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RUSSIA

Norway and Russia agree on Barents Sea fishing quotas

Norway and Russia have reached a deal on fishing quotas for 2023, Oslo said, a rare sign of understanding amid heightened tensions over the war in Ukraine.

Pictured is a fisherman's net
Norway and Russia have agreed on a deal for fishing in the Barents Sea. Pictured is a fisherman's net

Since 1976 — when a first deal was drawn up during the Cold War — NATO member Norway and Russia have agreed on catch quotas in the Barents Sea which is home to prized cod stocks and off the coast of both countries.

“It’s good that we have reached a fishing agreement with Russia despite the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves”, Norwegian Fisheries Minister Bjornar Skjaeran said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

In order to not endanger that agreement, which has been held up as a model of cooperation since, the Scandinavian country has strayed a little from
European sanctions imposed on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian vessels are banned from docking in European ports, but Norway has granted fishing trawlers an exception, allowing them to unload their catches in the Scandinavian country.

In early October, Oslo however restricted them to three ports and required Russian trawlers to undergo systematic inspections. In a sign of the exceptional situation, the negotiations between the two countries were conducted solely on online channels.

On Twitter, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store called the agreement “important at a challenging time with the war in Ukraine”.

“The agreement clarifies the quotas and guarantees long-term and sustainable management of stocks in the Far North. We are looking after the world’s biggest cod stocks and other species in the Barents Sea”, he wrote.

The announcement came on the same day Norwegian authorities said they had arrested a suspected Russian sleeper agent, whom counter-espionage services accused of masquerading as a Brazilian researcher.

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RUSSIA

Alleged ex-Wagner mercenary seeks asylum in Norway

A man who claims to have been a member of Russian mercenary group Wagner is seeking asylum in Norway after escaping across the border, his lawyer said Monday.

Alleged ex-Wagner mercenary seeks asylum in Norway

Twenty-six-year-old Andrei Medvedev was arrested for illegally crossing the border to Norway near the Pasvikdalen valley last week.

Police, who did not confirm his identity, said in a statement to AFP that a man was “detained by Norwegian border guards and Norwegian police at 01:58 am
(0058 GMT)” on Friday morning.

“He has applied for asylum in Norway,” said Tarjei Sirma-Tellefsen, chief of staff for the police in Finnmark.

Rights group Gulagu.net has published interviews with Medvedev, including one after his crossing into Norway, where he detailed his dramatic escape.

“When I was on the ice (at the border), I heard dogs barking, I turned around, I saw people with torches, about 150 metres (500 feet) away, running
in my direction,” he said. “I heard two shots, the bullets whizzed by,” he added.

His lawyer Brynjulf Risnes told AFP on Monday that after crossing the border Medvedev had sought out locals and asked that they call the police.

Risnes said his client was no longer in custody, but at a “safe place” while his case was being analysed, and that he was currently suspected of
“illegal entry” into Norway.

“If he gets asylum in Norway that accusation will be dropped automatically,” Risnes said.

“He has declared that he is willing to speak about his experiences in the Wagner Group to people who are investigating war crimes,” the lawyer said, adding that Medvedev alleged he had served as a unit commander for between five and ten soldiers.

According to Gulagu.net, he originally signed a four-month contract in early July 2022 and claims to have witnessed executions and reprisals against those who refused to fight and wanted to leave.

According to Risnes, Medvedev said “he experienced something completely different from what he was expecting” after joining the private mercenary
group, which has been at the forefront of key battles in Ukraine.

Wanting to leave, he said that his contract was extended without his consent.

“He understood that there was no easy way out, so that’s when he decided to just run,” Risnes said.

Upon returning to Russia, Medvedev made contact with rights groups, including Gulagu.net which advocates for prisoners in Russian detention.

AFP has not been able to independently verify Medvedev’s account. Risnes conceded that it was hard for him to judge the merits of Medvedev’s
claims, but said “the involvement of Gulagu.net and other human rights organisations in this case is comforting.”

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