No extra pressure on northern border amid chaos
There are a few Russian cars and minibusses at the Storskog checkpoint, but nothing out of normal for a Saturday, local police inform to the Barents Observer.
“We follow the situation closely, and monitor the border and pay particular attention to changes that could affect us,” assures police chief Ellen Katrine Hætta.
Summer vacation period is about to start ad quite a few of the cars entering Norway have Moscow and St. Petersburg registration plates. The road to Norway is the only one open to transit traffic for Russians holding tourist visas and are heading to southern Europe with their own cars. The Baltics, Poland and Finland all closed their borders to such traffic last year after Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine.
In May, Storskog checkpoint counted 7,207 crossings, up from 6,545 the previous month. Traffic, however, is far below pre-pandemic, pre-war levels. Norway has, as guidance, stopped issuing new tourist visas. Travelers today either have dual citizenship, hold a multiple-entry visa from before, or have visas to other Schengen countries and a plausible reason to travel via Norway.
Justice Minister Emile Enger Mehl has previously told the Barents Observer that the border can be closed “in a few hours’ notice.”
Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said to NTB Saturday that she advises all Norwegians not to travel to Russia and asks Norwegians already in the country to contact the ministry or the embassy in Moscow.
Chibis vows people to stay calm
Regional media on the Kola Peninsula pay more attention to the warm weather on Saturday than to the dramatic events in the country. Putin’s video address to the nation, where he vows not to allow Russia to slip into civil war is drawing media attention also up north.
Shortly after Putin’s speech, regional Governor Andrei Chibis released his statements in a video recording posted on Telegram. The Putin-loyal governor calls on all northernness to stay with the president. “Murmansk Oblast is with the President, Murmansk Oblast is Russia,” Chibis said.
He didn’t mention Putin, but had a portrait of Putin on the wall behind him.
The governor’s facial appearance, however, looked like a past night without sleep.
Later on Saturday, Chibis posted another reassuring message:
“In the Murmansk region, the situation is calm and controlled. Necessary measures have been taken to improve safety.”
He didn’t mention Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s ongoing armed rebellion with a word, despite the Murmansk region until Friday supported the Wagner Group with banners and recruitment help.
In Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia, local authorities on Saturday started to tear down posters in the city calling on young men to sign up with the paramilitary group.
Heightened alert in Severmorsk
Mayor of Severomorsk, Oleg Prasov, writes in a post on Vkontakte that the situation is “calm and stable” on the territory of the town.
Precautions are taken, he assures. “In order to provide additional security measures, law enforcement agencies have been transferred to an enhanced duty regime,” Prasov states.
The military Northern Fleet itself, in charge of both the Navy and land forces up north, has not issued any statements as of late Saturday afternoon.