Norway on alert after drone sightings near key infrastructure. Source: Euronews / AFP

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Norway on alert after drone sightings near key infrastructure

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By Euronews  with AFP  •  Updated: 20/10/2022 – 22:36

A view of the Sleipner A gas platform, Norway, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 as a Coast Guard ship patrols around the platform.

A view of the Sleipner A gas platform, Norway, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 as a Coast Guard ship patrols around the platform.   –   Copyright  Credit: AP

Norway’s domestic security agency has taken over probes into drone sightings near key infrastructure sites.

It comes amid numerous reported drone sightings near offshore oil and gas platforms and other Norwegian infrastructure in recent months.

Last month Oslo tightened security at such sites after the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

“We believe (the drone flights are) carried out in a way that makes it difficult to find out who is really behind it,” but Norwegian authorities suspect Russian involvement in operating unmanned aerial vehicles that “can be used for espionage or simply to create fear,” said Hedvig Moe, deputy chief of the Norwegian Police Security Service.

“Russia simply has more to gain and less to lose by conducting intelligence activities in Norway now compared to the situation before the war,” she said during a news conference. “It is simply because Russia is in a pressed situation as a result of the war (in Ukraine) and is isolated by sanctions.

”We are in a tense security-political situation, and at the same time a complex and unclear threat picture that can change in a relatively short time,” she said.

At least seven Russian citizens were detained over the past few weeks for flying drones or taking photographs of sensitive sites in Norway.

A 47-year-old man with dual Russian and British citizenship was jailed Wednesday for two weeks on suspicion of flying drones on Norway’s Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, NTB reported. He is accused of breaching sanctions which came into force after Russia went to war against Ukraine, Moe said, declining to elaborate.

Under Norwegian law, it is prohibited for aircraft operated by Russian companies or citizens “to land on, take off from or fly over Norwegian territory.” 

Norway is not a member of the European Union but mirrors its moves.

“It is not acceptable that foreign intelligence is flying drones over Norwegian airports. Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said, according to Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “We do not want anyone to fly this type of craft over important installations in Norway.”

Airport operator Avinor told NRK on Tuesday that 50 possible drone observations have been reported at Norway’s civilian airports so far this year, 27 of them since July.

NTB said 17 and 14 drone sightings were reported in 2021 and 2020, respectively, while the number was 44 in 2019.

The Norwegian Police Security Service, known by the acronym PST, plans to work closely with local police agencies which have conducted investigations, Moe said.

Other European nations heightened security around key energy, internet and power infrastructure following last month’s underwater explosions that ruptured two natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea that were built to deliver Russian gas to Germany.

The damaged Nord Stream pipelines off Sweden and Denmark discharged huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the air.

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