There was no joy for retired Norwegian border inspector Frode Berg in Moscow on Thursday, even as the city otherwise filled with enthusiastic football fans eager for the World Cup to get underway in Russia. Berg, charged with espionage shortly after arriving in Moscow himself last December, was met with more disappointment when a Moscow court turned down his appeal to be released from prison on bail.
The rejection means Berg must remain in prison at least until August, when he’ll be subject to another custody hearing. Berg’s Russian defense attorney, Ilja Novikov, told state broadcaster NRK that Berg was “having a very hard time now,” and that his mental health was declining.
Berg, 62, was arrested in Moscow while on a weekend visit from his home in Kirkenes, Northern Norway. He has since claimed he was duped into being a courier for Norway’s intelligence agency E-tjenesten.
Novikov said a new Russian investigator had been assigned to Frode Berg’s case and was demanding more cooperation from the Norwegian if he wants to be able to speak with his family on the phone. Novikov told NRK that Berg had not been allowed to speak to his wife in Kirkenes since April.
The Norwegian government and Norway’s intelligence agencies have mostly remained mum on the Berg case. His legal bills are being covered, however, and he’s receiving consular assistance through the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow. Berg is accused of receiving secret documents about Russian naval movements in the Barents Sea and he has admitted to being on assignment for Norwegian authorities. He faces 10 years in prison.