OSLO, April 20. /TASS/. Norway’s Foreign Ministry will summon Russia’s ambassador and request explanations over a visit to the Spitsbergen archipelago by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende told the TV2 television channel on Sunday.
"On Monday we will request an explanation from the ambassador of the Russian Federation over the visit," Brende said.
Rogozin arrived at the Norwegian archipelago Saturday to launch the North Pole expedition. He has been on the European Union’s blacklist of Russian politicians and businessmen barred from entering the EU since March 2014.
The ban is part of Europe’s sectoral and individual sanctions imposed against Moscow over its stance on developments in neighboring Ukraine. While Norway is not an EU member, the Nordic country has consistently joined all the rounds of the EU’s sanctions against Russia and the entry restrictions also apply to Norway’s territory.
"We regret the visit to Svalbard [Spitsbergen] by that person," Brende said, stressing that the Russian embassy had been informed that official Oslo would not like to see persons from the blacklist on Spitsbergen.
He also said the situation with Rogozin could force the Norwegian side to think of toughening control of visits to Spitsbergen by blacklisted persons.
Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Frode Andersen said on Sunday that Rogozin’s visit "is not a breach of the Norwegian legislation but we nonetheless clearly informed the Russian embassy in Oslo before that we would not want to see the persons from the list on the Svalbard [Spitsbergen] archipelago."
Spitsbergen, which Norwegians call Svalbard, is located between the 76th and 80th parallels in the Arctic Ocean. The archipelago was placed under Norway’s sovereignty after World War One on condition that it kept a special international status.
The Spitsbergen Treaty signed in 1920 sealed Norway’s sovereignty over the archipelago. At the same time, the Treaty’s signatory states comprising over 50 countries have equal rights to the development of the archipelago’s natural resources.
Despite this, only Norway and Russia maintain their economic presence on the archipelago. Russians have a possibility to visit Spitsbergen without any visas, if they go to the archipelago directly from Russia.
However, if their route crosses continental Norway, they need to be issued transit Schengen visas.
The Russian vice-premier opened on Sunday the North Pole-2015 Arctic drifting station. During his stay on Spitsbergen, Rogozin visited the Barentsburg community center in the archipelago’s Russian part where he inspected a local coalmine, an airport and a museum. The Russian state coal company Arktikugol operates an area of 251 square kilometers on Spitsbergen.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March 2014 after the February 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
The West announced new, sectoral, restrictions against Russia in late July 2014, in particular, for what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s southeast.
In response, Russia imposed on August 6, 2014 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
New large-scale punitive measures against Russia followed in September and December 2014.
Russia has constantly dismissed accusations of "annexing" Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum, as well as allegations that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.