October 19, 2022 By Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The airport in Norway’s second-largest city briefly closed Wednesday after area residents spotted at least one drone nearby, authorities said.
The Norwegian army and state-owned airports operator Avinor were notified after the first drone sighting at Bergen Airport was reported at 4:15 a.m., police spokesman Ørjan Djuvik said. Other sightings were reported later.
“There can also be observations that could be other phenomenon, for instance weather,” Djuvik said. “We are unsure whether it is one or more drones, but we are sure that there is at least one.”
Norwegian news agency NTB said the airport in Bergen is located near Norway’s main naval base and the air space was closed. The Haakonsvern base is one of northern Europe’s largest maritime military bases.
North of Bergen, a drone also was reported near the small, domestic Foerde airport, which also closed temporarily, NTB said.
Police said no suspects had been identified. At least seven Russian citizens were detained over the past few weeks for flying drones or taking photographs of sensitive sites in Norway.
A 47-year-old man with dual Russian and British citizenship was jailed for two weeks on suspicion of flying drones on Norway’s Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and breaching sanctions which came into force after Russia went to war against Ukraine, NTB reported.
Under Norwegian law, it is prohibited for aircraft operated by Russian companies or citizens “to land on, take off from or fly over Norwegian territory.” Norway is not a member of the European Union but mirrors its moves.
“It is not acceptable that foreign intelligence is flying drones over Norwegian airports. Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said, according to Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “We do not want anyone to fly this type of craft over important installations in Norway.”
Bergen Airport was shut down at around 6:30 a.m. and reopened 2 1/2 hours later. With 15 gates, it’s Norway’s second-largest airport and serves more than 6 million passengers a year, according to the airport’s website.
Numerous drone sightings have been reported near Norwegian offshore oil and gas platforms and infrastructure in recent weeks.
Airport operator Avinor told NRK on Tuesday that 50 possible drone observations have been reported at civilian airports so far this year, 27 of them since July.
NTB said 17 and 14 drone sightings were reported in 2021 and 2020, respectively, while the number was 44 in 2019.
On Monday, Norwegian Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl asked people to be aware of suspicious activity and said that domestic security agency PST had received a number of new drone tips.
“I would say that it is important that we have vigilance in society for activity that may appear suspicious. This should be reported to the local police,” she said.
There is heightened security around key energy, internet and power infrastructure following last month’s underwater explosions that ruptured two natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea that were built to deliver Russian gas to Germany.
The damaged Nord Stream pipelines off Sweden and Denmark discharged huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the air.