December 9, 2022

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Russian Sabotage: - Believes that the government has no control

Russian Sabotage: – Believes that the government has no control

After Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the government introduced a port ban on Russian ships in early May. But one important exception was granted: fishing vessels were allowed to dock.

An exception is justified in relation to joint management of fisheries resources in the North.

It is also known that civilian Russian ships are used by Russian authorities and intelligence services. Among other things, a cable break on the link between Svalbard and the mainland is suspected to have been caused by Russian ships.

Already in August, Dagbladet Børsen wrote that experts warned Civilian vessels may be used to cut Norwegian gas pipelines.

Fear of vandalism

Although there is an exception for fishing boats, it is supported by the Conservative Party in Storting. The debate was renewed this week after gas leaks at the major pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ine Eriksen Søreide is now demanding that the government reconsider the exemption.

She fears that the exception could be used for harmful measures against Norway.

– A major challenge is that civilian Russian ships can have military capabilities, and are capable of both sabotage and espionage – against Norwegian interests. That issue has been relevant for a long time, and became especially relevant this week in what happened in the Baltic Sea.

Søreide says they criticized the fact that the government took so long to introduce a port ban.

– And then we have respected the justification for certain exceptions to the ban, particularly in relation to maritime cooperation in the North. But if we’re going to have exceptions, Sorite tells Talkblade, we need to have control over who we grant exceptions to.

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Soreide questioned whether the government had enough control over fishing vessels that went ashore in Norway.

– We have asked the government several times what restrictions are in place for ships still arriving at Norwegian ports, and we have asked the government to continue to assess whether the exemptions will stop as the situation evolves in a negative direction.

No answer found

Ine Eriksen Soreit believes there are hints of confusion within ministry offices. He believes it is unclear who is responsible.

– The challenge is that our inquiries into this have been passed between multiple ministries, indicating that the government is not fully aware of who is responsible for what. Once we get an answer, there is no answer as to what the government actually controls and how well they follow through.

Søreide says that politicians in the Storting can only rely on information they receive from the government, so it is important that they get answers.

– Extra bad

Liberal leader Guri Melby has long been an exceptionally strong opponent of the port ban. He believes the gas leaks in the Baltic Sea put it in an even worse light.

– Port blockade should be seen in light of gas sabotage, Norwegian preparedness against Russian sabotage of submarine infrastructure. Exceptions to the port ban are always poorly justified, but coupled with Russian civilian ships being allowed to explore Norwegian waters, this looks particularly bad. Especially when it has been demonstrated what drastic lengths Russia is willing to go to in order to escalate and force new dynamics in the war.

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He says it’s time to get all Russian ships out of Norway.

– The government still seems to believe that we will return to normal after this war. Norway should expel Russian fishing vessels from Norwegian ports, and address civilian vessels exploring the Norwegian continental shelf. We cannot be naive or lazy. This is the struggle for freedom and independence of Ukraine and the whole of Europe.

At the same time, Melby demands that the Conservatives and other parties in the Storting take responsibility to stop referring to what he calls a “loophole”.

– I hope that after Putin’s speech on the merger today/before the weekend, the other parties in the opposition will also accept this and close the loophole in the government. Asking the government to consider their loophole is too passive. They say they’ve done it every day since May and won’t take it off almost weekly, Melby.

The Foreign Ministry did not respond to Dagbladet’s inquiry about the matter on Friday.