Norway on edge over drone sightings, arrest of son of Putin confidante

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BRUSSELS – Norwegian authorities warned Thursday that more arrests could be made after at least seven Russians – including the son of a close ally of President Vladimir Putin – were detained over a period of weeks for flying drones or taking photos near sensitive areas, prompting an investigation. by the domestic intelligence service.

The news comes on the heels of Norway and other countries scrambling to secure critical infrastructure Sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline. It follows weeks of reports of drone sightings in its vast offshore oil and gas fields, as well as recent sightings at Norwegian airports.

On Wednesday, Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Stort, blamed foreign spies — and indirectly pointed the finger at Russia. “It is unacceptable that foreign intelligence is flying drones over Norwegian airports. Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway,” he said, according to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

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Offshore oil and gas installations are at the heart of Norway’s economy. Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has become an important supplier to energy-starved Europe.

The store’s comments came hours after a drone was spotted near an airport in Bergen, the country’s second-most populous city, temporarily shutting down air traffic.

Authorities also revealed the arrest of a dual Russian-British national accused of flying a drone over the Arctic Ocean archipelago of Svalbard, in violation of a rule barring Russian nationals from flying drones in the country.

Andrey Yakunin, 47, is the son of Vladimir Yakunin, the former chairman of Russian Railways and a Putin confidant. The elder Yakunin was sanctioned by the United States in the wake of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.

When the younger Yakunin was arrested, police also seized a drone and electronic equipment, police prosecutor Anja Mikkelsen Indbjor said. Barents Observer. “The contents of the drone are very important to the case.”

The younger Yakunin, who was once featured in a Financial Times story about using his 88-foot yacht To go skiing in Norway’s remote arcticThe court reportedly asked him to be treated as a British citizen.

His lawyer, John Christian Alden, said in an email that his client is a British citizen who studied, worked and had a family there.

Alden did not deny that Yakunin operated the drone but said doing so was illegal for Russian citizens, not British citizens.

Yakunin was arrested by Norwegian police a week later A Russian man was arrested For flying a drone over an airport in Tromsø in northern Norway. On Friday, authorities seized a “large amount” of photography equipment, including drones and memory cards. Police also found photos of an airport in Kirkenes, a Norwegian city near the Russian border, and a Norwegian military helicopter.

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A 50-year-old Russian man was detained on the same day at Norway’s border with Russia after he was found to be in possession of two drones and several electronic storage devices. Accordingly to the Associated Press. Four more Russians were detained a few days later for taking photos of an area where photography was not allowed, according to Norwegian officials.

Norwegian authorities have said there is an increased risk of attacks on critical infrastructure, but the overall threat is low and drones may be aimed at instilling fear.

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