A 37-year-old man suspected of being a Russian spy has decided not to appeal his internment pending deportation. His defense attorney claims the man is “in shock” over his arrest this week after spending a year as a guest researcher at the University of Tromsø (UiT).
“He has realized that even if he was released and could come back to Tromsø, it would be difficult to take up his work as a guest researcher at UiT,” defense attorney Thomas Hansen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said his client denies he’s a Russian spy, and maintains he’s a Brazilian citizen who came to Norway to conduct research on the far north and hybrid threats.
It remains unclear to which land Norwegian authorities will deport him, but the man “thinks he’ll travel back to where he came from,” Hansen said. “We haven’t spoken concretely about that.” He’s reportedly being held at an internment center near Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen.
Colleagues at UiT have also expressed shock over the researcher’s arrest this week, describing him to newspaper Aftenposten as a “friendly, social and down-to-earth person” who “gladly joined them for a beer after work.” He had been renting a home in Tromsø since arriving last fall with a research stipend, and has no family with him. Norway’s police intelligence agency PST describes him as an “illegalist,” who may not have any specific espionage assignments but is expected to facilitate espionage over time.
The Russian Embassy in Oslo, meanwhile, has accused Norwegian officials of “spy-mania” and claimed the embassy doesn’t know who the man is or what the case is about. In an unsigned email sent to Aftenposten, the embassy complained that “everything Russian, whether it’s public agencies, private companies or individuals, is suspect and smells of espionage” in Norway. The embassy also suggested that the arrest of the man in Tromsø was ordered by politicians.