Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on Norway’s response to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s visit to Svalbard archipelago
In this connection, he made two technical stopovers at the Longyear airport in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. From there, ceremony participants boarded a Russian aircraft able to land on and take off from ice floes, which flew them to the station and back. On April 18, weather conditions near the station deteriorated, and it was impossible to receive the aircraft there for some time. While on the ground, the passengers visited the Russian town of Barentsburg in Svalbard.
The use of the archipelago for reaching the North Pole 2015 station was motivated by purely logistical factors and by the requirements of aviation safety in high latitudes. This circumstance appears to be absolutely natural, and it would have been reasonable to expect the Norwegian side to react with understanding in the spirit of Arctic partnership, which Norway has, until now, always displayed.
Nevertheless, Oslo has responded negatively to the Svalbard visit by Mr Rogozin, who is included in the well-known EU sanctions list, also supported by Norway. The official representative of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry has told the media that persons covered by sanctions should not visit Svalbard and has expressed regret over Mr Rogozin’s visit there. The Norwegian side is expecting an explanation from us.
We are perplexed by this response. It is inexplicable and absurd from the standpoint of international law. Article 3 of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty allows citizens of signatory states to freely enter the archipelago. The above-mentioned unilateral sanctions do not abolish this provision of the Treaty and are, in this case, irrelevant. Therefore there are no grounds in international law for presenting any claims to the Russian side.
Moreover, Norwegian legislation was not violated either, as is admitted by the Norwegian side.
We regret Norway’s decision to join the anti-Russian EU sanctions, which spells negative consequences for Russian-Norwegian relations and, as we can see, also distorts our Norwegian neighbours’ perception of reality.
April 20, 2015