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The Foreign Ministers statement regarding the handover of Frode Berg

Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreides statement regarding the handover of Frode Berg, 15th of november 2019.

Thank you, Prime Minister.

Today I am very happy for both Frode Berg and his family. His arrest and his time in prison have placed great strain on him and his family. We are very pleased that his time in prison has come to an end and that he has now been released.

As the Prime Minister said, we have been working systematically on this case from the moment Frode Berg was arrested. All along, our aim has been to bring him home.

We have also done everything we could to provide assistance, including consular assistance, to Frode Berg in the difficult situation he has been in. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been in contact with his family and close friends, who have been very worried about him. It has been important for us to work closely with them and with Mr Berg’s lawyer, and we are grateful for their cooperation.

I also appreciate the dialogue the Ministry’s staff and I have had with people in Kirkenes. The local community have stood by Frode Berg and have campaigned for his release.  

Frode Berg’s situation could not be resolved before the court case had been completed. Only then could we make arrangements to bring Frode Berg home. Under Russian law, the individual concerned must apply for a pardon, and Frode Berg did so with the assistance of his lawyer.

In our work to bring Frode Berg back to Norway, we have considered and followed up several different possibilities. This has required careful planning and hard work within Norway as well as contact with other countries’ authorities.

We have been in contact with the Lithuanian authorities for a long time, and it gradually became clear that this exchange was a solution that all the parties could accept.  

The Norwegian Embassy in Moscow was informed straight away of Mr Berg’s imprisonment by the Russian authorities, in accordance with our bilateral consular agreement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the prison made it possible for representatives of the Norwegian Embassy to visit Mr Berg while he was in prison.   

It is the Embassy in Moscow that has been responsible for providing assistance to Frode Berg during his time in prison. For him, these have been long days, weeks and months, and the Embassy has given priority to visiting him as often as they have been allowed to. In practice, this has been about twice a month, in line with the agreement between our two countries.

The Embassy has also helped Mr Berg to request telephone contact with his family. It has also helped to arrange visits by the Bishop of Hålogaland and by a chaplain of the Norwegian Church Abroad. In addition, Embassy staff have provided assistance in connection with the delivery of food and other items.  

The situation has been particularly difficult for Mr Berg because we have not been able to give him any clear information about when or how he would be able to return to Norway.

Now let me give some more details about his release. Frode Berg was handed over in an exchange that took place at the border between Russian and Lithuania earlier today. He was met by our Ambassador in Lithuania, Karsten Klepsvik. Mr Berg’s Norwegian lawyer and a member of staff from our Embassy in Moscow were also present in Lithuania. Frode Berg was immediately given an opportunity to contact his family, and has had access to his lawyer. He has been given further assistance, including a medical check-up, and he has been issued with a passport.  

Frode Berg will be given assistance to return to Norway, and will be accompanied by representatives of the Norwegian authorities.

Our Embassy in Lithuania has maintained close contact with the Lithuanian authorities. Lithuania’s assistance has been crucial, and I would like to join the Prime Minister in thanking President Nauseda and the country’s intelligence service.  

We are now ready to take questions.