In Norway, three holiday homes overlooking the military airport belong to wealthy Russians. Norway discusses expropriation.

Helicopter and people in the winter landscape.

Military airport in front of an idyllic winter landscape: Bardufoss airfield in northern Norway Photo: Heiko Junge/imago

STOCKHOLM taz | It all started very well: the new rich Russian tourists discovered the charm of Norwegian winter sports centers in the 2000s. Many people were wasting their money, especially in the real estate market, as old reports from happy local businessmen say.

More than 15 years later, there is excitement about three very specific “cottages,” as luxury holiday homes with a sauna, underfloor heating and space on several floors are called in Norway. They are located in the far north, in the Troms region. In 2009 buyers for the new Målselv winter sports development were announced here: fantastic scenery, new ski facilities, come and buy. This was reported last week by the Norwegian television network TV2. The local media mentioned that Russians were also buying cabins at that time, but nothing more.

After the Norwegian national secret service PST last warned in February about increasing Russian espionage activities, especially in northern Norway, TV2 took a closer look. Specifically, the PST spoke at the time of attempts to acquire land near military installations. TV2 soon found three Russian names in the publicly available property registry. Their cabins located in Målselv not only offer the best views of the beautiful nature, but also of the Bardufoss military airport. The Norwegian army headquarters and docks used for military purposes are also not far away.

Exiled Russian journalists from the Dossier Center organization helped the Norwegians learn more about the owners. And here they are not just anyone. Igor Morar, born in Luhansk, Ukraine, now occupied by Russia, and now mayor of the northern Russian city of Murmansk, is one of them. Another: Viktor Saygin, a very rich politician. Among other things, Saygin plays an important role in the Russian Peace Foundation organization, which, according to the exile media jellyfish He has been spreading Russian propaganda in the West for years and is close to Moscow's intelligence services.

Atomflot employees probably like vacationing in Europe

According to TV2's findings, a man named Alexander P. Timofeev took over one of the two properties initially acquired by Saygin. He has a good relationship with Norway and sees no problem in owning a cabin there, TV2 quoted him as saying.

The military rented the “Russian cabins” as a place to sleep for participants in an exercise

Timofeev holds a management position at the Russian state company Atomflot, which operates Russia's icebreaking ships and is itself part of Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy authority. There he is responsible for the museum ship “Lenin”, the world's first nuclear-powered icebreaker. Atomflot is on the EU sanctions lists.

This information alone was enough to excite the Norwegian public. But the saga continued: in March, 20,000 NATO troops from 13 countries were in northern Norway to test its defense against a Russian attack. The participants in the “Nordic Defense” exercise had to sleep somewhere and, as usual, booked cabins.

the media house Nordlys The first thing that was reported was that both the Norwegian and Swedish armies had probably rented the “Russian huts.” “It was actually very unfortunate,” a Swedish military spokeswoman later told the TT news agency. “Swedish tax money goes directly into the pockets of Russians.”

The national secret service PST confirmed at the end of the week that it had already investigated those same huts and that it was in contact with the “actors.” He warned: Even if these land purchases were legal, Norway should pay more attention to the possible consequences for internal security. The National Security Authority (NSM) has also debated it for some time. However, the real estate market in Norway still lacks proper regulation.

“Norway needs stricter rules,” demanded, among others, the president of the Norwegian Greens, Arild Hermstad. He advocates confiscating the houses and giving the money to Ukraine.

National secret services should be allowed to evaluate more data

Meanwhile, Norwegian Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl of the Center Party confirmed that the problem was fundamentally known. Security-relevant facilities are now required to report properties that could pose a risk to the NSM.

In fact, the national secret service should also be allowed to systematically store and evaluate publicly available data, but the law is not yet in force. The Norwegian government also wants to take a closer look at a proposal that would require certain groups of buyers to first apply for approval to buy, similar to an existing requirement in Finland.

Meanwhile, there has been a surprising change of ownership at one of Målselv's three interesting cottages: it now belongs to Zhanna Petryaeva Tystad, wife of well-known local Bergen politician Trond Tystad. The new owner told the newspaper that she had accepted the cabin as payment for a loan granted earlier. The end of the tide in Bergen.

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