Andrey Yakunin climbed the Kvasspiggen mountain north on Spitsbergen in August and then used a drone to photograph and scout potential routes. Photo: Private

Appeal Court okays Yakunin acquittal

"Common sense has prevailed," said Andrey Yakunin (47) after the Hålogaland Court of Appeal upheld the acquittal on Thursday. The case can be brought in for the Supreme Court.
February 02, 2023


Last December, the police appealed the case after losing against the Russian-British citizen who first was arrested and charged for flying a drone during an expedition tour at Svalbard. The police argued that Russian citizens are not allowed to fly drones in Norway, a rule followed by implementations of Norway’s sanctions regime against Russia.

“The Court of Appeal determined that the sanction regulations are not intended to affect tourists’ use of hobby drones on Norwegian soil,” says Yakunin’s defense lawyer, John Christian Elden in an email to the Barents Observer.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal found that the sanctions regulations do not imply a ban on the use of hobby drones for leisure purposes and that the Government had, in this case, exceeded the powers allocated to it by the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament).

Andrey Yakunin is a multimillionaire and the eldest son of oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, a close Putin associate and former head of Russian Railways.

The arrest made headlines around the world after the Barents Observer was the first to report about the arrest of the well-known businessman.

Yakunin himself told the Barents Observer that he and other expedition team members used the drone to scout for the best route to climb to the top of Kvasspiggen near Magdelenefjorden in the very north of Spitsbergen Island in the Norwegian Arctic. 

The businessman spent six weeks in detention in Tromsø. 


“I am delighted that respect for the rule of law in Norway and common sense has prevailed. From day one, I have argued that it is not a criminal offense for a British man to fly a hobby drone in Svalbard. I hope that the Court of Appeal’s rejection of the prosecution’s appeal will put an end to this story,” says Andrey Yakunin today.

Yakunin has double citizenship, holding both a Russian and a British passport.

The police have also lost in court several other charges against Russian citizens detained for allegedly flying drones and taking photos near strategic infrastructure in Northern Norway over the last few months.

“It is not a criminal offense for anyone to fly a hobby drone in Norway,” concludes a happy, Yakunin after the Appeal Court ruling. 

The case could still be appealed to the Norwegian Supreme Court.







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