A Russian court extended the custody of retired Norwegian border inspector Frode Berg this week until April 5. It remains unclear when his trial on espionage charges will begin.
Berg, arrested in Moscow on December 5, 2017, just spent his second Christmas and New Year in prison. He’s charged with being involved in spying on Russia’s northern fleet, and was seized while on what he claims was a weekend holiday trip. Russian authorities believe he served as a courier and Berg himself has since claimed he fears he was duped into carrying documents and cash for Norway’s military intelligence unit known as E-tjenesten.
The 62-year-old Berg, who comes from Kirkenes and had long had been a champion of friendly relations between Russia and Norway in the border area, now faces a minimum six years in prison but can be sentenced to as long as 20 years. “Frode will declare himself innocent, but he has no illusions that he will be acquitted,” his defense attorney Ilja Novikov told newspaper Aftenposten.
Norwegian political and military officials have consistently refused to comment on his case, claiming only that he is receiving “consular assistance” through Norway’s embassy in Moscow. His trial, when it begins, will be conducted behind closed doors and is expected to take from two to six weeks. It’s unclear whether any negotiations are going on between Russian and Norwegian authorities regarding the case or Berg’s eventual release.