Are they preparing a new annexation? Russia has claimed its rights to Svalbard and insists that it is “not originally Norwegian territory”

Since the beginning of February, the Russian Embassy in Norway has issued a series of statements accusing this country, the sovereignty of which extends to Svalbard , in violation of the international archipelago treaty of 1920.

One of these statements says that the archipelago  is “ not originally Norwegian territory”. At the same time, some Russian media outlets published materials about Svalbard, which talk about the claim of the Russian Empire to this archipelago, its potential military significance ( now Svalbard is a demilitarized zone – ed.) And even about the possibility of challenging the ownership of the Norwegian archipelago and seizing it, “If the sanctions war against Russia continues and she has nothing to lose.”

NV talks about the status of Svalbard and Russia’s attempts to increase its influence in this Arctic archipelago.

International treaty

Svalbard or Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, located 1300 km from the North Pole. The opening date of the archipelago and who discovered it remains a controversial issue. According to one version, the Vikings were its pioneers in the 12th century, and according to another, the archipelago discovered Pomors no later than in the 15th century. Until 1920, Svalbard was considered no man’s land.

On February 9, 1920, the Spitsbergen Treaty was signed in Paris, which still determines its international legal status.

According to this document, Norway’s sovereignty was established on Svalbard. At the same time, the contracting parties were given equal rights to exploit its natural resources and territorial waters. The archipelago was also forbidden to use for military purposes.

About 50 countries are parties to this agreement, including Norway, the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Japan, Hungary, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Italy, Sweden and others. In 1935, the USSR joined the Svalbard treatise, now the former republics of the USSR, including Ukraine, are also parties to this treaty.

The only inhabited island of the archipelago is Svalbard, which has about 3,400 inhabitants. There are two settlements on the island: Norwegian Longyearbyen and Russian Barentsburg. There are also two Russian villages where people no longer live – the Pyramid and Grumant (the name comes from the Pomeranian name Svalbard – ed.).

Since 1899, Russia and Norway have been producing coal on Svalbard. There are also several research stations on the archipelago, in addition, tourists come here.

Claims of Russia

Starting February 4, 2020, Russia formally filed a series of claims with Norway related to Svalbard.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a message to the Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Sereide, said about the centennial of the signing of the Spitsbergen treatise, he said he was “concerned” because of restrictions on the use of the Russian helicopter “directed exclusively against our citizens about the procedure for deportation from Spitsbergen” and the allegedly unlawfulness of establishing Norway’s fisheries protection zone and “artificial expansion of conservation zones to limit economic activity in the archipelago.”

Note that the deportation procedure mentioned by Lavrov refers to persons involved in the sanctions lists against Russia , the sanctions against which were introduced in connection with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbass.

Lavrov also stressed that Russia does not intend to curtail its presence on the archipelago.

“The Norwegian partners were invited to hold bilateral consultations to remove restrictions on the activities of Russian structures in the archipelago,” he said in a statement.

After that, the Russian Embassy in Norway published a comment on its Facebook page for the E24 website, which states that “ problems have accumulated in Svalbard”.

“ Russian appeals to the Norwegian side on this issue do not mean that we are questioning Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago. At the same time, Svalbard is “not originally Norwegian territory”, the archipelago was obtained by Oslo on the conditions specified in the 1920 Treaty, ”Russian diplomats said.

They argue that “the legal regime established by the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 fully extends to the continental shelf of the archipelago within the so-called” Svalbard Square “.”

According to the statement, Russia “ regards the allocation to the rounds of the distribution of licenses for the development of oil and gas resources of the continental shelf of sites located within the framework of the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 as violating Norway’s obligations under the Svalbard Treaty”.

“ And there are a lot of such practical issues. They can be solved through negotiations or ultimatums. We offer negotiations and consultations, ”summed up the Russian diplomatic mission.

About the “problems that have accumulated on Svalbard,” it is also said in a statement by the Russian Embassy in Norway, published on his Facebook page, February 12.

Svalbard in the media

The Russian Embassy in Norway on February 11 also published a link to a story about Svalbard on the Russian propaganda channel Russia 24.

The plot is called How Russia is returning to Svalbard . It refers to the claims of the Russian Empire on the archipelago before the First World War and the modern Russian settlement of Barentsburg.

In addition, an article entitled Norway appropriated Svalbard in a Russian newspaper publication . This material says that Norway is trying to strengthen its influence on the archipelago and limit the rights of “ other signatories to the 1920 Treaty” by “ extending to Svalbard the action of national continental legislation”, primarily environmental requirements.

“ In 2001, the Law on Environmental Protection was adopted on the Svalbard archipelago, which establishes, in essence, the permissive order of any economic activity, and it is generally prohibited in a significant part of the territory. There is a systematic process of creating new environmental zones. In the future, steps to tighten legislation in the field of ecology may also affect the areas in which Arktikugol operates, ”the article says.

It also mentions the “discriminatory” rules for deportation from Svalbard adopted by Norway in September 2016, which apply to persons against whom the EU imposed sanctions due to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The publication says that the Norwegian authorities are trying to ” draw NATO into the Arctic and Svalbard in particular”, although the archipelago is a demilitarized zone.

Note that in October 2019, Norwegian journalists discovered the presence of Russian special forces on the Svalbard archipelago. The Russian Embassy in Norway called this information fake, but the Russian Novaya Gazeta found evidence of the presence of armed Russians on Spitsbergen in Chechens Instagram accounts associated with the Russian Special Forces University, which is personally patronized by the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov.

And in the article of Novye Izvestia dated February 12, it will become hotter in the Arctic: Russia is going to fight for Svalbard , an advantageous military strategic position of the archipelago is noted. The article also assumes that “ if the sanctions war against Russia continues and it has nothing to lose,” it could capture Svalbard by force.

“ And although the Russian Foreign Ministry separately specified that Russia does not dispute the ownership of the archipelago, who prevents it from doing this in the future if the situation does not change? Moreover, militarily, the seizure of the archipelago is not a problem ( problems can arise with its retention, but it all depends on the general passions), and if anything, we can witness the next “nyash-mash, our Grumant!” – says this material.

(c) HB

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