“They have engaged in activities not compatible with their diplomatic status,” says Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt.
According to the Norwegian government, the expulsion comes as intelligence threats from Russia are reaching an unprecedented level.
“This is an important measure to counter and reduce the extent of Russian intelligence activity in Norway and thus secure our national interests,” Huitfeldt says in a comment.
The Nordic country has never before expelled such a high number of Russians with diplomatic immunity. The intelligence officers work at the embassy under diplomatic cover.
Norway will not allow Russian intelligence officers to operate in Norway under diplomatic cover, the minister underlines.
“Russia poses the biggest intelligence threat to Norway. We look at the situation with concern and now take measures to counter Russian intelligence activity in Norway.”
According to the foreign minister, the Russian intelligence officers have been closely monitored over long time.
In a press conference, Minister Huitfeldt described Russia “unpredictable neighbour.” At the same time, she underlined that Norway wants to continue normal diplomatic cooperation with Russia.
“There is no reason for Russia to react against the expulsion, because Norway has no intelligence officers under diplomatic cover in Russia,” she argued.
The foreign ministry chief believes that the expulsion will make it harder for Russia to engage in intelligence in Norway. “But the threats will not disappear,” she underlined to journalists.
Effect on consulates not yet clear
The expulsion comes on the backdrop of a deteriorated security situation. In April 2022, Norway expelled another three officers.
The move was part of a collective European expulsion of more than 300 Russian diplomats from a big number of countries. Russia subsequently expelled three Norwegian diplomats.
In addition to the embassy in Oslo, Russia has general consulates in Kirkenes, the Norwegian border town, and in Barentsburg at Svalbard. It is not yet clear whether any of the two consulates are affected by the expulsions.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Int’l arctic cooperation needs to continue despite rupture with Russia: Canada’s GG,The Canadian Press
Greenland: Growing focus on Arctic puts Greenland at higher risk of cyber attacks: assessment, Eye on the Arctic
Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Suspected Arctic spy researcher José (37) is GRU-linked Mikhail (44), The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Russian Arctic rescue exercise attended by observers from Iran and Saudi Arabia, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Swedish armed forces ready and waiting to join NATO as Finland becomes member, Radio Sweden
United States: U.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic