The Consul General of the Russian Federation on Svalbard should Not be skewed only towards tourism

Sergey, how the polar Svalbard is experiencing pandemic coronavirus?

Sergey Gushchin: Sharply reduced the number of tourists, and foreign tourists now not at all, their eliminate in Oslo and just not put on Board the aircraft flying to Svalbard. The Russian Center of Arctic tourism (TSAT) “Grumant” today focuses mainly on servicing local residents of the capital of the Spitsbergen archipelago city Longierbyuen who continue to arrive by snowmobile to Barentsburg and to get acquainted with its attractions. To enter the archipelago from the mainland by the Norwegians after the introduction of restrictions very difficult – as I said, foreigners are not allowed on flights to Longyearbyen in Oslo and tromsø. Even for Norwegians arriving in Longyearbyen, a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival. On leaving the archipelago limits less – the Norwegian authorities do not hinder the exit of the archipelago, foreign citizens, provided that they will avoid close physical contact with other people. Aircraft from Svalbard to the mainland is still flying. Another thing is that the number of flights from Norway to other countries all the time is reduced. Currently still have flights from Oslo to Stockholm, London and Berlin. “Aeroflot” has cancelled flights to the Norwegian capital. There is still an opportunity to cross the Russian-Norwegian border to Kirkenes, before reaching Kirkenes from Longyearbyen via tromsø. The Consulate General provides assistance to Russian citizens temporarily residing in Svalbard, and had not managed to leave the archipelago, in the organization of homecoming. Now there are two, one in Barentsburg and Longyearbyen.

Photo: Sergey Bobylev/TASS the Number of infected with the coronavirus in Russia exceeded 300 people

what’s happening in the Russian Barentsburg?

Sergey Gushchin: Naturally, the pandemic has affected the Russian towns on the archipelago, Barentsburg and Pyramid. Fortunately, while there was no prevalence of coronavirus in Svalbard. However, all introduced by the Norwegian authorities of restrictions and other quarantine measures affected and Barentsburg. However, it is not quarantined and remains free to visit. The village’s restaurants brought its activities in line with the new Norwegian regulations for preventing the spread of coronavirus infection – visitors now sit at a distance of not less than one meter from each other. Canceled mass events at a later time ported sporting exchange Longyearbyen. Also in Barentsburg are created regularly gathering crisis headquarters to respond to a pandemic, it included representatives of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation, of the mine “Barentsburg”, hospital of Barentsburg, TSAT “Grumant”, Russian scientific organizations. The staff distributes a memo for the prevention of disease, preparing the ordering of medicines and medical masks from the mainland.

recently relations of Moscow and Oslo around Svalbard became somewhat strained. Does this mean that the Norwegian side does not want to see Russia in the archipelago?

Sergey Gushchin: Svalbard is so intertwined with Russian history, that we can’t just leave. It will cause, first of all, a blow to Russia’s image. In addition, Svalbard and our land, too, she poured blood and sweat of our ancestors. Here was the Russian sailors, explorers, geographers, members of the Arctic convoys, simple miners. Historically, the odds were fifty-fifty, we get to Svalbard or Norway. As a result, he went to Norway, but this does not mean that we have to leave here.

And we prinouclaim to get out of here?

Sergey Gushchin: explicit pressure, but the problems about which he wrote in his message to the Norwegian party the Minister of foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, are present and interfere with life.

What problems?

Sergey Gushchin: In the first place the question about helicopters. In the Soviet era on the archipelago, there were five helicopters, we flew where I wanted, and took who they wanted. In Barentsburg there is a runway, like there has never been land routes to the capital of the archipelago, Longyearbyen or in some other place, if only by snowmobile in the winter. So the helicopter we need. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union the Norwegian side began to impose its conditions that the helicopter can only be used for tasks associated with the coal industry. Even though in the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 allowed the commercial activities to which we refer, and tourism. By the way, at the time of signing of the Agreement, the tourism in Svalbard has been. Came here yachts and cruise ships with tourists. And it is unclear why the Norwegian party does not agree to treat tourism as a commercial activity. As a result, we are unable to carry and tourists.

