Western sanctions are hampering the flow of goods to Russia. For example, a gas turbine that is needed for the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline to operate at full capacity is still not being delivered from Canada to Russia. Meanwhile, Russian settlers in Spitsbergen, Norway, are waiting for goods to pass through the checkpoint at Storskog on mainland Norway – which is off-limits to those goods.
Although Norway is not part of the EU, it has nevertheless joined EU sanctions against Russia. Russia, which operates mines in Spitsbergen, accuses Norway of blocking important goods. This includes food and medical equipment for the settlers in the small town of Barentsburg, which has a total of around 400 inhabitants.
According to the Russian foreign ministry, this “unfriendly” action by Norway will result in — unspecified — retaliatory measures, the Reuters agency reported.
Russian politicians Konstantin Kosachev and Andrei Alexandrovich Klishas, both members of the Russian Federation Council, have already verbally attacked Norway.
The Norwegian newspaper The Barents Observer reported on the case. Kosachev and Klischas each commented on the dispute over the delivery of goods to Svalbard on the Telegram messenger service. Kosachev, the deputy spokesman of the Federation Wheel, accused the Norwegian authorities of “leaving the Russian miners without food”. This violates “human rights and humanity”.
Kosachev also refers to the Spitsbergen Treaty signed in Paris in 1920. Here Norway received sovereignty over the archipelago, and the Soviet Union and the successor state Russia also joined the treaty.
“The parties recognized Norway’s full and absolute sovereignty over the Spitsbergen archipelago, albeit on terms set out in the Paris Treaty itself. By doing this, Norway violates Article 3 of the Paris Treaty,” Kosachev claims in his Telegram post.
The alleged breach of the treaty justifies that Russia no longer has to recognize Norway’s sovereignty over Spitsbergen – Konstantin Kosachev does not write this explicitly, but it does indicate it. His colleague Andrei Alexandrowitsch Klischas goes one step further.
“I agree with Kosachev, but to translate from diplomatic to legal language, after Norway’s actions, that country’s sovereignty over Svalbard is highly questionable as of now,” Klischas writes on Telegram. “Our citizens of Svalbard should be provided with everything they need and their safety should be fully guaranteed.”
The Barents Observer interviewed legal scholar Øystein Jensen, professor at the Fridtjof Nansens Institute in Norway. According to Jensen, Russia cannot invoke the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 in the dispute over the delivery of goods. “The contract does not apply in Storskog and you cannot take this matter seriously [anyway].
And further: “Norwegian sovereignty is the most important point in the contract. I guess these statements [of Russian politicians] coincide with everything coming out of Russia these days.”