Russian Foreign Ministry summons Norway’s Ambassador over Kirkenes incident

The Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

According to Sergei Lavrov’s men in Moscow, the adjustment of a Russian wreath at the local war monument in Kirkenes, northern Norway, is an “act of vandalism” and an expression of “russophobia.”

Norwegian Ambassador to Russia Robert Kvile was today summoned to the Stalin-era skyscraper that houses the Russian Foreign Ministry.

According to the ministry representatives, the town mayor of Kirkenes on the 25th of October encroached on a Russian diplomat’s right to hold a memorial ceremony.

“The actions of the Mayor of Sør-Varanger municipality […] is an act of vandalism, an example of russophobia, disrespect and infringement of the memory of warriors and liberators,” a press release from the Ministry reads.

“It appears that not only historical memory, but also moral integrity is lost,” the ministry continues.

The diplomatic outcry from Moscow comes after local politicians in Kirkenes repeatedly requested Russian General Consul Nikolai Konygin to refrain from a traditional flower ceremony in connection with 79th anniversary of Soviet liberation of the Norwegian border town.

Magnus Mæland is Mayor of Sør-Varanger. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Despite the warnings, Konygin and his people went to the site and put a wreath right over a wreath recently put on site by town Mayor Magnus Mæland.

The incident triggered a scandal, and Mæland soon returned to the memorial site to move the Russian wreaths next to the Norwegian one. At the same time, local Russians tried to prevent the Mayor’s action.

“I am the Mayor of Sør-Varanger and you have no right to move our official wreath! he exclaimed to one of the local pro-Kremlin activists.

“I want to stand up against the Putin regime and its memory policy, the way symbols from the Second World War are used to legitimise authoritarian rule and draw parallels between the 2WW and the war in Ukraine, something that is pure lie and propaganda,” Mæland later told the Barents Observer.

In a speech delivered later that same day, the town mayor pointed the finger against Moscow and Vladimir Putin.

Wreaths in Ukrainian colors and Russian colors side-by-side at the Liberation Memorial in Kirkenes. Few hours after the ceremony, the Russian wreaths disappeared and it is so far not known who took them. (Georgii Chentemirov/The Independent Barents Observer)

“There is a war in Europe today and the aggressor is Putin and his regime. It is Putin’s regime that has the responsibility for a war based on lies and propaganda, a war where mothers and children are killed, and civil society and civilians suffer like during the 2WW,” he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also protests against plans to invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to next year’s 80-year anniversary of the liberation, and argue that “no war efforts by any of the people of the USSR should be accentuated with regard to liberation of Northern Norway.”

”[…] We see this as a deliberate attempt to falsify history and degrade the role of the Soviet Union in the victory over Fascism,” the Ministry representatives say.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: CSIS warning Inuit leaders about covert foreign investment in Arctic, documents show, CBC News

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

Denmark: Danish policy prioritizes low-conflict Arctic amidst Russian tensions, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: China ship is focus of pipeline damage probe, Finland says, Reuters

Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Svalbard’s travails in a changing Arctic, Blog by Marc Lanteigne

Russia: Putin tells Xi: We will connect Kola Bay with Persian Gulf, The Independent Barents Observer

United Kingdom: Russia’s growing dependence on China altering dynamics in Arctic, UK committee hears, Eye on the Arctic

United States: White House releases U.S. Arctic strategy implementation plan, Eye on the Arctic

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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