Ex-border guard accused of spying

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A 62-year-old Norwegian who recently retired after 24 years as an inspector at the Russian-Norwegian border is reportedly being held in prison in Moscow as a suspected spy. Norwegian foreign ministry officials said they haven’t received any formal charges from their Russian counterparts and thus couldn’t comment further.

The Norwegian citizen now reportedly under arrest for spying in Moscow worked here, at the Norwegian-Russian border crossing at Storskog east of Kirkenes, for 24 years before retiring in 2014. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

“We will continue to follow his case while he’s in prison,” ministry spokesman Frode Overland Andersen told state broadcaster NRK. “Now the Russian authorities must follow up with charges.”

Andersen told NRK that legal confidentiality issues prevented him from elaborating on what has until now been a “consular case.”

The 62-year-old Norwegian, identified as Frode Berg, was arrested in Moscow two weeks ago. He had just taken and posted a photo of himself while visiting Red Square, but his family in Northern Norway hasn’t heard anything from him since.

Berg’s sister-in-law, speaking on behalf of Berg’s family, told NRK that they were “in dialogue” with the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow. “We know that they’re working hard (on Berg’s disappearance) and we have full faith that this will be resolved.”

It was later determined that Berg was arrested and Norwegian Embassy personnel have been in contact with him in prison. They’ve been allowed to assist him in line with international guidelines.

Russian media reported Tuesday morning that a court in Moscow has now ordered that Berg be held in remand custody until February 5. According to the Russian media reports, he was arrested by Russian security forces from FSB for spying after allegedly receiving secret documents.

Berg reportedly has appealed the custody order but it was unclear when that appeal may be considered.

Frode Berg worked for the border commission in Sør-Varanger, Finnmark County, for more than two decades until he retired in 2014. He was known for being a strong proponent of Norwegian-Russian cooperation. Last year he was among those protesting the Norwegian government’s decision to build a fence along portions of Norway’s far northern border to Russia, following the refugee influx over the border in 2015.

He had told friends and family in Norway that he intended to visit former border colleagues during his trip to Moscow. The Kirkenes-based Independent Barents Observer reported that after retiring three years ago, Berg has been doing volunteer work for the Red Cross and Pikene på Broen, a group of art curators who produce the local winter festival Barents Spektakel in Kirkenes.

NRK reported that Berg allegedly received classified information about the Russian Navy from a former Russian police officer who was arrested on treason charges earlier this month. He’s also reportedly been ordered held in custody while Russia’s FSB investigates his alleged ties to the US’ CIA.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund