Tag Archives: Russia

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.”

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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(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.

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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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.

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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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.

SOLIDIFYING THE LAND, STIRRING UP THE WATERS: Expert says Russia will boost peaceful activities in Svalbard such as tourism and research, increase military provocation at sea

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Photo of Lenin bust in Barentsburg by Wikimedia Commons

“Russia isn’t about to annex Svalbard,” but is planning a hostile takeover of sorts in the waters surrounding it, according to a polar geopolics expert.

That means in addition to boosting its archipelago activities such as tourism and research, there will be more “sabre rattling” in the form of warships sailing closer, louder diplomatic protests and other actions while remaining inside the boundaries of the Svalbard Treaty.

RUSSIA ACCUSES NORWAY OF ‘HIDDEN MILITARIZATION’ OF SVALBARD: Recent visit by Navy ship to archipelago part of provocative ongoing military development, ministry alleges

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Photo of the KNM Thor Heyerdahl docked in Longyearbyen in late October by the Norwegian Navy

Norwegian military ships visiting Svalbard are a regular, if not frequent, occurrence and legal as long as it’s for “non-war” purposes. But Russia is calling a voyage by a Navy vessel in October part of Norway’s ongoing efforts to develop military infrastructure in the archipelago in violation of the Svalbard Treaty’s intent.

Norway maintains the voyage is just business as usual – and Russia has faced plenty of accusations of illegal and/or provocative military activities in Svalbard and elsewhere in the Arctic.

MISSILES LOADED FOR BEAR: Warning issued for Russian multiple-missile test in international waters just south of Bjørnøya, in response to U.S. deploying bombers to Norway

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Russia is planning to express its “dissatisfaction” with the U.S. deploying Air Force bombers to Norway for the first time by conducting a multiple-missile test sometime during the next week with the impact area in a block of open sea just south of Bjørnøya, according to official and media reports.

The test in what’s classified as the “bear gap” by Western defense entities is scheduled between Feb. 18-24, according to a “notice to airman” warning issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

ALARM ABOUT ADVISORIES ACQUIRING AUSTRE ADVENTFJORD (AGAIN): Russia and China (still) interested in coal-rich land near Longyearbyen, attorney tells Norway (and media)

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This may sound familiar: Russian and Chinese companies are among those interesting in buying the coal mining rights to a large tract of land near Longyearbyen, an attorney representing the holder of those rights is telling Norway’s government and media.

Unsurprisingly, headlines appear nationwide Wednesday about the prospect of a major advisory gaining a potentially large economic/political foothold in Svalbard after it was first reported by NRK. But the coverage also noted the issue has surfaced repeatedly beginning in 2014 when the family-owned company that owned the land announced it planned to sell it – and how that ended up being what many called essentially a “ransom demand” to pressure Norway’s government into paying a heightened price to buy the land.

CHINA BUYING HURTIGRUTEN – LEGIT POSSIBILITY OR NOT? A columnist set off a media firestorm by declaring it a ‘realistic scenario,’ but is it just idle clickbait speculation?

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An analyst snagged national headlines Thursday by suggesting China might buy Hurtigruten in the wake of the company’s COVID-19 scandal in an effort to further the country’s goal of establishing a major presence in Svalbard. Such a presence, along with that of countries like Russia, has for years been among Norway’s top security worries – but is the columnist offering a legitimate scenario or merely clickbait?

On one hand, we’ve been here before with China and large purchases in recent years, and it ended up being it ended up being something of a joke. On the other, another author who’s a foremost expert on Svalbard and Arctic conflicts declares “Hurtigruten will be sold, sooner or later” – although he suggests Russia might be the country more ideally suited to make a Svalbard power play.

RADIOACTIVE SVALBARD: ‘Very low levels,’ possibly from Russian reactor, detected this month at stations near Longyearbyen and in Finnmark

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It’s not Chernobyl, Three Mile Island or probably even a trip to the dentist, but there’s something a bit strange in the air.

A small amount of radioactivity was detected earlier this month at monitoring stations near Longyearbyen and Kirkenes, according to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. The amount is not considered hazardous and the organization stated the source is still being determined.