Norwegian officials were shaking their heads after a Russian ship recently followed and even seemed to harass a Norwegian research vessel in the Arctic. The Russian ship sailed uncomfortably close to the Norwegian ship for around 18 hours.
“I think it was all very strange, and I had problems understanding their motive,” Inge André Utåker of Norway’s Institute of Marine Research (Havforskningsinstituttet) to state broadcaster NRK. He was referring to the incident in September, when the Russian vessel Yantar suddenly approached the Norwegian Polar Institute’s research vessel Kronprins Haakon in Arctic waters between Svalbard and Greenland.
The Yantar sailed up close to the Norwegian ship and seemed to block its course in video aired by NRK. Russian crew members also appeared on deck to take photos. Repeated attempts to contact the Russia ship via marine radio went unanswered. “After 18 hours they finally sailed away,” Utåker said, adding that he thinks the Russians were simply “testing our reaction.”
Ine Eriksen Søreide, a former defense- and foreign minister who now leads the Norwegian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said Norwegian ships can probably expect “more such behaviour from the Russians.” She said Russia was becoming “steadily more aggressive” and “some of their actions are clearly meant to frighten.”
Tor Ivar Strømmen, a researcher at Norway’s war college, said Russian spy ships often follow Norwegian maritime activity and nothing illegal had seemed to occur. The recent incident can be viewed as a provocation, though, or harassment during what Søreide called “a dramatically worse security situation.”