Russia, University of Tromso | Former spy top alert after university professors from Tromsø travel to Russia: University apologizes

Russia, University of Tromso |  Former spy top alert after university professors from Tromsø travel to Russia: University apologizes

Two professors associated with the University of Tromsø (UiT) were on a trip to Arkhangelsk in Russia at the end of June. It was Ivar Bjørklund (emeritus) and Urban Wråkberg.

The visit comes despite Norwegian universities cutting ties with their Russian partners following Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

They traveled to Russia in connection with the White June festival, which was held from June 21 to June 30. This is confirmed by UiT's vice-chancellor Jan-Kanner Winter, who says the university is taking the incident seriously.

– We consider this to be a violation of company rules and take it seriously and apologize for it, Vice Chancellor Winter tells Nordlys.

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Advised not to travel

Winter says he was notified of the trip on Friday, June 28, following his stay in Russia. Their guidelines state that it is perfectly legal for individuals to travel to Russia and that Norwegian authorities allow cooperation between researchers, but:

– We consider this participation to be very comprehensive. The vice-chancellor says that if he had asked for advice or permission, he would have received a clear advice not to travel.

A professor declined to comment on the matter to Nordlis. Another asserts that he was emeritus and that the trip was under private patronage.

A seminar attended by Norwegian representatives during the festival was sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Culture, according to the festival's website. NRK reports.

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– Good food for Russians

Says former spy chief Ola Kaldakar, who headed the Norwegian intelligence group E-14 for many years. Northern lights Such visits of Norwegian researchers are “good food for the Russians”.

– It is interesting for politicians in Russia: there are two academics from Norway. I'd say it's a “scoop” for the Russians. I assume it will be in newspapers and news in Russia, says Kalthakar.

Kalthakar says the professors may have been tapped using their phones while they were in Russia. He emphasizes that these professors are not necessarily at direct risk of disclosing material that is wrongly perceived as harmful to Norwegian interests, but that they may serve as a further link.

– They may fall into “honey traps” where they are later exposed to stress. It is clear that Norway does not have such large educational environments, and they know many people. It's clear that the Russians want to conduct that kind of personal mapping.

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Joshi Akinjide

Joshi Akinjide

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