An alleged spy, journalists under pressure, a double crisis and explorers in trouble

Frode Berg, here photographed at the Norwegian-Russian border in Finnmark. Berg has recently been released from Russian prison following 23 months of being arrested and later convicted of espionage. Photo: Amund Trellevik

It is like a plot from a Cold War spy novel. The story about Frode Berg, the Nowegian border inspector who was arrested for espionage in Russia two years ago.

The fact that “the two good neighbors” spy at each other is not news; Norway has spied on the Russian defense for some 70 years. However, with Frode Berg did it all go seriously wrong.

After 23 months in Russian prison, Frode Berg came home to Norway this week, following a prisoner exchange between Lithuania and Russia. and he did not mince his words when criticizing the military intelligence service: “I am convicted of espionate, but I am not a spy” he said during Tuesday’s press conference. And claims he was fooled into a game the consequences of which he had no idea.

The story probably has at least two sides. Whether the military intelligence service’s story will reach the ear of the public remains to be seen. However, there is no doubt that there will be a political settling of scores behind the scenes.

An a fierce battle for the film rights…

New law puts pressure on journalists
We are not leaving Norway and Russia quite yet. For a new Russian law passed its final reading in the state Duma in Moscow on Thursday. It places further pressure on independent journalists and also allows for individuals in the media to be labeled as foreign agents.
I feel that I am a Jew living in Germany in the late 1930s and being forced to stich the Star of David onto my jacket”, says journalist Jelena Solvyeva from the northern Russian town of Syktyvkar.

High North News has also been to St. Petersburg and Anchorage. Along with partners in the USA, the High North Center for Business and Governance at Nord University is looking for synergies between the two northern economies. Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm reflects upon the similarities and differences between the countries: “You know you are in Alaska when tax income from marihuana sales is the highlight of a rather gloomy presentation of the economy in the American state. The same industry also accounts for the relatively largest job growth in Alaska”, he notes in his Friday op-ed.

The climate crisis gets all the more consequences
The permafrost in the Arctic has captured and stored the CO2 climate gas for tens of thousands of years. Now, however, climate change makes the region become a source of CO2 emissions rather than storage, and through that it contributes to further climate changes, according to a new study published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

The warmer it gets, the more carbon will be released to the atmosphere from the permafrost region, which in turn will contribute to increased global warming” writes co-author Brendan Rogers, Climate Scientist at Woods Hole Research Center.

Another consequence of climate change and decreased polar ice is that new corridors are opened for sea animals that have formerly been completely separated. One such new corridor between Russia and Alaska has made it possible for a fatal seal virus to spread from the Atlantic Ocean to the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean, according to a new study by an international research team.

The loss of sea ice makes wild animals seek food and shelter in new areas. When the physical barrier is gone, they find new ways” writes main author Tracey Goldstein, researcher at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

From one crisis to the next
This week, MP’s from the European Parliament, Norway, Iceland and Russia, as well as elected representatives from other Nordic and Baltic parliaments, have been gathered for the Northern Dimension in Bodø, Norway.

The keynote speaker on the first day was former Finnish Prime Minister and 2017 High North Hero Paavo Lipponen. It has been 20 years since the first Northern Dimension was organized. But never has collective action against shared enemies been more important. Lipponen (78) and the youngsters are united: We must act now!

The youth panel was crystal clear in its message to the MP’s in the audience: “We demand to be included when you shape climate policies” they said.

And they were heard. In the final declaration signed Wednesday, the Northern Dimension’s parliamentary forum promises to cut climate emissions, include youth to a higher extent and taking indigenous people’s rights into account.

While the climate crisis always features high on the agenda in Arctic meeting places, much space was dedicated to a different, yet no less serious crisis during the Northern Dimension. Antibiotic resistance.

By 2050, more people will die from antibiotic resistance than from cancer”, warns professor and chief physician Dag Berild, and refers to the phenomenon as the climate crisis of medicine.

Polar explorers in trouble
Last week, you could read about Børge Ousland and Mike Horn’s trip across the North Pole. This week, they have run into problems and the Joint Rescue Coordination Center for Northern Norway is ready to assist the two.

We cross our fingers and hope that a potential rescue operation will go smooth. And we wish both the polar explorers and the rest of you lot a most wonderful weekend.

 
Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News

Also read:
Expedition Cruise Operators Formalize Ban on Dirty Heavy Fuel Oil in the Arctic

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