Expelled Barents Observer editor is on Russian sanction list

Thomas Nilsen at work on the Russian side of the border. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Thomas Nilsen is on a Russian so-called «stop-list» of individuals denied entry to the country, the Russian Embassy in Oslo confirms. A series of reports about Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and his controversial visit to Svalbard might have been what triggered the reaction.

Two days after he was denied entry to Russia, Thomas Nilsen gets a clearer understanding of his situation.

In a press release, the Russian Embassy in Oslo confirms that the editor is on a so-called stop-list of Norwegians unwanted in Russia.

«Unfortunately, we once again have to return to the issue of sanction lists», the Embassy says.

«We want to reiterate that Russia’s creation of two «stop-lists» is a response to Norway’s joining of the European Union’s personal sanction list and, from 1 September 2016, the permanent character of the discriminative entry order of Russian citizens to Spitsbergen».

When stopped at the border-crossing point of Borisoglebsk, Nilsen was told by the FSB that he was denied entry because he posed a «threat to state security». He did not get any further explanation.

Rogozin’s visit to Svalbard

The press release from the embassy, issued in both Russian and Norwegian, could indicate that Nilsen ended up on the list following his and the Barents Observer’s articles about Dmitry Rogozin’s controversial visit to Svalbard in April 2015.

On his way to the North Pole, Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin made a stop-over in Svalbard, the Norwegian Arctic archipelago. That visit created an outcry from Norway, which has sovereign rights over the area. Rogozin is on the EU’s and Norway’s sanction list because of conflict involvement in Eastern Ukraine, and is consequently barred entry to Norwegian territory.

Norway’s travel ban on Rogozin, who is the leader of Russia’s Arctic Commission, strongly irritated Moscow. According to the country, the Svalbard Treaty grants all Russian citizens an undisputed right to visit the archipelago.

It was the Barents Observer which first reported about Rogozin’s visit to Svalbard.

Recent frictions

According to the Russian Embassy, the Norwegian MFA was on 29th November 2016 notified about the names on the latest sanction list. However, the ministry insists that it «will not be a messenger for Moscow» when it comes to Norwegian citizens denied to Russia.

In late January, it became known that also two Norwegian members of parliament are on the Russian sanction list. That put a planned Norwegian parliament visit to Moscow on hold, and added friction in relations.

A public letter from the Russian Embassy in Norway subsequently accused Norway of conducting «a selective approach for cooperation, which is not tenable» and said that the country «ignores Russian interests».

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Freeze or thaw? What Freeland’s appointment means for Russia-Canada relations in the Arctic, Radio Canada International

Denmark:  Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News

Norway: Barents Observer Editor Thomas Nilsen is declared unwanted in Russia by FSB, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Norway’s foreign minister travels to Russia to assure Arctic relations, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Norway’s selective approach for cooperation is not tenable : Russia’s Oslo Embassy, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Migrants still try to make it from Russia to Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish foreign minister to meet Russian counterpart, Radio Sweden

United States: Arctic Council – 20 years in a warming world, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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