A Russian man has been arrested and detained by Norwegian authorities on suspicion of flying drones over the country’s critical energy infrastructure. His arrest comes after numerous sightings in recent weeks of UAVs near the country’s offshore gas and oil platforms. The 51-year-old man was found in possession of two drones and several electronic storage devices after a routine check at the Storskog border crossing between Norway and Russia.
In total, officials seized four terabytes of data, some of which was encrypted.
However, his lawyer claimed he was merely a tourist on vacation and had been in Norway since August.
The man has been detained on suspicion of violating sanctions put in place following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Prosecutor Anja Mikkelsen Indbjor told broadcaster NRK.
Under these measures, Norway prohibits aircraft, including drones, operated by Russians or companies “to land on, take off from or fly over Norwegian territory”.
The 51-year-old has been remanded in custody for two weeks while police carry out further investigations.
Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said it was far too soon to draw conclusions, but conceded the NATO country was on a hight security alert.
He said: “It is known that we have an intelligence threat against us which has been reinforced by what is happening in Europe.”
Norway has become a key source of energy for European countries seeking to reduce their reliance on Russia for oil and gas supplies.
Security at energy infrastructure sites in Norway has been stepped up following explosions which damaged two Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last month.
READ MORE: Turkey puts Russia alliance at risk with ‘dangerous’ missile test
Industry insiders expect European demand for Russian gas to fall significantly by the end of this decade.
Estimates predict that Russian gas exports to EU countries will fall from currently around 200 billion cubic metres (7.7 trillion cubic feet) to between 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) and 75 bcm by 2030.
Torben Brabo, CEO of Energinet Gas TSO told the media site Deutsche Welle: “Everyone wants to shift away from Russian gas, although we will still need to cooperate with Russia in the long term.”
Baltic Pipe is a joint venture between Polish firm Gaz-System and Danish firm Energinet, estimated to cost around $1.6 billion (£1.4 billion).
It’s an offshoot of the existing Europipe II pipeline from Stavanger in Norway to Dornum in Germany on the North Sea bed.