Supreme Court cancels Yakunin-case ruling, Russians not allowed to fly drones in Norway

Russian citizens are not allowed to fly drones here at Svalbard or any other places within Norwegian airspace. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

“The flight ban for Russian nationals include drone flights,” the Supreme Court says in its ruling on Friday. With the decision, the case will be sent back to the district court in Tromsø.

It was last fall, the Russian-British citizen Andrey Yakunin was arrested by police for flying a drone north on Spitsbergen at Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. The police argued that sanctions banning Russian aircraft from flying Norwegian airspace also included a ban on Russian citizens flying drones.

The case triggered worldwide headlines as Andrey Yakunin is a multimillionaire and the eldest son of oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, a close Putin associate and former head of Russian Railways.

He spent six weeks in pre-trial detention in Tromsø. Yakunin was first acquitted by the district court, a ruling that later was confirmed by the Hålogaland Court of Appeal. The police then asked the Supreme Court to consider the case. 

With its ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court decides that also other Russian citizens in the future are not allowed to fly drones in Norwegian airspace.

Yakunin himself told the Barents Observer that he and other expedition team members used the drone to scout for the best route to climb to the top of Kvasspiggen near Magdelenefjorden in the very north of Spitsbergen Island in the Norwegian Arctic. 

Today, Yakunin says to the Barents Observer he has observed how courts in Norway have been trying to determine how best to interpret the sanctions that are in place.

“The aim of the sanctions is very clear: to impair the Russian government’s ability to wage war in Ukraine. It is important to mind the spirit of the law, especially when that spirit might, to some degree, contradict the letter of the law. I am confident that the Norwegian judicial system will eventually agree with the basic message I keep on repeating: it is no offence for a Russian-British (or any other) man/woman to fly a hobby drone in Svalbard,” Andrey Yakunin says. 

He adds a hope that a new hearing in the district court in Tromsø will acquit him from the charges. 

“Sadly, it will take more time and at least one more court hearing for it to become an established legal fact – flying a hobby drone on Svalbard is not a criminal offence for a Russian-British national. Until then, I remain committed to proving my innocence in a court of law and to getting justice — over and over again if need be.”

Related stories from around the North:  

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China: Satellite imagery reveals construction progress on new Chinese Antarctic base, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: Arctic security: Denmark, Greenland, Faroe Islands forge consensus, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandTrial fence on Finland-Russia border nears completion, Lapland phase next, Yle news

Greenland: Growing focus on Arctic puts Greenland at higher risk of cyber attacks: assessment, Eye on the Arctic

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Norway: NATO scrambled to meet Russian bombers, aircraft north of carrier strike group, The Independent Barents Observer

RussiaWagner Group continues recruiting in Murmansk in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: US bombers land in northern Sweden for first time, Radio Sweden

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Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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