Norwegian Authorities Arrest Suspected Russian Spy In Tromsoe, Norway
NORWAY - A suspected Russian spy was arrested on Monday by Norwegian authorities in Tromsoe, according to the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST).
The suspect was employed as a scientist at the University of Tromsoe, under the guise of being a Brazilian citizen, but the PST believes that the man is really a Russian working for one of the Russian government intelligence services.
Deputy PST chief Hedvig Moe spoke to Reuters and said that the man poses a "threat to fundamental national interests," and reportedly said that he should be expelled from Norway.
Moe told Reuters that the man is an "illegal agent". Reuters then went on to explain that an "illegal agent" is an intelligence operative who does not possess official links to a government. Someone who takes on a 'covert persona' using either another person's identity or of a person who is no longer living.
Moe reportedly told Reuters, "Typically illegal agents are talent scouts recruiting agents for later, and preparing the ground for other spies to do traditional intelligence work".
The news agency said that the man was a part of a research group working with Norwegian government agencies on "hybrid threats" tied to "Arctic Norway," according to Reuters which cited Moe.
The report said that the suspect had been in Canada previously and that the arrest was made possible by "several" international security services, but did not divulge from which countries they were.
Moe told Reuters, "It is a long-term project to have an illegal agent. It costs a lot of money. Major state actors only use them and it is known Russia has used them in the past."
Norwegian news agency VG reported that the man is suspected of violating section 121 of the Criminal Code for illegal intelligence that may harm fundamental national interests, as well as Section 126b of the Criminal Code dealing with "illegal intelligence that may damage the security interests of other states" citing the PST.
Norwegian news agency NRK was the first agency to report on the matter. Hedvig Moe told NRK (translated from Norwegian): "We have asked that a Brazilian researcher at the University of Tromsø be expelled from Norway because we believe he represents a threat to fundamental national interests."
NRK said that they had reached out to the Russian embassy, but they responded by saying that they are not aware of "who or what it is about," according to the news agency.
The Russian embassy wrote to NRK, "Generally speaking, recently spy mania has been actively promoted in Norway. Mention is made in this context of Russian fishing vessels, Russian research ships, drone flights, photography, and the like".
"It applies to completely different cases, but they have a common subject: everything Russian - whether it is public agencies, private companies or individuals - is suspicious and smells of espionage. The fact that different cases come on a continuous conveyor belt is no doubt no accident. All this is politically ordered," the Russian embassy continued to NRK in a letter.
Norwegian Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl reportedly told NRK that the PST requested that the Ministry of Justice consider revoking the residence permit and "deportation" of the man.
NRK reported that the ministry "has done that", and on the basis of the information, they have received "an advance warning has been given of the revocation of the residence permit and of deportation," citing Mehl.
The Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness had sent a notice about the suspect on October 20th, writing that he was a threat to fundamental national interests.
The news agency said that the case was treated as an immigration case and that the court decided the suspect should be detained for up to four weeks while the case is processed.
NRK said that the suspect's lawyer claims (translated) that his client "does not understand the debts [charges?]," and is "opposed to the internment", not agreeing with the basis for it.
The news agency reported that the PST decided to intervene now "because they believed they had enough information to take action now and to interrupt what they believe was an intelligence operation".
Moe was cited by NRK as saying, however, that "On the one hand, we are dependent on obtaining enough information so that we can be sure that this is an intelligence officer, and not a foreign researcher, which we want in Norwegian academia. On the other hand, we must make sure that the work done for Russian intelligence does not go too far."
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