Photo: Konstantin Volkov/WG All the tourists have left the Arctic Svalbard due to quarantine

what is the reason for this rebellion Norwegian side?

Sergey Gushchin: I Think she is trying to strengthen its sovereignty. As soon as air transport the Contract is not registered, then regulate it can only be Norway. Therefore, it is necessary to hire the services of Norwegian helicopters. The same applies to science – if the scientific activity in the Contract is not written, knowledgecheat, the Norwegian side puts its limitations, and scientists from any country should comply with them. For example, in the scientific village of NY-ålesund at Svalbard is allowed only to the natural Sciences. Meanwhile, Chinese scientists who work there want to engage in humanitarian, sociological issues such as community attitudes to coal mining, to the melting of glaciers. But the Norwegian side did not allow them to do so.

But there may be some derogations from the prohibitions, perhaps? For example, together with scientists fly a helicopter miners, and obtained, requirements met…

Sergey Gushchin: we all understand and some things close my eyes, but from time to time. And if something happens – remember. When a Russian helicopter crashed in 2017, was on Board our scientists, they flew from the Pyramid in Barentsburg. And the local press published an article that, it turns out, the Russians violated the transportation rules.

What is your relationship with the Governor of Svalbard?

Sergey Gushchin: Relations are good. We meet twice a month to discuss problems. Involved the Governor, the Director of the trust “Arktikugol” is a major coal mining company in Barentsburg, and I as Consul General. If something cannot be solved at the level of the Governor, she promises to go in Oslo. In some cases it helps. However, the main irritant is the restriction of the use of the helicopter by the Russian side remains. As the challenge of strengthening environmental law.

But the protected area and so it is 65 percent of the area of the archipelago…

Sergey Gushchin: In February, the Ministry of climate and environment of Norway announced that is preparing new amendments to the Law on the protection of the environment of Spitsbergen in 2001. Before may 1 the concerned authority on Svalbard must submit a draft of these changes to the Ministry. Trust “Arktikugol” among these instances is notso Apparently, it will attract only the fall of 2020, when the bill will be submitted for public hearings. At the stage of preparation of the bill with us had not been consulted.

Photo: iStock Siberian scientists have learned to produce environmentally friendly coal

what are the changes?

Sergey Gushchin: the Norwegian side wants to reduce the use of heavy marine fuel (bunker fuel oil) in all territorial waters of the archipelago, whereas now it is only prohibited in the environmental zones. There are plans to limit the size of tourist ships, with the right to enter the archipelago and to revise the rules of movement of motorized vehicles. The Norwegians say that introducing new restrictions, they do not break, because the rules are the same for everyone: for Russian, and for the Norwegians, and to all other parties to the Treaty on Spitsbergen. That is, all formally met. But in fact this limits, for example, the activities of our scientists. The last five or six years they can study, in fact, only the vicinity of Barentsburg.

the Norwegians on Svalbard gradually begin to introduce electronight. This is a new phase of the struggle for a clean environment? Can it happen that soon the entire Russian fleet of diesel snowmobiles will be banned?

Sergey Gushchin: Until such regulations no. But there are nuances. Reserve of elektronikoa enough for about thirty kilometers. The distance between Longyearbyen and Barentsburg is about sixty kilometers. Maybe electronight can be used for short routes, but still need charging stations.

What is the situation with coal in the archipelago?

Sergey Gushchin: the Norwegians stayed only one operating mine, the “gruve 7”, supplying coal, including CHP Longyearbyen. It is planned to develop until at least 2040. All other Norwegian mines closed down because the price of coal falls, plus the Norwegian party has ambitious goals to become a society with zero polluting emissions. The local population Longierbyuen even conducted a protest against the closure of the mines, but the decision was still made, plus spent a huge amount of money for reclamation of the mines. Everyone was afraid, by the way, what will be the unemployment of the miners and social crisis after the closure of the mines, but nothing happened. Began to develop other areas: the service sector, tourism, small business. That is, Longyearbyen was able to shift. And now its population is growing, it is 2700 people. Pandemic coronavirus, however, struck on economy of the Norwegian village of slam: almost all of the tourism industry was paralyzed. It is unclear how Longyearbyen will come out of this crisis.

how much is enough coal in Russian mines on Svalbard?

Sergey Gushchin: At the mine “Barentsburg” coal projected to last until 2050. Attempts to restore the mine “Grumant” turned out to be unprofitable, need billions roubles. On the “Barentsburg” currently produces 120 thousand tons of coal per year, 30 thousand of them comes to the needs of CHP Barentsburg. The Norwegians in Longyearbyen CHP, by the way, consumes the same amount. CHP in the local climate is heat and electricity, without them people would have to evacuate. Therefore, production at the mine “Barentsburg” should be kept at least from these considerations. Diesel to be imported to Svalbard expensive. Might have been a good project, if built storage for LNG. Such ideas periodically arise.

Photo: Nina zotina/RIA Novosti Shafranik: the End of the transaction on the reduction of oil production was inevitable

Alternative energy in the archipelago is developing?

Sergey Gushchin: the Norwegians have been discussing the idea of wind turbines. Also, they have already put solar panels at the airport in Longyearbyen. However, the efficiency of these panels is low. The idea was to hold the electric cable from the mainland, but was very expensive. We still use the coal and take measures to reduce harmful emissions from CHP and energy efficiency improvements in buildings.

But helicopters and CHP is not the only problematic points in relations with the Norwegian side on the archipelago?

Sergey Gushchin: There is still the problem of deportation from the archipelago of the persons in the sanctions list, as Norway has acceded to certain international sanctions. Speaking after a visit to Svalbard in 2015, Dmitry Rogozin, at that time Vice-Premier of the Russian government. There is even a special procedure, namely: if to Svalbard comes a person in the sanctions list, the Governor accompanied by the police, obliged him to delay, to transmit into a room and to send the detainee for his own account back. Well, it turns out that the Consul General of Russia needs to intervene and discourage him? For this reason has long been an exchange of diplomatic notes between us and the Norwegians. We believe that under international sanctions it is necessary to understand first of all the restrictions was initiated by the UN, all kinds of terrorists, and the like of a person. But in Oslo believe that it is necessary to implement sanctions implementasinya the European Union, which, by the way, Norway is not formally a member. Yet the solution of this problem.

Another problem – last year the Norwegian polar Institute has given me in visiting the scientific settlement of NY-ålesund, where located, among others, and ChineseI research station “yellow river”, which I had intended to visit, and together with the representative of the Russian science centre on Spitsbergen. Refused without explanation. Nu-ålesund area, he operated by the Norwegian polar Institute from whom I have to request permission to visit. Now the question of the admission at NY-ålesund is already being discussed at the level of head of Department of the MFA of Russia, and, probably, will be raised at the bilateral consular consultations. The issue here is fundamental. It turns out that the Consul General of Russia refuse to visit areas of the consular district, and in this case my consular district is the entire archipelago, regardless of, there are in a particular village are Russian citizens or not. Before, by the way, this was not my predecessors traveled freely at NY-ålesund.

Periodically POPs up the question about how the Norwegian party approvals of documents zoning areas of the Russian settlements of Svalbard…

Sergey Gushchin: every ten years should be adopted a new zoning plan areas, because Barentsburg is still being developed and he needs a new coordinated with the Norwegian document for the basis of further growth. But we have five years to coordinate with the Norwegian side this plan. And they keep making new demands. One of the last, for example – to consider avalanche danger. “Arktikugol” has invited Norwegian experts, those all figured out, but there are additional requirements for the plan detail. One more thing – the railway, which “Arktikugol” wants to restore from the centre of Barentsburg to the helipad with a length of six or seven kilometers. Before the railroad on this route have been, then it was dismantled, and we want to restore ways to transport tourists. March 26, to be a meeting with the Governor, planned to discuss this issue, but unfortunately, it will not happen because Norwegians are maintained by restrictions on entry in connection with the coronavirus. Indirectop trust “Arktikugol” simply will not be able to come from Moscow to Svalbard.

Photo: Alexander Lenin / WG Oceanographers spoke about the increase in the number of parasites in the fish for sushi is 300 times

From the Russian side there is still a project for the construction of a fish processing plant in Barentsburg…

Sergey Gushchin:, and it Has already made to the zoning plan of the area of Barentsburg. As soon as the Norwegian side it is approved, immediately begin the environmental impact assessment. But while the zoning plan is not approved, nothing can not develop.

will there be Enough fresh water in Barentsburg? After all, a fish processing plant it need a lot of…

Sergey Gushchin: This question is not completely clear yet. We’ve barely withdrawals from a freshwater lake on the other side of the fjord, and if there is a fishery, the consumption will greatly increase. So, it is necessary to pull the pipeline to another lake, which is already outside of the Russian land. But closer sources of fresh water, not only streams.

As a plan to develop tourism?

Sergey Gushchin: At the recent annual meeting of “Arktikugol” in Barentsburg, it was announced that in 2019, the revenue from tourism for the first time exceeded the size of state subsidies, part of 400-500 million per year received by the trust. And the last few years, tourism brings in more revenue than the sale of coal. This is due, in particular, and the efforts of Timofey Rogozhin, head of the tourist destination of “Arktikugol” of the Center of Arctic tourism “Grumant”. Rogozhin gathered young talented team, updated snowmobile Park. Here come the guides from all over Russia. But, in my opinion, it is impossible to make a bias only in the direction of tourism, otherwise Barentsburg will become a Museum under the open sky, as the Soviet mining town of Piramida, which is now mothballed. Coal mining is the core of the living of the village.

There is the prospects for resolving the disputes of territorial disputes with the Norwegian side regarding the so-called “fisheries protection zone” around Svalbard, the shelf?

Sergey Gushchin: Nothing can be seen. Oslo does not deviate from the position, they consider the surrounding Svalbard’s 200-mile zone, the continental shelf and the seabed territory, which is not subject to the Treaty concerning Spitsbergen of 1920, and where they set their own rules. Another thing is that there are a number of countries in addition to Russia, which does not agree with this state of Affairs, including, for example, Iceland, Spain, UK. The Norwegians say that they perfectly control the entire territory of the archipelago, and the proof of this is the fact that no one has filed a lawsuit against them in the international court in the Hague. But why such an action is not to organize? It is not very difficult. And to do in this case is possible without revising the basic Treaty concerning Spitsbergen of 1920.

Photo: RIA Novosti the President has extended benefits for oil and gas projects in the Arctic and on the continental shelf

Any new projects Russia is planning in Svalbard, in addition to the fishery and the restoration of the railroad?

Sergey Gushchin: I would have gone the way of the Norwegians, who recently Longierbyuen experience in various technologies in extreme conditions. Frost-resistant paint, for example, communication systems 5G in Arctic conditions. Last year came the industrial development strategy of the Norwegian Svalbard, and there is explicitly recommended in the preto turn the archipelago into a Playground for testing new technologies, this cross-cutting theme. And why don’t we go down the same path? For example, lighting design is important in the light of the polar night, or the study of the effect of cosmic radiation in high latitudes on the human body. In 2016 on Spitsbergen by Russian scientific centre of the dozens of Russian research organizations. Another promising direction is the attraction to Russian projects in the archipelago of foreign scientists. It is the cooperation with China, with South Korea.