AFP journalist Arman Soldin was killed in shelling near Baghmoud

Russian parade in Svalbard for “Victory Day”: “Commemorations seem more imposing and different than in the past”

According to images circulating on social media, dozens of vehicles displaying Russian flags and being flown by helicopters paraded over the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic. Once upon a time “Military Style Campaign Parade” As specified Norwegian newspaper Parents take note, for about fifty 4 x 4s, machines and snowmobiles marched down a still-snow-covered street in the quaint Russian mining community of Barendsburg to martial music on this land belonging to a NATO member state. With Spitsbergen as the largest island, Svalbard lies a thousand kilometers from the North Pole.

On this day, which marks Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany, some of the drivers who marched behind the Russian embassy’s vehicle wore green uniforms reminiscent of military uniforms.

The territory, twice the size of Belgium, is governed by the Treaty of Paris in 1920, which recognizes Norway’s sovereignty, but also grants nationals of the contracting parties the right to exploit its natural resources. “On the basis of perfect equality”. In Barendsburg, a village of 300 to 400 Russian-speakers, mainly Russians and Ukrainians from the Donbass, where the Lenin statue stands, the Russian state company Trust Arktigukol operates a coal seam. The agreement also provides that these lands “Never used for war purposes”.

For many experts, the Russian presence in Svalbard is largely motivated by the strategic nature of the archipelago, in the middle of the Arctic, on the northern side of an area used by the Northern Fleet to return to the Atlantic Ocean.

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In Longyearbyen, the capital of the archipelago, – Norway – the governor of Svalbard, Lars Fass, said. “Commemoration of May 9 took place in Barendsburg through social networks”. “Freedom of assembly is valid in Norway”He said in an email sent by his services to Agence France-Presse. “Commemorations seem more imposing and weird than in the past”He also mentioned.

He explained that he declined the invitation to participate, as he had done last year, saying he was informed about the commemoration without knowing the details. “Because of the war in Ukraine”. For its part, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also noted the same “The “Victory Day” commemorations have a different content because of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine in the current situation”.

“It’s understandable that this raises negative reactions.”said Rocknhild Simenstad, spokeswoman for the ministry.

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