No queues on Saturday across the Russian-Norwegian border here at Storskog, the only land border between Russia and Schengen Europe still open for travelers holding tourist visas. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

No extra pressure on northern border amid chaos

Murmansk governor Andrei Chibis calls on northernness to stay calm as armed uprising shocks Russia’s central and southern regions. In Severomorsk, the home to the headquarters of Russia's Northern Fleet, security alert is heightened.
June 24, 2023


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.

Ellen Katrine Hætta keeps an extra eye on the border with Russia. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

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.

Andrei Chibis. Screenshot from Telegram

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. 


A Wager banner is being taken down in Petrozavodsk on Saturday. Photo from the Telegram channel Karelia and me.

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.


Severomorsk is the main base of the Northern Fleet. Photo: Thomas Nilsen




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