Russia accuses Norway of Arctic blockade and threatens reprisals

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

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

“We stressed that unfriendly actions towards Russia lead to retaliatory measures,” it added.

Russia claims that Norway blocked supplies of equipment and food at the Storskog land border crossing that were to be loaded onto a ship bound for Svalbard for Russian miners in the archipelago.

According to Sergei Gushkin, the Russian consul on the Arctic archipelago, the cargo consisted of 20 tonnes of goods, including seven tonnes of foodstuffs, and spare parts and essential equipment to prepare for the winter.

Norway is blocking the goods in the application of European sanctions adopted against Russia because of its war in Ukraine, the diplomat said.

“I think Norway has not thought through joining the EU sanctions,” he added.

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

Svalbard, a thousand kilometres from the North Pole, is twice the size of Belgium and is sometimes seen as NATO’s “Achilles heel in the Arctic”.

A treaty concluded in Paris in 1920 recognises Norway’s sovereignty over Svalbard but also guarantees the nationals of the signatory states — now numbering 46 including Russia — the freedom to exploit the natural resources there “on a perfectly equal footing”.

For decades, Russia — and the USSR before it — has been mining coal in these territories, which are inhabited by fewer than 3,000 people of some 50 nationalities.

The deputy chairman of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kossachev, accused Oslo on Telegram of violating the Treaty of Paris.

“The Norwegian authorities are trying to ensure that Russian minors are left without food, which is in itself amoral. This violates human rights, and the principles of humanism,” he complained. 

The Russian consul, however, denied that there was any risk of food shortages.

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