Speech/statement | Date: 18/10/2022 | Ministry of Justice and Public Security
By Minister of Justice and Public Security Emilie Enger Mehl (Press brief October 17 2022)
The police in Nordland county have reported that they have detained four Russians who have been remanded in custody, charged with collecting information on sensitive objects. In recent days, the police have also disclosed the arrest of two other Russians with drones – one in Finnmark county and one in Troms county.
All of these cases are being investigated, and I cannot discuss the details.
We will know more once the police have investigated the cases, and we cannot draw any conclusions about the intentions behind this.
We are now seeing how the new security situation is impacting Norway. The cases we have seen in the past few days underline the importance of the increased emergency preparedness we have implemented since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. It is possible that there may be more cases like this in the time ahead.
The police and the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) are working to keep Norway safe all day every day. This is also true of our other security and emergency preparedness agencies. Emergency preparedness is high and we are fully focused on the threat scenario that surrounds us and the changed security situation. The police are doing a good job, and an important one, and it is good that they are alert. This is why it does not come as a surprise that the police are able to detect this type of activity.
I would like to thank everyone currently working to keep us all safe. Many people have worked long shifts and may even have had their holidays cancelled. Or they may have put their ordinary lives on hold lately to serve with the Home Guard or the Civil Defence. Many people have been through a tough time during the past few months and weeks, and will continue to do so.
In general, I would like to remind you that at present it is important that the general public maintains an elevated state of vigilance regarding suspicious activities. Such activities should be reported to the local police.
The police are in close contact with the PST, whose responsibilities include investigating breaches of sanctions regimes and illegal intelligence activity.
The Norwegian Government has increased its preparedness against complex threats from foreign states. Increased collaboration among PST, the police and other agencies is part of this.
Our intelligence and security services have indicated that foreign states may apply these types of means, which are part of a complex arsenal of tools, to create anxiety and uncertainty in Norway. This is why this type of incident requires thorough investigation before we can make any conclusions regarding the facts of the case.
The Norwegian Government is constantly monitoring the threat scenario, and I am in close contact with the Prime Minister. Each member of the Government is very mindful of security, which is the most important thing we are doing right now. We have all reviewed our sectors. The Minister of Health is responsible for nuclear preparedness and for hospitals and the health services operating as they should. The Ministry of Defence is responsible for military preparedness. The Minister of Local Government focuses on municipal preparedness and we have allocated NOK 0.5 billion to strengthen the PST, the police, the Civil Defence and preparedness against data attacks.
Complex threats include:
- Fake news, used to create confusion and anxiety.
- Data attacks, to disrupt important societal functions.
- Migration pressure, which we saw last winter in Eastern Europe, military activity intended to sow fear, covert military sabotage operations, and GPS jamming. All of these could form part of a complex threat scenario.
Greater awareness of these issues among the general public is an important part of keeping Norwegian society safe, and we all have a role to play here. This goes for the authorities, the business sector and each and every one of us. We should all be more aware of potential threats and how to protect ourselves.
This is why the National Security Authority, for example, collaborates closely with many organisations in Norway and why it also offers good advice to the Norwegian population.
The Norwegian Government's top priority now is to foster security. But people can also contribute by being vigilant and informing the police or the PST if they see anything.
The intelligence threat from Russia mainly targets power plants, and the oil and defence sectors. The PST has asked to be contacted about any suspicious incidents near such facilities. This is not limited to drones – there could also be other issues. It will then be up to the police and the PST to decide whether the matter needs to be followed up.
However, we also need to remember that there are many Russians living in Norway, who also lived here before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. We must not become suspicious in our daily lives of people living perfectly ordinary lives all over Norway – people who are members of Norwegian society, and who are people's neighbours or are friends of our children at school.
We must be inclusive and we must be good fellow human beings. But we are not and must not be naive. We must be alert to suspicious activities and be clear in relation to Russia. It is important to the Norwegian Government that we detect and suppress any illegal activity in Norway. Any Russian citizens with dishonest intentions should know that they are at great risk of detection.
The PST has received many tips about drones after going public with this request and is working closely with the police districts. It is natural that local police conduct the initial inquiries; if suspicion of illegal intelligence activity becomes strengthened, it makes sense for the PST to take over.
I would like to conclude by saying that I realise that people may feel anxious now that there are so many developments. This is why it is important to me and the Government to clearly say that there are many smart people working around the clock to keep you safe. Even though there are many disconcerting events, we have a clear picture of the situation.
Thank you for your time. I will now take questions from the press.