Researcher arrested on suspicion of being a Russian spy

A lecturer who is suspected of being a Russian spy was arrested by Norway’s security agency PST on Monday 24 October while on his way to work at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, the Norwegian broadcaster NRK has reported.

It was reported by local media that the man was charged on Friday 28 October with conducting illegal intelligence activities.

The man was initially taken to the local court in Tromsø because the PST suspect he may have fabricated his Brazilian citizenship and is working for Russian intelligence.

“We have asked that a Brazilian researcher at the University of Tromsø [the Arctic University of Norway] shall be expelled from Norway because we think that he represents a threat to basic national security,” Hedvig Moe, deputy head of PST, told NRK.

The Russian embassy in Oslo rejected the allegation earlier in the week, arguing that the man’s arrest, as well as another case this month involving the arrest of a Russian tourist found to have extensive drone footage of Norway in his possession, is “politically motivated”.

However, PST said the man is suspected of the crime of illegal information gathering that might hurt vital national interests. He is also suspected of violating the law related to other countries’ national interests. A PST investigation based on these charges is underway.

Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl told NRK that the security agency had asked the ministry of justice to recall the residence permit of the lecturer, a request that had since been fulfilled.

Researcher Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, based at the Arctic University of Norway, confirmed that she was among those academics who had facilitated the man’s sojourn at the university after he personally came to the university in December 2021 with a request to pursue research in his field in the northern security area as an unpaid guest researcher.

According to reports, the researcher had with him positive recommendations from Canadian researchers with whom he had worked in the past.

At the Arctic University of Norway, he was attached to the research group known as ‘The Grey Zone’ which “focuses on multiple challenges around understanding and addressing ‘grey zone’ or hybrid threats and warfare”, according to the university’s webpage.

According to VG newspaper, the man’s attorney Thomas Hansen, says his client denies any wrongdoing. “He says that the man has explained what he is doing in Norway and is open about it – namely that he is here as a visiting researcher,” the report states.