Norwegian military officials confirmed on Monday that they were aware that a new Russian research vessel, believed to be used for spying, was sailing northbound off the northwest coast of Norway this week. On Monday it was registered off the island of Røst, just southwest of Lofoten.
“The defense department operative headquarters has control over all ship traffic along the coast of Norway, Lt Col Ivar Moen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Monday afternoon. He wouldn’t speculate on the reason for the voyage and said the ship’s course did not vary from “normal sailing patterns of international ships” that were heading north.
TV2 was referring to the Russian-flagged vessel, called the Yantar, as a “spy ship” after the New York Times reported on its location and US intelligence fears that the vessel was charting underwater fibreoptic cables that could be sabotaged in case of conflict. The vessel allegedly is mounted with equipment that can destroy such cables and therefore cut off overseas civilian, government and military communication. The Times reported that the same vessel was observed off the east coast of the US on its way to Cuba in September. It was under surveillance of US spy sattelites, ships and aircraft.
Moen said he didn’t know whether the Russian vessel had been observed off Norway earlier. “It’s so new, so it’s not natural for it to have been in Norwegian territorial waters before,” he said.