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RUSSIA

‘Most serious situation in decades’: Norway raises military alert level

Norway will raise its military readiness, its prime minister said on Monday, stressing however that no direct threat had been detected.

Norwegian military helicopters
Recently, the Norwegian Defense Forces have increased their presence and patrols around critical infrastructure. Photo by Maria Smørholm / Forsvaret

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that the background for the security tightening was Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the security policy situation the war has led to in Europe.

“The military will as of tomorrow raise its preparedness in Norway,” Støre said. We are in the most serious security policy situation in decades.”

Støre said that whilst there was no direct threat against Norway, Russia the country, which is a member of Nato and shares a border with Russia, must be prepared.

“There are no indications that Russia will expand its warfare to other countries, but the increased tension means that we are more exposed to threats, intelligence, and influence. That makes it necessary for all Nato countries to be more vigilant, including Norway,” Støre said at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

The government strengthened readiness even before the war broke out and has since bolstered it several times.

In recent weeks, the Norwegian Defense Forces have increased their presence and patrols around critical infrastructure in the North Sea. Furthermore, the Home Guard is protecting critical infrastructure on land to assist the police.

‘No reason to believe that Russia will want to invade Norway’

The Prime Minister added that he does not think Russia will involve Norway directly in the war.

“There is no reason to expect that Russia will involve Norway directly in the war, but we must be more vigilant,” he said, adding that there are no specific incidents that have led the government to increase the preparedness level.

At the same time, Støre stressed that the threat outlook was serious. Among other things, he pointed to drone observations and the gas pipeline explosions in the Baltic Sea.

“We are doing this to ensure Norway is well prepared and able to act… Our most important task is to secure Norway and everyone who lives here. We are doing what is necessary to preserve the security of our country,” he said.

No major changes for regular people

The Prime Minister does not believe that people will experience major changes in their lives as a result of the increased preparedness.

“I don’t think people will see big changes due to this (security tightening) in their everyday lives. It revolves around our military apparatus, personnel, and how they set up their operations,” Støre told a TV 2 reporter.

“It will be visible along the coast and at the on-land facilities where there is now a Home Guard presence. You might also see the military in connection with transfers and exercises… But as I said, I don’t think this will be a very visible element in everyday life,” he concluded.

Background

Norway has already raised security around its strategic sites after mysterious drone flights were observed near its offshore oil and gas platforms and the suspected sabotage of Nord Stream’s Baltic Sea pipelines.
In recent weeks, several Russians have been arrested in Norway for illegally flying drones in its airspace or violating photo restrictions in restricted areas.

Last week, Norway’s counter-intelligence service also announced the arrest of a man suspected of being a Russian undercover agent, who according to experts could be a senior officer from the GRU military intelligence service.

Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram meanwhile said the increased military preparedness would include measures related to logistics, communications security and security at military installations.

Amid rising tensions between Russia and the West, Norway has already boosted its military budget and intelligence efforts in Northern Norway, where it shares a 198-kilometre (123-mile) border with Russia.

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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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