner cheaper than on the mainland, but locals are still griping it’s too expensive

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Read Time:2 Minute, 10 Second

(Editor’s “call it karma” note: As this story was being written Svalbard Auto posted a notice on Facebook that its payment terminal is out of order, so gas cannot be purchased at all during non-business hours. The station is scheduled to be open extended hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.)

Gas is selling for an unprecedented high of 27 kroner a liter in some mainland locations and the price is expected to continue increasing due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As such, there’s grumbling among media and motorists about why gas and diesel at Longyearbyen’s only station is barely above 10 kroner a liter, given Svalbard’s remoteness and all.

As it turns out, Longyearbyen residents are also grumbling about the 10 kroner a liter gas, because it’s higher than they’re used to paying.

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WOMEN’S TIME TO SHINE: Sun returns to main part of Longyearbyen after nearly four months, thanks to persistence of ladies with lyrics, to highlight annual Solfestuka week

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Photo by Eva Grøndal

Every year on this date there’s “sun” ritual unique to Longyearbyen, even if it features chants, songs and other traditions seen in cultures for thousands of years. But on this particular year it’s the word “ritual” needing quotes around it, because it seems all those words of adoration and coaxing were necessary for an impact that was supernatural instead of just ceremonial.

The Polargospel children’s choir sang their tradition songs, emcee Vigdis Jensen performed the annually familiar “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles and just before 12:50 p.m. Tuesday the crowd of many hundreds began the usual chant that (translated in part into English) begins “Sun! Sun! Come Again!”

But after nearly four months without sunlight in the main part of Longyearbyen, still a ray was not to be seen on the cloudy southern horizon.

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UNITY FOR UKRAINIANS – AND NEARLY FOR LOCAL RUSSIANS: Svalbard residents from both countries live, work and protest invasion together; but not all agree on how to show support

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Read Time:5 Minute, 23 Second

Photo by Kristin Woxholth

Nazarii Khomych says her mother is making food for Ukrainian soldiers, her father is helping protect their city, and the threat of immediate danger is also present for other family members and friends. But she says a protest march and rally during a frigid Tuesday night in the world’s northernmost city still managed to bring warmth to them from afar.

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RUSSIAN MISSILE TEST NEAR SVALBARD, CONCERN IN AREA’S RUSSIAN/UKRAINIAN COMMUNITIES AS INVASION UNDERWAY: Residents express hopelessness; governor plans to ’carry on’

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Read Time:4 Minute, 20 Second

Photo from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov firing a test missile Saturday just east of Bjornøya from video by the Russian Defense Ministry

Among Russia’s many military maneuvers while preparing to invade Ukraine this week was testing a new hypersonic missile in waters bordering southeast Svalbard, whose residents are long-familiar with Vladimir Putin’s provocations and aggressions in trying to expand his zone of influence in the Arctic.

And similar to the rest of the world watching Russia’s rush to war in dismay, the sizeable population of Svalbard’s Russian and Ukrainian residents – many of whom have permanent homes in the Ukrainian provinces Putin is declaring “liberated” – are expressing concern mixed with a hopelessness that such feelings from afar can have any impact.

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12 SNOWMOBILERS RESCUED FROM SEA ICE NEAR MOHNBUKTA: Tour group stranded on east coast due to surface water; all unharmed after rescue by governor’s helicopter

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Photo of student researchers snowmobiling at Mohnbukta prior to this weekend by Richard Hann/UNIS

A group of 10 snowmobilers plus two Longyearbyen residents trying to help them were recused by helicopter after becoming stranded on the sea ice along the east coast of Svalbard near Mohnbukta due to large amounts of surface water, The Governor of Svalbard announced Saturday.

Officials with the governor’s office noted such areas can look deceptively safe for travel, but driving on the ice should be avoided under such conditions.

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A FUTURE-FOCUSED 10 FOR VALENTINE’S DAY: Svalbard seed vault gets 20,000+ samples, including new and rare species, from 10 countries to celebrate 14th birthday on Feb. 14

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Photo courtesy of the Global Crop Diversity Trust

As Valentine’s Day offerings go it was an eclectic bouquet, with the more than 20,000 seed samples ranging from rare Alpine-grown wheat from the 1920s to a “re-deposit” of the seeds a war-torn region needed when its crop facilities were destroyed.

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