Robert Kvile, Oslo’s new ambassador to Moscow, was told Monday by Russia’s foreign ministry that charges against Russian citizens for flying drones in Norway are “politically motivated.”
“The indictment of Andrey Yakunin lacks a legal basis,” his lawyers said as the district court in Troms this week starts hearing the case.
The 47-year-old Russian-British citizen was detained by police in October after he and his fellow crew members on a sailing yacht flew drones while on an expedition to the northernmost part of Svalbard archipelago in the Norwegian Arctic.
Russian citizens were banned from flying drones in Norwegian airspace as part of the sanctions regime introduced shortly after Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The arrest of Yakunin made worldwide headlines as he is the son of oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, a close ally of President Putin.
“Prosecuting someone because of their nationality has never happened before in Norway. This case is not about Norway’s national security,” Yakunin’s lawyers said in a statement to the Barents Observer.
Several other Russian citizens have been detained in Norway over the last two months for piloting drones.
In Moscow, Russia’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned the Norwegian ambassador to give a clear message: “Charges against Russian citizens in Norway are politically motivated.”
“Such practice is inadmissible,” a note by the ministry said.
“This has nothing to do with the principles of fair and unbiased justice.”
The ministry called on Norwegian authorities to “refrain from such Russophobic actions by persecuting Russian citizens on the basis of nationality.”
Related stories from around the North:
Finland: No return to pre-war reality when it comes to Arctic cooperation, says Finnish rep, Eye on the Arctic
Iceland: Canada’s GG among keynote speakers at Arctic Circle Assembly, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Norway limits access for Russian fishing trawlers in security push, Reuters
Russia: Newly deployed nuke-bombers at Kola is certainly a signalling, expert says, The Independent Barents Observer
United States: China, Russia among global priorities, including in Arctic, in U.S. security strategy, Eye on the Arctic