By Nerijus Adomaitis
OSLO (Reuters) – A Russian citizen detained in Oslo on suspicion of illegal intelligence activities is a Russian state employee but has denied wrongdoing, seeing the matter as a “misunderstanding”, his Norwegian lawyer said on Monday.
The unidentified man was detained at Oslo airport before a flight out of the country on Friday, a day after attending a seminar on digitalisation in Norway’s parliament.
Police told Reuters he would be held for an initial two weeks due to the risk of destruction of evidence.
The man’s lawyer, Hege Aakre, told Reuters that her client regarded the incident as “a misunderstanding” and was cooperating with investigators to provide an explanation.
She said the detention was based on an observation of “suspicious behaviour”, declining to elaborate, and her client was considering taking his case to an appeals court.
The Russian Embassy in Oslo said in a Facebook post that the man’s detention was based on false claims under an “absurd pretext.” It declined further comment.
The seminar was organised by the European Center for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (ECPRD) and attended by 79 people from 34 countries, Norwegian news agency NTB said.
Last December, retired Norwegian border guard Frode Berg was arrested in Moscow on suspicion of espionage and is awaiting trial. Berg admitted being a courier for Norway’s military intelligence but had scant knowledge of the operation he took part in and denied wrongdoing, his lawyer said.
The lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, said the detention of the Russian man in Oslo offered the hope of a prisoner swap. “It sparks a hope for Berg and his family,” he told Reuters.
Berg faces up to 20 years of imprisonment if found guilty.
(Editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Heinrich)