Norway and Russia settle cargo dispute
Moscow and Oslo say they have settled a dispute regarding cargo shipments to Russian mining settlements on Norway’s Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, according to a statement released by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
The statement comes after a week of tension between Moscow and Oslo, after Norway halted two cargo containers destined for Russian miners living on the archipelago on June 15, citing sanctions imposed on Moscow over its conflict with Ukraine.
Russia insisted that Norway’s “unacceptable” ban on supply deliveries was depriving Russian miners of “critical” goods, including food, medical equipment, building materials, and spare parts. Moscow threatened “appropriate retaliatory measures” if the issue was not resolved.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry now claims that the containers were blocked because they were being transported on Russian vehicles, which were banned from bringing cargo over the Russian-Norwegian border. However, it noted that there would be no issue if these containers were brought to the miners using Norwegian vehicles instead.
After having a “good dialogue” with the Russian side, the ministry stated that the two containers with supplies were already on their way to Svalbard via a Norwegian ship.
Sergey Gushkin, a Russian consul based in Svalbard, also confirmed that the two countries had found a workaround to the situation and stated that the supplies were expected to reach the Russian miner settlement of Barentsburg on Friday.
Home to less than 3,000 residents, the Svalbard archipelago is located about halfway between the Arctic circle and the North Pole and belongs to Norway. One of the largest settlements on the archipelago is Barentsburg – a mining town primarily inhabited by Russian nationals.
The town relies on a single ship that ferries goods from Tromsø to the islands every 10 days. Previously, Russian supplies were brought by truck from Murmansk and loaded onto the ferry. However, Norway has held up the supplies at the Storskog border crossing with Russia.
Svalbard has been a flashpoint of diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Oslo before, when Norway tightened entry requirements following the 2015 visit of a senior Russian official under EU sanctions on account of Ukraine. Russia protested that such behavior violated the 1920 treaty that established Norwegian rule over the islands.