Norwegian defense forces including some F35 fighter jets were tracking the movements this week of a Russian research vessel that military experts believe is used for espionage. A former chief of defense thinks it’s mostly part of efforts by Russian officials to spread fear in the North Sea.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the vessel, Akademik B Petrov, sailed from Murmansk through the Barents Sea and then south along the Norwegian coast. It passed within four nautical miles of the Gjøa platform, operated by Neptune Energy, then south to Trondheim and was off the coast of Bergen Wednesday night.
“It’s registered as a research vessel but it functions as a spy ship,” Ståle Ulriksen, a researcher and instructor at Norway’s naval academn (Sjøkrigsskolen), told NRK. He said it was “quite common” to observe such vessels in Norwegian waters, and that the vessel is equipped with “more antennas than normal ships,” a lot of sensor capacity and “winches that can put things in the water – equipment that makes it well-equipped to carry out assignments other than just research.”
Sverre Diesen, a former defense chief in Norway who now leads the defense research institute FFI, downplayed the presence of the Russian vessel. Diesen said on NRK’s nightly newscast Dagsrevyen that he thinks the vessel is mostly part of Russian efforts to spread fear in Norwegian waters, where security has been boosted after suspected sabotage on Russian pipelines in the Baltic Sea. Norwegian offshore installations and pipelines are also considered targets as tensions keep rising over Russia’s war on Ukraine.