Norway’s Foreign Ministry says no to Russian tourist charters to Svalbard
On September 11, CEO of Arktikugol, Ildar Neverov, told RIA Novosti about company’s plans to launch charter flights from Russia to Svalbard with tourists next spring. He said the first flight was planned for April.
He also said that the company received a so-called “sanctions exemption” for flights from Russia to Svalbard last week. Neverov claims that flights can start on September 15, but since the season in the Arctic is already ending, there is no need for a charter now.
“The company expects to start bringing tourists in from April… Tentatively, the charter will fly from Moscow or Murmansk twice a month. Such a flight will cost about 100 thousand rubles per person round-trip,” Neverov said.
The exemption is indeed there but it’s just for one flight.
If all of the above were true, it would help Arktikugol in implementing their plans to develop the tourism potential of Svalbard as the management of the company spoke about earlier. But local news outlet Svalbardposten found out that Neverov’s words do not correspond to the real state of affairs.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did review company’s application for an exemption from the sanctions and approved an exception to the flight ban. However, it’s only for one specific flight scheduled to take place on September 15. In addition, only company employees are allowed to be on the flight; no tourists should be onboard. The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet adds that the Arktikugol must provide a list of passengers along with their employment documents before departure.
Explaining its decision, Norway’s MFA said that “…by introducing sanctions, the Norwegian authorities did not intend for them to lead to a halt in Arktikugol’s mining activities in Barentsburg. The sanctions are designed to hit hard, but should not lead to undesirable consequences for the local population.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs believed it was necessary to grant the company an exemption from the flight ban to enable staff rotation and uninterrupted operation of the enterprise for “humanitarian purposes”.
According to the Norwegian authorities, if the company plans to continue to operate charter flights, it will need to apply for individual permission in each case. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that they see no reason to give permission to transporting tourists on these charters.
In June Ildar Neverov said that the first charter could be launched in the fall, and perhaps even in “…August-September.”