World / Crime & Legal

Russia summons Norway envoy over 'spy' arrest

AFP-JIJI

Moscow on Monday summoned Norway’s ambassador over the arrest in Oslo of a Russian national on suspicion of spying, and urged that country’s government to release him.

Norway’s PST intelligence service announced Sunday it had arrested a 51-year-old Russian suspected of “illegal intelligence activity.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had requested the Norwegian ambassador to provide an explanation over the “absurd charges.

The foreign ministry identified the detained citizen as M.A. Bochkaryov and said he worked as an aide at the Russian parliament’s upper house.

Moscow accused Norway of “spy mania” and promised to retaliate.

“No doubt such steps will not remain without consequences,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Russian rejected the spy claim and said it was all a “misunderstanding,” his lawyer told AFP earlier Monday.

Over the weekend, the man was ordered held in custody for two weeks.

“He says he doesn’t understand why he’s being accused of this and believes it is a misunderstanding,” his lawyer, Hege Aakre, said.

The man is suspected of spying during an inter-parliamentary seminar that gathered representatives from more than 30 countries to discuss digitization at the Storting, the Norwegian legislature.

The investigation is in “a preliminary phase,” with suspicions based on “observations and his behavior,” PST spokesman Martin Bernsen told AFP.

In April, a Norwegian was arrested in Russia on suspicion of espionage.

Held in custody pending trial, Frode Berg has admitted helping the Norwegian intelligence service by acting as a courier on several occasions, but says he didn’t know what he was delivering.

Norwegian intelligence officials regularly accuse Russia of cyberattacks and espionage, but arrests are extremely rare.