MOSCOW, October 1. /TASS/. Moscow’s Lefortovsky Court has extended the arrest of Norwegian national Frode Berg, detained in Russia in late 2017 on espionage charges, until December 5, a TASS correspondent reported from the courtroom.
"The court hereby rules to sustain the investigators’ motion and extends Berg’s custody by two months until December 5," Judge Anna Antipova announced, reading out the court ruling. The hearing was held behind closed doors.
The Norwegian was detained in Moscow on December 5, 2017, during a special operation by the Federal Security Service, the FSB. He was charged with spying under Section 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (espionage). The recent period of detention is scheduled to expire on October 5.
Berg’s defense attorneys Ilya Novikov and Brynjulf Risnes said their client pleaded not guilty but admitted to cooperating with Norwegian intelligence agencies. According to the lawyers, their client acknowledged that he had visited Russia as a courier for the Norwegian Intelligence Service but did not understand what he was doing, nor was he aware of the possible repercussions. The Norwegian authorities refused to comment on Berg’s statements.
Berg, who retired in 2014, had worked at a checkpoint on the Norwegian-Russian border for more than 20 years. He served as an inspector of the Border Commissariat under the administration of the Norwegian Justice Ministry and was responsible for compliance with the bilateral treaty on the Russian-Norwegian border and the procedure of settling border conflicts and incidents.
On the other hand, Ilya Novikov told TASS his client could be exchanged for Mikhail Bochkarev, a Russian parliamentary official arrested in Norway on similar charges. He noted that "the exchange option is quite probable," but it is too early to talk about that now, since no charges have been pressed against the Russian national yet.