Bordertown Kirkenes Terminates Russian Friendship Agreement

Ordfører i Sør-Varanger Lena Norum Bergeng og Arbeiderpartiet støtter oppsigelsen av vennskapsavtalen med Severomorsk, men beholder Pechenga. (Arkivfoto: Trine Jonassen)
Mayor of Sør-Varanger municipality in Northern Norway, Lena Norum Bergen, and the Labor Party supports the termination of the Severomorsk friendship agreement, but keep Pechenga. (Archive photo: Trine Jonassen)

A unanimous municipal council in Sør-Varanger chose to terminate its cooperation agreement with the Russian friendship city Severomorsk in Murmansk. The city is home to the Russian Northern Fleet and Sør-Varanger has previously been criticized for keeping the agreement after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In April, the chairmanship of Sør-Varanger municipality in Northern Norway presented a recommendation for the municipal council to terminate the friendship agreement with Severomorsk in North-West Russia. This is a closed military city that serves as the main base for the Russian Northern Fleet.

It was Harald G. Sunde in the Sør-Varanger Socialist Left Party who presented the suggestion to terminate the agreement for the sake of the municipality's security. This was adopted as five representatives from the Socialist Left, the Conservative Party, and the Center Party voted in favor, while four representatives from the Labor Party voted against it.

Keeps Pechenga

Originally, the chairmanship was to assess the question of whether the agreement is legally valid, which the municipal director found that it is.

Now, the municipal council has considered the matter in its meeting on the 26th of April and has decided to terminate the agreement in its entirety. However, Kirkenes will maintain its friendship agreement with Pechenga. Both agreements were put on hold after Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February last year.

The decision was unanimously supported by all the local political parties on Wednesday.

Sending termination

The friendship cities agreements were last up for discussion by the municipal council in November last year, following criticism of the municipality for keeping the agreements. A divided municipal council then decided that the agreements should be kept, but remain on hold. 

The agreement from 2016 involved collaboration on projects within education, culture and youth, exchange of experience in technical services, and official meetings with the municipal management in the two municipalities.

The municipality reports that a formal termination will be sent in writing.

The municipal council also decided that all future friendship and cooperation agreements entered into with foreign municipalities must be subject to political consideration by the municipal council.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.