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Home* News and Stories → Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy: sci­ence or spy­ing?

Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy: sci­ence or spy­ing?

Inter­na­tio­nal poli­tics tou­ch­ing Sval­bard remain hea­vi­ly affec­ted by the dif­fi­cult rela­ti­ons­hip to Rus­sia. Cur­r­ent­ly, a Rus­si­an app­li­ca­ti­on filed by the Rus­si­an embas­sy in Oslo on behalf of the Inti­tu­te for mari­ne bio­lo­gy in Mur­mansk is causing some dis­cus­sion amongst Nor­we­gi­an secu­ri­ty experts and poli­ti­ci­ans. The Mur­mansk insti­tu­te wants to car­ry out a rese­arch voya­ge with the ves­sel Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy from 15 Decem­ber 2022 to 10 Janu­a­ry 2023, with a major pro­por­ti­on of the time spent in Sval­bard waters.

Professor Molchanov, Longyearbyen

Rus­si­an ships were often char­ted by wes­tern com­pa­nies and insti­tu­ti­ons during bet­ter years in the past. Here we see MV Pro­fes­sor Mol­cha­nov in Advent­fjord – in 2013, years after she was released from char­ter con­tracts with wes­tern expe­di­ti­on crui­se com­pa­nies
(archi­ve image, illus­tra­ti­on only).

Experts have told the Nor­we­gi­an news web­site NRK that it would be nai­ve to assu­me that real sci­ence would be the only pur­po­se of the trip. Offi­cial­ly, the voya­ge is meant to gather water and bot­tom sam­ples in Sval­bard waters and the Bar­ents Sea and experts don’t doubt that this kind of rese­arch will actual­ly be car­ri­ed out – but not as the only mis­si­on of the Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy. Secu­ri­ty poli­tics experts say that the insti­tu­te for mari­ne bio­lo­gy in Mur­mansk has strong con­nec­tions to the Rus­si­an navy, inclu­ding a pro­gram­me to train wha­les and seals for mili­ta­ry pur­po­ses. They say that the insi­tu­te is “not an inno­cent sci­en­ti­fic play­er, but a civi­li­an insti­tu­ti­on with a strong mili­ta­ry aspect”, and one would have to expect the sche­du­led Sval­bard crui­se to inclu­de a non-sci­en­ti­fic com­po­nent. This might be any­whe­re wit­hin sabo­ta­ge and spy­ing or trans­port of mili­ta­ry goods and per­so­nell, for examp­le to Bar­ents­burg, which the ves­sel is sche­du­led to visit during the crui­se. This could be done tog­e­ther with a sci­en­ti­fic pro­gram­me which in its­elf inde­ed might be harm­less. In ear­lier years, the Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy was also used by wes­tern sci­en­tists, for examp­le from UNIS, for rese­arch in Sval­bard.

Also other Rus­si­an “sci­en­ti­fic” ves­sels have recent­ly been seen near important Nor­we­gi­an infra­st­ruc­tu­re, for examp­le of the oil and gas indus­try, and experts expect the infor­ma­ti­on gathe­red by them to be poli­ti­cal rather than sci­en­ti­fic, at least in part. Ano­t­her pur­po­se of the­se acti­vi­ties may be to keep Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties such as the coast­guard busy to wear them out over time.

As a con­clu­si­on, the experts demand the rejec­tion of the app­li­ca­ti­on from Nor­we­gi­an poli­ti­ci­ans, which is said to be legal­ly pos­si­ble withe the 12 mile zone of Sval­bard but more dif­fi­cult out­side.

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (3): Die Bären­in­sel und Jan May­en”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!

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last modification: 2022-11-10 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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