25 Sep 2018 17:14

Russian citizen was detained in Oslo to be swapped for Norwegian spy - MP Klimov

MOSCOW. Sept 25 (Interfax) - Russian citizen Mikhail Bochkaryov's detention in Oslo may have been carried out in order to exchange him for Norwegian citizen Frode Berg, who has been charged with espionage in Russia, said Andrei Klimov, the deputy chair of the Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee.

"First, Norway is a NATO member state, where they are prejudiced against our citizens. Secondly, we know well that a Norwegian citizen is in a situation here, with quite a serious charge of illegal activities in Russia. Judging from a statement on the Internet attributed to the Norwegian citizen's lawyer, they may indeed have captured our citizen with a 'swap fund' in mind," Klimov told reporters on Tuesday.

"It actually closely resembles kidnapping," he said. "In reality, this practice may have a bad outcome. If someone's agent failed, it doesn't mean you should grab civilians for a future swap," Klimov said.

Bochkaryov "is completely 'clean and fuzzy' and has absolutely nothing to do with what they said. That is my personal opinion," Klimov said.

Bochkaryov, an employee of the Federation Council's administration who was arrested on charges of engaging in intelligence activity, was detained after crossing the customs border and reaching a "clean" zone of the airport, the lawmaker said.

"The activity there [at the Norwegian parliament] did not cease. Quite a long time passed between the moment of his alleged violations and the moment they got him. This suggests that at that moment, it dawned on somebody that they should take advantage of this," Klimov said.

The Russian side is doing its utmost to secure Bochkaryov's release, he said.

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed protest and demanded that Bochkaryov be released immediately.

On December 5, 2017, Russian security services detained Berg near a hotel in Moscow. The Lefortovsky District Court sanctioned his arrest the next day, and the Norwegian citizen was charged with espionage. According to investigators, he mailed money to Russians recruited by a foreign intelligence service in exchange for military secrets.

According to Berg's lawyer Ilya Novikov, his client has denied any wrongdoing and said that he sent money at the request of his acquaintance from Oslo, who claimed that "the addressee needed money badly." Novikov said it is possible that his client was the victim of a provocation.

In mid-July, the Lefortovsky District Court extended Berg's arrest until October 5.