COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A 50-year-old Russian man has been detained in Arctic Norway with two drones and is suspected of flying the unmanned aerial vehicles somewhere in the country, police said Friday.
Numerous drone sightings have been reported near Norwegian offshore oil and gas platforms in recent weeks.
The Russian citizen, who was not identified, was detained on Tuesday. On Friday, the suspect who had confessed to flying a drone in Norway, was ordered held for two weeks in custody.
Customs officers found two drones and several electronic storage devices in his luggage during a routine check at the Storskog border crossing, the sole crossing point between NATO-member Norway and Russia, prosecutor Anja Mikkelsen Indbjør said in a statement. Norway’s Arctic border with Russia is 198 kilometers (123 miles) long.
He is suspected of breaching sanctions which came into force after Russia went to war against Ukraine, Mikkelsen Indbjør said. Under Norwegian law, it is prohibited for aircraft operated by Russian companies or citizens “to land on, take off from or fly over Norwegian territory.” Norway is not a member of the European Union but mirrors its moves.
The man told the Indre and Oestre Finnmark District Court that he had been in Norway since August and had flown drones throughout the country, VG said.
Mikkelsen Indbjør said the seized material which according to VG included 4 terabytes of stored images and files, with parts of them encrypted, “will be examined to see the scope and content of the flying that took place over Norwegian territory.”
The probe is “still at an early phase, and for the sake of the investigation no further information can be given about what kind of equipment has been seized or what else has happened. It is also too early to assess what will happen next in the case.”
Norwegian Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said it was “too early to draw conclusions.”
“It is known that we have an intelligence threat against us which has been reinforced by what is happening in Europe,” Enger Mehl told NRK.
There is heightened security around key energy, internet and power infrastructure following last month’s underwater explosions that ruptured two natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea that were built to deliver Russian gas to Germany.
The blasts and ruptures in the Baltic Sea happened in international waters off both Sweden and Denmark but within the countries’ exclusive economic zone. The damaged Nord Stream pipelines discharged huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the air.