Norway’s police intelligence agency PST is warning “naive Norwegians” against falling into espionage traps allegedly set up by Russian counterparts with the help of vodka and prostitutes. The Russian Embassy in Oslo is calling the warnings “scandalous” and they’re clearly not helping to ease tensions between Norway and Russia.
PST nonetheless told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday that it has received reports lately from Norwegian citizens who have been pressured into delivering information to, among others, Russian authorities.
“We suspect there’s also a large number of unreported cases,” Arne Christian Haugstøyl, section chief for preventative measures at PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste), told NRK. “For some, the pressure on them may be so high that they won’t tell their employers about it when they come back.”
Asked whether Norwegians have a tendency to act stupidly when they travel abroad, Haugstøyl said “I would have to answer ‘yes,’ we are too naive when we are traveling,” especially business- and government officials and especially while traveling in Russia. Lulled by vodka or other alcoholic drinks, and with women in the picture, many men can land in what PST calls a honningfelle (literally, honey trap). Sex is used as bait for gathering sensitive information.
“The most normal is getting someone to commit an illegal act in the country where they’re visiting,” Haugstøyl told NRK. “Then they can be threatened with having charges filed against them, and be extorted in that manner.”
Both Norwegians on business trips with information that can be of interest, and Norwegian politicians have been pressured into handing over information or spying for their new handlers later. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine, many Norwegian business travelers and politicians have become more skeptical towards Russians and not as many doors are open as there once were, PST believes. That can explain the increase in extortion attempts.
“It’s a frightening development that we have to be aware of,” Haugstøyl.
Nonsense, responded Andrey Kulikov of the Russian Embassy in Oslo. He wrote in an email to NRK that PST’s claims were “scandalous and nother more than lies.”
Some Members of Parliament interviewed by NRK confirmed they have had conversations with PST. None would speak openly about it, however. PST has offered advice on how to conduct themselves in meetings with Russian politicians, diplomats and business counterparts, as espionage fears mount.