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Russians step up presence on Svalbard



A new research center is to boost Russian activities in the area, government says. The satellite station on the photo is Norwegian. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
The new Russian research institute on the Arctic archipelago will house up to 100 people.
May 02, 2016

In a decree dated 4th April, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approves plans for the country’s expanded research engagement on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago. According to the document, a permanent research expedition department will be established as part of a new Russian research center, a government press release reads.

The expedition department will be permanently manned by 25 people. In parts of the year, the number of people will increase to 100. The staff will provide the center with information and methodological support, and prepare activity plans and research programs, the government commission informs.

The initiative is in line with the Svalbard Treaty and other international agreements, the document underlines.

The new research department was discussed in last week’s meeting in the Commission on Russian presence at Spitsbergen, a permanent Government body headed by First Deputy Premier Arkady Dvorkovich. On the agenda in the meeting was also issues of tourism development and the local Russian Arktikugol coal company, a press release informs.

The Russian government in September 2014 decided to establish a new research center in Svalbard. It will be located in Barentsburg, the Russian settlement in the area, and be financed by government funds.

The archipelago of Svalbard. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


1 Comment on "Russians step up presence on Svalbard"

  1. Keeping in mind the recent time Russian expansion on mainland Europe, many have believed it to be just a matter of time when the next strategic move would be announced. The possible implications and inherent complexity of this kind of “resettlement” on Svalbard, even if it may be technically within the international agreement of activities on the island, could send chills through the bones of the Norwegian government. In its darkest scenario It might mean the end to the strict demilitarization of the archipelago, and de facto establishment of a Russian military base on the island, all hidden behind elaborate legal curtains, which Russians would not blush to lie about. Add to this Putin adviser Mr Rogosin’s recent dream of modern times (Russian) tourism on the island, expressed during an accidental, not requested (!), landing on the island (ooops..) en route Moscow after inspecting the contested North Pole area. And, on top of that, a very recent brief touch down of a Russian Military transport plane in Longyearbyen with Chechen special forces onboard en route Russia after an exercises close to the North Pole, this time pre requested and allowed(!) by Norwegian Authorities. All this to be established in the almost deserted earlier Russian coal mining town Barentsburg, with perfect landings site for helicopters as well, far from the main Norwegian admin town of Longyearbyen. Begin to imagine a political scenario with rising international tension around control of the North Pole resources. Lets say an accident happens in the area involving the Russian installations. Since resources in the region ar scarce, the Russians might “volunteer” to handle the situation with- or without Norwegian assistance, and suddenly a large number of “small green men” start to appear from the cellars in the Russian settlement, and even show up in Longyearbyen, volunteering as guards, and specialists in handling the Airport facilities (to receive additional Russian airborne assistance).

    TBU (Editor)

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