Russian national held in Norway suspected of spying

September 24, 2018 - 2:04 pm

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Russian national has been arrested in Norway on suspicion of spying after he attended a conference on strengthening cooperation between Europe's parliamentary administrations, his lawyer said Monday.

Russia strongly denied the charges and demanded the release of the man it identified as Mikhail Bochkarev, a 51-year-old aide at the upper house of Russian parliament.

Lawyer Hege Aakre told the Norwegian news agency NTB that her client, who wasn't identified, was being questioned by Norway's domestic intelligence agency, PST.

The man was arrested Friday during the event by the European Center for Parliamentary Research and Documentation, held at Norway's Parliament, and placed on pre-trial detention for two weeks the following day. No further details were available.

Aakre said her client denies any wrongdoing.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it summoned the Norwegian ambassador on Monday to protest the detention it described as a "provocation."

The ministry denounced the accusations against Bochkarev as "absurd" and demanded his immediate release. It lamented what it called "a wave of spy mania around Russia" and warned that "such steps will entail consequences."

A deputy speaker of the upper house, Ilya Umakhanov, told the Tass news agency that the "unfounded" detention of Bochkarev would hurt parliamentary ties and "won't be left unattended."

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the case wasn't political, telling NTB from New York, where she is attending a meeting with the United Nations, that the case was "a police matter that is being investigated."

Norwegian media reported that the man is a senior IT adviser with the Russian parliament. They reported that his behavior at the two-day conference prompted parliamentary officials to contact the intelligence service.

The ECPRD is a European network for cooperation between parliamentarians on research, documentation and information. The Oslo event focused on digitalization.

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