What Might Blockade of Spitsbergen Lead to?

What Might Blockade of Spitsbergen Lead to?

Photo: http://ria.ru

The Norwegian government has refused to allow cargo from Russia into the Spitsbergen archipelago, where, among others, Russian citizens live and work. There are already 20 tonnes of various cargoes, including food, as well as spare parts for ships and cars at the Storskog border crossing station.

The Russian Foreign Ministry sent a note to the Norwegian authorities in connection with the blockage of cargoes intended for Russian polar explorers on Spitsbergen. It is especially important that all cargoes are delivered on time at the moment when preparations are underway for the winter period, which begins there in September.

Archipelago Above Arctic Circle

The Svalbard archipelago consists of several islands. Svalbard, which is located in the waters of the Arctic Ocean, has several small settlements belonging to both Norway and Russia. Spitsbergen is officially under the control of Norway. However, it has a special status, which is enshrined in special international documents. Both the territory of the archipelago itself and the coastal waters are a demilitarized zone.

There is a Russian zone on the 251-square-kilometer island of West Spitsbergen, on the territory of which there are three settlements. These are the operating Barentsburg, where about 500 people live, as well as two mothballed settlements Grumant and Pyramida, where active coal mining took place during the Soviet era. Only a few dozen scientists are currently working in Piramida. As reported by Vesti.ru, not only miners and teachers, but also scientists, including many geologists, biologists, geophysicists, geographers and archaeologists live and work in Barentsburg. The city has a thermal power plant and its own port, as well as a mine where coal is mined. In addition, to provide a full-quality life there is a hospital, kindergarten, school, and even a museum on the island.

Previously, shipments to Barentsburg were delivered via a land corridor through Norway. Now, the leadership of this country, referring to the anti-Russian sanctions, has declared a blockade and does not allow the necessary cargoes for Russian citizens.

What is Paris Treaty?

The Treaty of Paris was made in 1920. However, it is better known as the Treaty of Spitsbergen and was originally signed by representatives of Norway, the United States, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Sweden. The USSR also joined it in 1935. Russia participates in this treaty as the successor state to the Soviet Union. Currently, there are 45 member countries of the Treaty on the Status of Spitsbergen. All member countries have equal rights.

Under this treaty, citizens have free access to the archipelago to conduct economic and research activities. At present, only Norway and Russia have a permanent economic presence on the archipelago. There is a dispute between Oslo and Moscow regarding the regime of the area around the archipelago. The Norwegian authorities, according to the media, often interpret the treaty in their favor, trying to regulate the activities of other participating countries.

Small Power of Governor of Spitsbergen

According to Sergey Gushchin, Russian Consul General on the archipelago, Lars Fause, the Governor of Spitsbergen, does little to help. He has no right to decide on the delivery of cargo. According to Gushchin, back on June 21, the Russian Embassy in Norway sent the Norwegian authorities a note with a request to lift the ban on transit of goods sent to Spitsbergen. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry denied the Russian request. This became known after the aired material of journalists of Norwegian broadcaster NRK, in which they referred to the commentary published by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

Sanctions are Blamed for Everything

After the introduction of the fifth package of anti-Russian sanctions, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, according to media reports, announced that the Storskog border crossing station will be closed for trucks from Russia. At the same time, as reported by the broadcaster NRK, “an exception will be made for Spitsbergen, where a special agreement applies.” In addition, according to Huitfeldt, Russian cargo ships will be banned from entering Norwegian ports but Russian fishing trawlers are allowed to enter the ports.

It should be recalled that cargo deliveries to Spitsbergen, as requested by the Arktikugol trust, have been carried out for decades. According to media reports, large consignments were sent by sea directly from Arkhangelsk or Murmansk directly to the port of Barentsburg. There was another tried-and-true route for small shipments and urgent cargoes. Containers from Murmansk were delivered to the Norwegian port city of Tromsø by trucks, and from there they were reloaded to Norwegian ferries and delivered to Spitsbergen. Now up to 20 tonnes of different cargoes are blocked here.

Politicians’ and Experts’ Opinion

Norway, by refusing to allow the food cargo to the miners on Spitsbergen, goes against international agreements and violates human rights, wrote RIA Novosti, citing Senator Konstantin Kosachev. According to Kosachev, the Norwegian authorities want to leave Russian citizens, who are in Russian settlements on Spitsbergen, without food. In fact, the refusal to let the cargo through is an immoral act, said Kosachev.

The other day, according to the Izvestia newspaper, Alexei Chepa, first deputy chairman of the Duma committee on international affairs called such actions of Norway lawlessness. In his opinion, cargo blockade on Spitsbergen will only worsen relations between Russia and Norway. Meanwhile, only on June 28, it became known that the application for permission to transport cargoes Oslo rejected as early as June 15.

According to Izvestia, Andrei Kortunov, CEO of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, also believes that this case resembles the scandal around the Kaliningrad Region, started by Lithuania, because the situation with Spitsbergen is not about supplying Russian cargoes to Norway for commercial purposes, but to ensure the livelihood of Russian settlements. Kortunov expressed hope that Brussels would give appropriate explanations and allow Norway to unblock cargoes, because no one is interested in a humanitarian disaster on the archipelago. He specified that the best option for the current situation is to perceive the problem as technical, but not political.

The opinion of Nikolay Osokin, deputy director of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a polar explorer and participant of expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica, on this matter is also of particular interest. As reported by MK.ru, he also refers to the Spitsbergen Treaty, under which this archipelago has a special status. Russia has the right to conduct economic activities on the archipelago as the legal successor of the Soviet Union. According to Osokin, the documents that refer to the EU sanctions against Russia and the ban on the transit of goods through Norway, state that this does not apply to the delivery of goods to Spitsbergen. According to Osokin, the documents say that cooperation with Russia continues, and all international obligations regarding Spitsbergen will continue to be fulfilled. He believes that the situation will be resolved soon and the ban on the transportation of goods to Russian settlements will be lifted.

According to the media, the polar explorers are provided with food at present, and there is only insufficient amount of fruits and vegetables that are necessary for people living beyond the Arctic Circle. It is also important that the household goods necessary to prepare for winter are also unblocked more quickly.

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