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Russian man arrested for flying drone over Norwegian airport

The arrest comes amid heightened security in Norway, after drones were spotted near a gas plant in the southwest and a bomb threat was called in against a gas-processing plant in Aukra, shown here. (Gunn Aarones/AFP/Getty Images)

Norwegian police arrested a Russian man after he was caught flying a drone above an airport in northern Norway, the police said Saturday, the second such incident in the past week.

The 51-year-old man was arrested Friday morning after he was found to have flown a drone at the Tromso Airport, police said. They seized a “large” amount of photography equipment, including the drone and memory cards.

In their review of the seized equipment, police found photos of the airport in Kirkenes, a Norwegian town near the Russian border, and of a Norwegian military helicopter.

The man, who was not identified, faces charges of flying a drone in Norway, the police said. In February, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority banned Russians from flying or operating aircraft — including drones — in Norway. The law prohibits Russian-registered and Russian-operated aircraft from landing in, taking off from or flying over Norway.

The man does not live in Norway, police said, and entered the country Thursday through Storskog on Norway’s northern coast, near Russia. Police said he was heading to Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean that is part of Norway, though Russia has some rights to the natural resources in the area, and there are Russian settlements on Svalbard.

Norway is portrayed as both hero and villain in Europe’s energy crisis

The arrest comes amid heightened security concerns in Norway over the past week. Another Russian man was arrested last week after customs officers found two drones in his luggage at the border crossing in Storskog, the Associated Press reported. He said in court that he had been in Norway since August and had flown drones throughout the country.

There were numerous drone sightings last week at sensitive locations, including a gas plant near the city of Stavanger in southwestern Norway. A bomb threat, which was later found to not be credible, at a gas plant last week forced evacuations and briefly stopped operations.

Last month, the country’s oil-safety regulator urged companies to be more vigilant over drones near offshore oil and gas platforms, saying they pose a risk of accidents or “deliberate attacks,” after the majority state-owned oil and gas firm Equinor said it had notified authorities of sightings of drones near some of its platforms.

European officials have alleged that breaches of three underwater natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea were sabotage. The incidents raised concern over the security of energy infrastructure in the region, and many were quick to point fingers at Russia.

Norway is increasingly central to Europe’s energy security amid the war in Ukraine; it has taken Russia’s place as the European Union’s leading natural gas supplier.

Along its northernmost reaches, the NATO member shares a 120-mile border with Russia. The war prompted Norway’s neighbors Finland and Sweden to seek accession to the Western military alliance.

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