Russia Plans Grand Upgrade of Svalbard Infrastructure,

Astri Edvardsen, journalist

Russia is planning a modernization of the public infrastructure in the Russian settlements Barentsburg and Pyramiden on Svalbard, says Alexei Chekunkov, Minister for Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic, in an interview with the Russian state-run newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

According to Chekunkov, the upgrade is estimated to cost 1.5 billion rubles or around NOK 300 million, and the ministry will submit proposals for how this should be done. He also notes that it is urgent to carry out this work.

As a backdrop to it all, the minister points to tourist interest in the old settlements Barentsburg and Pyramiden, which he says can be considered ’time machines’, and that Russian authorities see it as an important task to maintain their museum characteristics. […]

The Svalbard Treaty is an international agreement from 1920 providing Norway with sovereignty over Svalbard while also ensuring certain rights for all other countries that are signatories to the treaty.

Citizens and companies from the 46 signatories, Norway included, have equal right to stay on the archipelago and run business activities there, such as fisheries, trapping, and mining. In these areas, Norway is not allowed to differentiate policies based on nationality.

The Russian state’s presence on and interest in Svalbard and the surrounding sea areas has presented and may continue to present challenges for Norway related to the assertion of sovereignty (such as within fisheries management) and security policy, as High North News has previously shed light on in various ways.

This spring, for example, Tormod Heier, a researcher at the Norwegian Defence University College, pointed to the possibility of Russia – in the event of a potential crisis vis-à-vis NATO in, for example, the Baltic Sea – wishing to expand its defense zone around its northern nuclear forces to include Svalbard, among other places. Läs artikel