Norwegian officials have confirmed they have no plans to close Norway’s border with Russia in the far north, despite the ongoing unpredictability surrounding Russia’s dramatic military conflict. Premier Jonas Gahr Stre stated on Sunday that the situation remained “serious and unclear.”
On Saturday, the foreign minister of Stre, Anniken Huitfeldt, characterized the military conflict in Russia as “dangerous” and urged Norwegians to flee the country. She added on Sunday that there was also a great deal of uncertainty surrounding an agreement allegedly made by the leader of an armed rebellion against the Russian military on Saturday night.
According to Russian authorities, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary Wagner Group, agreed to terminate his revolt in exchange for amnesty for himself and his hired soldiers in Belarus.
“There are still many unanswered questions,” Stre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Sunday before departing for a previously scheduled meeting in Iceland with the Nordic and Canadian prime ministers.
The current leadership of Russia must be approached with extreme caution. Stre stated that Russian leaders had been “seriously challenged” by Prigozjin but that it was too early to say whether Russia had been weakened by the uprising that began on Friday night.
An ex-British defense chief expressed concern on Sunday that the Wagner Group may now launch an attack against Ukraine from Belarus, which shares a long northern border with Ukraine. This raises doubts as to whether the drama over the weekend was an attempt to weaken Ukraine’s defense.
Huitfeldt repeated several times over the weekend, “We are closely monitoring the dramatic situation in Russia,” as news continued to emerge that the brutal Russian mercenary group Wagner had pulled out of eastern Ukraine and was now targeting Russia’s own military. She believes it is “too early” to comment in detail as she and the Norwegian government continue to monitor developments in Norway’s difficult northern neighbor.
“It would be irresponsible of me to speculate on possible outcomes,” Huitfeldt said, adding that it was “too early” to know what Russia’s unrest means for Ukraine. When asked if the unrest was an attempt at a coup, she stated that “we are now witnessing the war in Ukraine having internal repercussions in Russia.”
The highly controversial leader of the Wagner group, Prigozhin, has been complaining about Russian military leaders for months, accusing them of incompetence during Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
He asserted on Saturday that approximately 25,000 of his troops were moving into Russia and were “prepared to die” in an attempt to seize control of Russia’s armed forces.
Prigozhin also asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine was unnecessary, as his own Wagner troops had purportedly taken control of several Russian cities en route to Moscow.
Putin responded by comparing the actions and words of the Wagner group to treachery and mutiny. Putin declared a state of emergency and stated he would not allow Russia to descend into civil conflict as he continued to support his own generals.
Sigurd Falkenberg Mikkelsen, foreign editor and commentator for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), stated that it is difficult to exaggerate the current situation in Russia.
As Putin, Prigozhin, and the notorious leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, jockeying for position, the destiny of Russia’s nuclear arsenal posed the greatest threat of all. According to reports, Kadyrov, who is also known for his brutality, offered his own forces to fight against Wagner’s.
On Saturday, while Latvia closed its frontier to Russians and increased security, Norway’s border remained open. Ellen Katrine Haetta, the police director for the most northern region of Norway, Finnmark, stated that she and her colleagues were closely monitoring the situation in Russia, paying particular attention to any changes along the green at Storskog, just east of Kirkenes.
On Saturday, Htta reported no abnormal activity. She told NRK, “We have good preparedness plans and can act swiftly if the situation along the border changes.” Huitfeldt stated that border issues would be decided by the Ministry of Justice, “but for the time being, nothing has changed” and the border was open.
Huitfeldt told NRK after the press briefing, “We have very good plans for something like this.” Stre added on Sunday that he did not see a need to increase security in Northern Norway any further.
Huitfeldt refused to comment on whether the nuclear threat has increased due to Russia’s internal unrest. The most essential thing, Huitfeldt concluded, is that we must continue to stand up for Ukraine.
Even though Saturday’s armed uprising occurred suddenly, she said it was not entirely unexpected: “Since the conflict in Ukraine is going so poorly for Russia, there is instability in our neighboring country. Therefore, we are not startled by what is occurring, but we did not anticipate it occurring at this time.
The Norwegian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee reported that it was “in dialogue” with the government and closely monitoring the unfolding of events. Former defense and foreign minister Ine Eriksen Sreide of the Conservative Party chairs the committee and agrees with Huitfeldt that it is too early to foresee the impact of Russia’s internal conflict on the Russian government or the war in Ukraine.
Erna Solberg, the former Norwegian prime minister, was also anxious about the sudden turmoil in Russia that is challenging Putin. “The fact that this is occurring in our neighboring nation, which is at war with another of its neighbors and possesses nuclear weapons, makes the situation extremely grave,” Solberg told NRK.
She stated that she “expects that both NATO and Norwegian authorities are closely monitoring developments.” All agreed that they were.
In the meantime, Russian officials warned Western nations, including Norway, against using a Wagner-led armed uprising in Russia to achieve what Moscow calls “anti-Russian goals.”