Suspected Russian spy arrested in Norway

Norway's counter-espionage service PST said on Tuesday it had arrested a suspected Russian spy masquerading as a Brazilian academic.

Pictured is Tromsø.
Norway on Tuesday arrested a suspected Russian spy in the northern city of Tromsø. Pictured is Tromsø. Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

The suspect was detained on Monday morning as he was making his way to his job at Tromso university, in northern Norway, public broadcaster NRK said.

“We think he’s working undercover for the Russian authorities,” PST deputy director Hedvig Moe told broadcaster TV2.

“An undercover agent is someone who gathers information, most often for his or her country of origin — in this case Russia and the Russian intelligence services,” she said.

The PST, which said it had been coordinating with intelligence services from allied nations, wants the suspect expelled from Norway. In the meantime, he has been slapped with a four-week detention order.

The alleged spy worked at Tromso university on Norway’s Arctic policy and “hybrid” threats, the PST said.

The latest affair follows a rash of arrests of Russian citizens accused of flying drones over Norwegian territory in violation of a ban imposed in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Other Russians have been detained in Norway on charges of illegally photographing sensitive sites. Norway is a member of the NATO military alliance.

In the Arctic Circle, it shares a 198-kilometre (123-mile) border with Russia, which it has displaced as Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.

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Norway to deport asylum seeker 19 years after he first arrived

Norwegian authorities are to deport an asylum seeker who has lived and worked in the country for 19 years after he finally confirmed his identity and country of origin.

Norway to deport asylum seeker 19 years after he first arrived

Suel Kassembo, 35, from Burundi, faces deportation from Norway, and has lodged an appeal that will be heard by the Oslo District Court on November 23rd. 

The authorities decided to deport him after he clarified his identity years after his initial asylum application was denied. The application had been rejected as authorities were unable to verify his details at the time.

Kassembo claimed he travelled to Norway aged 16 as a stowaway aboard a ship after his family were killed in an attack on his childhood home during the civil war in Burundi in 2004.

At the time of his initial asylum application, most applications from those fleeing Burundi were granted due to the “general unsafe security situation” in the country.

The authorities doubted whether Kassembo came from Burundi as he spoke Swahili and not Kirundi, which is the dominant language in Burundi.

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) also believed he was three years older than he claimed to be.

“I come from the district of Buyenzi in what was then the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura. A small minority there speak Swahili and are Muslims like myself,” he told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

His application was eventually rejected around 2006, but he wasn’t deported because there was no documentation proving where Kassembo had arrived from. This meant there wasn’t a country the authorities could send him back to meaning he was “unreturnable”.

During this period he didn’t receive a temporary residence permit to live in Norway either.

“He has lived in Norway for 19 years as de facto and legally non-returnable. At the same time, the immigration authorities have not been able to grant him a legal residence permit,” said Kassembo’s solicitor, Malene Valkwæ Jenssen.

Despite not holding a residence permit, Kassembo has managed to hold some full-time jobs and has also undertaken volunteering work.

Earlier this year, Kassembo obtained official documentation from Burundi’s embassy in Berlin that proved his age and nationality – two factors that led to his initial asylum application being rejected.

However, after the files were submitted to Norway’s immigration authorities, he was arrested by police and sent to an immigration centre to be deported back to Burundi.

The documentation that proved he did initially originate from Burundi was key to the decision as it meant the Norwegian Immigration Directorate (UDI) had a country to deport Kassembo to.

Norway’s immigration authorities said that Kassembo had stayed in Norway illegally for 16 years and he no longer needed protection.

“He does not have a well-founded fear of persecution upon returning to Burundi,” The Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) told Oslo District Court.