Norway on edge over drone sightings, arrests of son of Putin confidant

Norwegian officials warned Thursday that there could be more arrests after at least seven Russians — including the son of a close associate of President Vladimir Putin — were detained in recent weeks for flying drones or taking pictures near sensitive areas, prompting an investigation by the domestic intelligence service.

Norway and other countries are moving to secure critical infrastructure in the wake of the sabotage of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines. Since then, drone sightings have been reported in Norway’s vast offshore oil and gas fields and at Norwegian airports.

On Wednesday, Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Store, blamed “foreign intelligence” — and indirectly pointed a finger at Russia. “It is not acceptable that foreign intelligence is flying drones over Norwegian airports. Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway,” he said, according to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Offshore oil and gas installations are central to Norway’s economy. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has become a critical supplier to energy-starved Europe.

Store made the remarks hours after a drone was spotted near the airport in Bergen, the country’s second-most-populous city, temporarily shutting down air traffic.

The man, Andrey Yakunin, 47, is the son of Vladimir Yakunin, a former president of Russian Railways and a confidant of Putin. The elder Yakunin was sanctioned by the United States in the wake of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.

When the younger Yakunin was arrested, police also seized drones and electronic devices, police prosecutor Anja Mikkelsen Indbjor told the Barents Observer. “The content from the drone is of great importance for the case.”

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