Russian special forces operators have allegedly been seen on the Spitzbergen Archipelago on Norwegian soil. According to the local media outlets, they have crossed the borderline and partially entered the mainland of Norway in an alleged reconnaissance training mission.
The Spitzbergen Archipelago is part of the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, also known as the Spitsbergen Treaty, which grants the signatories equal access to the Spitsbergen archipelago. The only two signatories are Norway and Russia. The treaty gave Norway sovereignty over the archipelago of Svalbard, known as Spitsbergen, but allowed signatories to retain rights to commercial activities on the territory.
According to the local media outlet, AldriMer, citing sources in Norway intelligence and NATO, soldiers allegedly belonging to a Russian Special Forces unit were exploring local infrastructure while scouting the location. Further, the media outlet claims, citing sources, that US spy aircraft was carrying out aerial reconnaissance after which the US handed over images showing alleged Russian soldiers.
According to the media outlet, the Norwegian Defence Ministry declined to comment on the matter, adding that an alleged emergence of Russian forces in this area could be linked to military drills conducted by elements of the Russian Navy, which has reportedly approached Spitsbergen.
Only a day later, after the claims were revealed, both Norwegian and Russian authorities denied claims.
The rumors about Russian special forces soldiers on Svalbard and in Norway itself are not correct, the Norwegian Defence Ministry, the Armed Forces, and the Norwegian Police Security Service PST said, refuting previous reports by independent media.
“It is completely unknown to the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces that there has been Russian military activity on Norwegian soil. That includes Svalbard”, a Norwegian armed forces spokesman told the newspaper Klassekampen.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied those claims in a briefing on Thursday.
“We are shocked by some strange information activity of the Russophobic part, perhaps the lobby inside Norway, maybe the lobby outside Norway. But the results, obviously, we saw on that state’s media’s pages. These were real massive anti-Russian fake stories, they appeared recently and concerned the alleged presence of Russian special forces and the active espionage activities of Russia’s security services in Norway,” Zakharova said at a briefing.
The Russian military presence in this part of the world is related to the Russian Ocean Shield military drills in the waters of the Baltic Sea. The exercise is held from and as part of the exercise, Russian Navy boats also carried out drills in the Norwegian and North Seas. According to the reports, the aim of the exercise was to train the activities of the Navy’s inter-fleet group.