Frode Berg pleads to Solberg: “Do something!”
On the same day that Prime Minister Erna Solberg meets Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, the procedures in the spy case against Frode Berg in Moscow are held.
The spy-indicted Norwegian urges the Norwegian authorities to take responsibility for bringing him home when the verdict in the case against him has fallen. That happens, according to plan, on April 16th.
Via his Russian defence lawyer, Ilja Novikov, Berg had the following message to give after the trial against him in practice had ended last week:
“It is both Berg and my strong desire that the Norwegian authorities do something. It is not up to us to decide whether it should be through diplomacy at the highest level or through contact at a lower level. It’s up to them, ”Novikov informs Norwegian media.
He emphasizes that he does not know anything about the plan for the meeting in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, or whether Berg’s case is on the agenda at all. Berg’s Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, is also positive that the trial is probably over soon.
“We hope both Norwegian and Russian authorities are aware of their responsibility and help to get Frode home,” he tells NTB.
Novikov points out that a pardon from the Russian President, following a political agreement on the release of Berg, may be a possible solution:
“A foreigner has theoretically always had an opportunity to be exchanged or pardoned for political reasons,” Novikov explains, indicating that such a pardon is the only legal reason why a foreigner convicted of espionage can be released.
Experts are uncertain whether Berg’s case will be a theme in St. Petersburg.
“I expect the case to be on the agenda, but it is also possible that one use other, less visible and official, channels to reach a solution on the matter,” researcher at NUPI, Jakub Godzimirski, comments.
”Initially, one will work on this at a lower level. If Solberg mentions this, it will be raised to the highest level, so she will probably be careful regarding this, ” associate professor at the Norwegian Insitute of Defence Studies, Jardar Østbø, chips in.
The Berg case is, however, just one of many problematic issues that have been souring the Norwegian-Russian relationship in recent years.
Relations between Norway and Russia froze after Russia became involved in the warfare in eastern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.
The crisis in Ukraine is an abscess between Russia and the West that has led to several rounds of sanctions that Norway has adhered to.
“Russia’s conduct is a serious breach of international law and challenges the international order. Norway repeats the condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, and request Russia to reverse it,” State Secretary, Audun Halvorsen (Conservatives) said in March.
Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria has also put the country on a collision course with the West.
«Threat to civil aviation»
Another concern in both Norway and Finland alike is that Russia on a number of occasions over the past few years has disturbed GPS signals in Finnmark.
“The jamming is of particular concern. Most recently in connection with the Allied exercise Trident Juncture in the autumn of 2018, when several cases of GPS disruptions affecting Norwegian and allied aviation were recorded,” writes the Norwegian Intelligence service in its latest, open threat assessment:
“This represents not only a new challenge for Norwegian and allied exercise activity. Jamming is also a threat to civil aviation in peacetime.”
General Secretary of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, recently took the jamming up with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov.
During the visit to the Arctic conference in St. Petersburg, Solberg will participate in a high-level panel together with Putin and other Nordic leaders. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide (Conservatives), is also present in Russia.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today