Russia accuses Norway of blocking transit to Svalbard, threatens retaliation

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Russia’s foreign ministry said Wednesday it summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires, accusing Oslo of blocking access to the Svalbard archipelago and threatening retaliation.

“We demanded that the Norwegian side resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

“We indicated that unfriendly actions against Russia will inevitably lead to appropriate retaliatory measures.”

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The ministry said Norway’s restrictions disrupted the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, and a Russian coal mining settlement there.

Vehicles carrying food and medical supplies to Spitsbergen have been stuck on the border, the ministry said.

Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago which has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century.

Russia insists on calling the archipelago Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard, the official name since shortly after the treaty handing them to Norway was signed in 1920.

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