Two weeks ago Norway did the same, after discovering a ‘spy case’ involving a Norwegian citizen and a Russian diplomat. Last week I wondered whether it was possible that Russia would not react to the expulsion. Russia’s response came in the symbolic gesture of doing the same. It’s the senior diplomat Jan Flæte, counsellor at the Norwegian embassy in Moscow, that was asked to leave the country in the next 72 hours, by order of the Russian Foreign Ministry. However, according to the Barents Observer, this expulsion is seen by Norway as an escalation, because the Norwegian diplomat had a higher diplomatic rank than the Russian diplomat Aleksandr Stekolshchikov, expelled by Norway. While the Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman was saying that Norway and Russia would maintain their cooperation, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlights that «the responsibility for the consequences of such a policy fully lies in Oslo», predicting the deterioration of bilateral relations (IBO).
After years of growth comes decline for Russian Arctic seaports
Last week, numbers from the Russian Association of Sea Trade Ports showed that Russia’s northern ports and terminals handled 10.2% less goods for the first seven months of 2020 than in the same period last year, The Barents Observer reports. This is the first year when cargo volumes have decreased. Oil is the biggest reason for the decrease, with shipping and reloading of oil from Russia’s Arctic oil fields decreasing by almost 10% in the period. The LNG segment, however, has seen modest growth. In the first half of 2020, a total of 16.2 million tons of goods were handled in Sabetta, a 0.8% increase from the same period in 2019. Taken together, these numbers reflect the general situation of shipping in the Russian Arctic. According to the Russian Northern Sea Route Administration, a total of 14.8 million tons of goods were shipping in the Arctic shipping route in the first half of 2020 (IBO). Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dmitry Kobylkin also told journalists last week that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp decline in the amount of freight shipped via the Northern Sea Route against target indicators (Arctic.ru).