Within a few days, the police arrested two Russians after flying drones in Norway. Photographic equipment was seized, and police said they had found, among other things, photos of Norwegian military helicopters.
Recently, a number of suspicious drone flights have been reported, including around Norwegian oil and gas facilities.
Russians are not allowed to fly in Norway, either by planes or drones. This comes from the sanctions that were imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. No-fly has been granted in the list which applies to mainland Norway, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, as well as the airspace over Norwegian maritime territory. (There is an exception for helicopters in the mining communities of Svalbard.)
But despite the ban, the Customs Directorate has no way to prevent Russians from taking drones across the border into Norway.
– It is not illegal per se for passengers to carry drones, but as a result of the sanctions regime there are restrictions on flying drones for Russian citizens, the customs agency wrote in an email to NRK, where Director of Communications Kim Gulbrandsen was presented as a source.
He did not want to be interviewed, and the communications department of the customs service did not want anyone from the specialized departments to answer NRK’s questions. But Gulbrandsen stresses that controls have been stepped up at the Storskog border station.
– Both customs and police have tightened oversight at Storskog, and there is good cooperation between customs and police at the site, according to Gulbrandsen.
You won’t stop the Russians from bringing in drones
Should Russian citizens be allowed to bring drones into Norway, even if they are not allowed to use them?
Justice Minister Emily Inger Mehl does not currently want to stop the Russians from bringing drones into Norway, but says they are regularly discussing new measures.
– We have a security situation that has changed significantly since the outbreak of the war. We cannot rule out additional sanctions, closed borders, or stronger tightening of exemptions from sanctions regulations.
You can buy drones in Norway
Finnmark’s chief of police, Eileen Catherine Heta, said the potential ban would not affect their work.
– You can buy drones everywhere. It won’t be easier if we get a ban, says Hætta.
Liberal Party Justice Committee member Ingfield W. Torsvik says the party should take a closer look at the issue. A ban on the sale of drones would be difficult, and could create a false sense of security.
The problem is not only the drones, but the cameras as well. She points out that if drones are banned, other ways can still be found to clear things worth protecting.
Professor of Security Studies at UiT-Norwegian Arctic University, Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, does not think it appropriate to deny Russian citizens the entry or purchase of drones.
– It would be very difficult to control him. Secondly, and most importantly: it does not make sense from a security point of view to antagonize all Russians in this way. Yes, we must deter those who mean us harm, but at the same time we must reassure the Russian population, both here in Norway and abroad, that we do not consider them enemies, says Gjørv.
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