Expelled 'diplomats' left Norway via Kirkenes and Istanbul
The first four expelled intelligence officers flew north from Oslo to Kirkenes on Wednesday this week. Kirkenes airport is a 15-minute drive from Norway’s border to Russia in the north, and Moscow has a Consulate General in town. It takes less than three hours to drive from the border to Murmansk airport which is well-connected with the Russian capital.
Sources with knowledge to the matter said the 11 others left Oslo on Friday and flew home via Istanbul, the main hub for air travel between Europe and Russia as there are no longer any possibilities for flights directly to Moscow or St. Petersburg.
Never before have so many diplomats been expelled from Norway in one move.
It was on April 13 Norway’s Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said the 15 persons “have been engaged in activities not compatible with their diplomatic status.”
“Russia poses the biggest intelligence threat to Norway. We look at the situation with concern and now take measures to counter Russian intelligence activity in Norway,” Huitfeldt said.
Spokesperson Maria Zakharova with the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement last week the expulsion of the diplomats is “a deliberate escalation of hostility towards Russia.”
She blamed Norwegian media for initiating a “fake news campaign” targeted against Russian intelligence.
“There can be no doubt that media disinformation fed by national authorities and special services and influenced from abroad was a carefully planned action aimed at a further deterioration of relations with Russia,” Zakharova said.
The spokesperson made clear that there will come “a tough response” from the Russian side.
By Friday evening it was still unclear how Russia would respond.
Norway has an Embassy in Moscow and a Consulate General in St. Petersburg. Last summer, the Norwegian Consulate General in Murmansk closed its doors after serving bilateral relations in the north for almost 30 years.