The Russian Embassy in Norway has dismissed reports of Russian special forces in Norway, published by the news outlet AldriMer, as “fake”.
The Russian diplomatic mission suggested that the publication is “nothing but a gross provocation”.
“We consider the publication as part of the systematic work being carried out in certain circles in Norway to paint Russia in the image of the enemy”, the Russian Embassy said on its Facebook page.
The embassy also suggested that this canard may be an attempt by some forces to harvest more resources to fight the fictitious and trumped-up “Russian threat” ahead of the approval of Norway's new defence budget.
Such methods, the Russian diplomats emphasised, are not consistent with journalistic ethics.
Last week, the anti-war AldriMer (“Never Again”) media outlet, which focuses on Norway's security, reported, citing sources in Norwegian intelligence and NATO, that soldiers belonging to Russian special forces, or Spetsnaz, were allegedly spotted on the Svalbard archipelago training various sabotage missions and war scenarios.
“Russian tactical teams have carried out military operations in Svalbard, while Russian military units have also carried out special reconnaissance in mainland Norway,” an anonymous defence source told AldriMer.
Other anonymous sources from the intelligence community of Norway and other NATO countries claimed that the Russians, acting under the guise of civilians, allegedly scouted the area and studied important infrastructure.
Norway's Defence Ministry declined to comment, yet suggested that the appearance of the Russian soldiers might be linked with the military drills conducted by the Russian Navy. Between 1 and 9 August, Russia held the 2019 edition of its Ocean Shield military drills, which took place in the Baltic, the Norwegian and North Seas. The stated goal of the drills was to train inter-fleet cooperation.
According to the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, Norway has sovereignty over the archipelago, whereas its signatories, including Russia, retain the right to engage in commercial activity on its territory.