When Arctic nations simulated a large oil spill for a virtual training exercise in March off northern Norway, Russia also took part — a rare sign of cooperation between Moscow and the West that highlighted the special status of the polar region.

Relations between Russia and Western nations have been in the deep freeze since Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but Norway has been keen to keep some limited cooperation alive through the Arctic Council.

"We had good communication (during the oil spill exercise) with all states, including Russia, and Russia also offered assistance, and we accepted that," said Ole Kristian Bjerkemo, chair of the Arctic Council's Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response working group, which led the drill.