MOSCOW, October 4. /TASS/. Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) employee Mikhail Bochkarev was detained in Oslo under a false pretext so that Norwegian authorities could blackmail Moscow into swapping him for Norway’s citizen Frode Berg, charged with espionage in Russia, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
"We demand that all false accusations against Bochkarev be dropped and he be released as soon as possible," she said.
According to Zakharova, the entire situation "makes it clear that Norwegian authorities detained the Federation Council employee and brought accusations against him as an act of blackmail, seeking to release Norwegian national Berg, who was caught in the act and is currently under investigation."
"Russian diplomats in Oslo have been maintaining contact with Bochkarev. Together with his lawyers, they are providing him with all the possible assistance in protecting his rights and interests," Zakharova said. "On October 1, officials from the embassy’s consular department visited him once again. The Federation Council employee’s pre-trial detention period will expire on October 6," she added.
Russian citizen Mikhail Bochkarev was taken into custody at Oslo Airport, Gardermoen on September 21. The Russian embassy in Norway confirmed his detention, saying it considered this to be an over-the-top move.
Federation Council Deputy Speaker Ilyas Umakhanov confirmed that Bochkarev was a Federation Council employee. He added that upper house members would make every possible effort to protect his legitimate rights and interests.
The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Norway’s Ambassador Rune Resaland to hand a strong protest against Bochkarev’s detention and arrest "based on false accusations of intelligence activities." The ministry demanded all charges be dropped and the Russian national be released.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on September 25 that Norway’s attempts to accuse the Russian of espionage were mere propaganda. Lavrov pointed out that Bochkarev had been invited by the Norwegian parliament to participate in a conference.