OSLO – Norway is removing 15 Russian embassy personnel who, according to the foreign ministry, are intelligence officers operating under the guise of diplomatic postings, a decision that Moscow has vowed it will respond to.
According to the Norwegian government, the expulsions represent one-quarter of all Russian diplomats now accredited in Oslo.
It is the latest instance of a Western country dismissing Russian diplomats since Moscow’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine last year. Estonia, the Netherlands, and Austria have all removed Russian ambassadors this year.
In April 2022, Norway will also expel three Russians.
“Their activities pose a threat to Norway,” said Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt during a press conference.
“We have tracked their movements throughout time. They have escalated after Ukraine’s incursion.”
She emphasized that the policemen in question must leave Norway soon.
The Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would reply to the expulsions, but did not elaborate, according to state-owned news agency TASS. When contacted by Reuters, officials at Russia’s embassy in Oslo were unavailable for comment.
Norway, a NATO military alliance member, has an Arctic border with Russia.
The expulsions may hinder the process of shifting the Arctic Council chair, a global group in which Arctic states discuss issues impacting the arctic region.
The chair is presently held by Moscow, but Norway is set to take over on May 11, and Oslo has stated that it will emphasize a peaceful handover.
Huitfeldt stated that it was too early to tell whether the expulsions will have an impact on the Arctic Council transition.
According to Huitfeldt, the Nordic country still wishes to preserve normal diplomatic relations with Russia, and Russian diplomats are welcome in Norway.