Norway Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre speaks at NATO headquarters, March 24, 2023. Image: NATO / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Norway expels 15 Russian spies working under diplomatic cover

Norway’s government on Thursday announced that it was expelling more than a dozen Russian spies whom it said had been monitored for some time and were operating in the country under diplomatic cover.

The 15 intelligence officers have been declared personae non grata and “must leave Norway shortly,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Visas will not be issued to intelligence officers seeking to come to Norway,” its statement added.

It is not known which of Russia’s intelligence agencies the spies worked for, nor what their activities were focused on.

The expulsions follow a warning from Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre last October that Russia posed “a real and serious threat” to the country’s oil and gas industry. Norway’s counterintelligence and cybersecurity agencies were “now working more closely together to defend us against digital threats,” Støre said.

His comments were made following the arrests of seven Russians in Norway in connection to incidents in which drones were flown over major energy installations, and cautioned Norwegians “must not be surprised if there are more such arrests in the future.”

Norway’s Foreign Ministry said that there was “an increasing Russian intelligence threat to Norway as a result of the deteriorating security situation,” and that it was “against this backdrop that we have decided to take this action now.”

The spies had been working at both the Russian embassy in Oslo as well as its consulates in Barentsburg and Kirkenes, according to Norwegian newspaper VG. The newspaper said the expulsions almost halve Russia's diplomatic representation in Norway from around 40 people to around 25.

Anniken Huitfeldt, the minister of foreign affairs, said the intelligence officers had been “engaging in activities that are not compatible with their diplomatic status,” although did not elaborate on what these activities were.

She added: “I would like to emphasize that Norway is seeking to maintain normal diplomatic relations with Russia, and that Russian diplomats are welcome in Norway. The action we have taken today is targeted towards reducing undesirable intelligence activities.”

Russia was described as posing “the greatest intelligence threat to Norway” said Huitfeldt, who added that the government was “now implementing measures to counter Russian intelligence activities in our country. We will not allow Russian intelligence officers to operate under diplomatic cover in Norway.”

Norway, a NATO member, had previously expelled three intelligence officers in April 2022.

A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow could provide an "appropriate response" following the expulsions, according to TASS.

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.