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Russia accuses Norway of blocking transit to Svalbard, threatens retaliation

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Russia’s foreign ministry said Wednesday it summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires, accusing Oslo of blocking access to the Svalbard archipelago and threatening retaliation.

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“We demanded that the Norwegian side resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

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“We indicated that unfriendly actions against Russia will inevitably lead to appropriate retaliatory measures.”

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The ministry said Norway’s restrictions disrupted the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, and a Russian coal mining settlement there.

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Vehicles carrying food and medical supplies to Spitsbergen have been stuck on the border, the ministry said.

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Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

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Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago which has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century.

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Russia insists on calling the archipelago Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard, the official name since shortly after the treaty handing them to Norway was signed in 1920.

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