An-72 takes off from the runway at Barneo towards Longyearbyen on Norway's Svalbard archipelago. Photo courtesy of Russian Geographical Society

Barneo moves operations from Longyearbyen to Franz Josef Land

Blames the Independent Barents Observer for reporting about North Pole military drill that triggered Norwegian authorities to implement new flight rules too rigorous to follow.
April 27, 2016

“Norwegian authorities made the transportation rules much more rigorous,” the Barneo logistics operation crew writes on its Facebook page.

The text continues: “Apart from normal permission request 48 hours before the flight (what we’ve always performing punctually), they now require detailed list of passengers and cargo to be submitted 48 hours before.”

It is Norwegian aviation authorities that are in charge of how the flights- and passenger rules for Longyearbyen airport are followed.

Norway’s Foreign Ministry has not answered the question from the Barents Observer on how their dialog in this case has been with the Aviation authorities, but says regulations must be followed.

“Norwegian authorities have nothing against flights via Svalbard, as long as regulations are being followed,” says Frode Andersen, Director of Communication at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an email to the Barents Observer.

Based on an article published on April 7th about Russia’s plan to use Longyearbyen airport for bringing in military instructors to an airborne drill in the Arctic, the Barneo crew indirectly links the Barents Observer with the Norwegian authorities implementation of the stricter rules.

“Then on April 7th we got further problems from Norwegian authorities. […] The Independent Barents Observer […] found a threat to national security in our conventional activities. On these grounds the Norwegian authorities made the transportation rules much more rigorous….”, the text reads.

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Ramzan Kadyrov’s Special Forces

The Barents Observer later reported about how Chechen Special Forces, headed by Ramzan Kadyrov’s aide on law enforcement issues Daniil Martynov, used Longyearbyen airport in their preparation for “Flying Squad” combat group’s North Pole military exercise.

Martynov was at least until 2013 the Chief of FSB’s Alpha group, also known as Directorate A of the FSB Special Purpose Centre.

Before the expedition to the Arctic, the Chechen paratroopers had been trained in a special program, developed jointly with the Russian Geographical Society.

Oslo has not discussed the issue with Moscow

Explaining why Barneo moves its operations from Longyearbyen to Franz Josef Land, the Facebook update reads: “In the Arctic it is hard to predict how things will unfold on the ice. Therefore it’s just impossible to follow the new rules. In recent years, the Norwegian authorities treated our work loyally and set our North Pole flights equal to sanitary ones.”

“We reorient our logistics to the archipelago of Franz Josef Land, in restoration of which we have recently been involved.”

Frode Andersen with the Foreign Ministry in Oslo says there has been no contact between the Foreign Ministry and Russian authorities regarding this concrete question. 

Nagurskaya military airfield at 80°N.

Russia is currently upgrading its Nagurskaya airfield on Alexandra Island, the largest of the islands in the archipelago, as reported by the Barents Observer last week.

Located above 80°N, the airfield is closer to the North Pole than Longyearbyen airport.

Barneo runway on the ice at 89°N has now started to shut down, less than two weeks after it opened. Record high temperatures in the Arctic and thinner ice resulted in cracks and the runway had to be “moved” to another location.

Flying from Longyearbyen, the annual built Bareno runway has for decades been used as starting point for skiing expeditions to the North Pole.

Bad season for North Pole explorers

Summing up the season, the Explorersweb on Tuesday explains the challenges with grounded flights from Moscow to Longyearbyen and other flights further to Barneo: “It all has to do with Chechen big time show on the Pole. After that – reasonably – the Norwegians increased the scrutiny of the flights and passengers so the list of passengers have now to be submitted 48 hours ahead.” 

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