Moscow dismisses Norway's protests over Arctic islands visit

AP News
Posted: Apr 20, 2015 9:06 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Monday dismissed Norway's protests over a weekend visit to a Norwegian archipelago by a delegation that included Russia's deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin.

During a visit to the Arctic on Sunday to inaugurate Russia's new floating research station, the delegation stopped by Norway's Svalbard islands.

Rogozin, who oversees defense in the government among other things and is known for his nationalist views, has been slapped with sanctions barring him entry to the European Union and non-EU Norway over his position on Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Norway demanded that Moscow explain why he visited the islands given the sanctions imposed on him.

In response, Russia's foreign ministry dismissed the accusations as "absurd" and said that the delegation made the stop for "logistical reasons". The ministry also cited a 1920 treaty granting access to the islands to nationals of all signatory nations including Russia.

"They are simply jealous that we took a dip on the North Pole," Rogozin said on Twitter.

Russian television on Monday showed Rogozin and the environment and the economic development ministers talking to researchers who are to spend at least three months at the station. An Orthodox priest blessed the station, sprinkling holy water on the officials and researchers.

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Artur Chilingarov, a senior member of the ruling United Russia party and Arctic explorer, said in televised comments that a floating Russian station was last in the Arctic in 1937, "when everyone said Bolsheviks were on the North Pole. Today, we are here."

Rogozin on Sunday posted pictures from the North Pole, describing the Arctic as "Russia's Mecca," referring to the holiest city in Islam.

Russia has put an increasing emphasis on beefing up its military presence in the Arctic amid the global competition for the region's vast resources.