This article appeared in Norwegian newspaper VG; that newspaper does not, to my knowledge, offer an English section online - translation below is by myself.
Russian diplomat defected to Norway
By TOM BAKKELI, KJETIL STORMARK
On the same day as the Russian diplomat (53) arrived to Norway for the first time to work at the Russian embassy in Oslo, he defected and requested asylum in Norway.
The man claims to have background from Russian intelligence-services, and is now being questioned by the Police Security Service (PST).
The 53 year old Russian was supposed to have worked as an attaché - the lowest-ranked diplomatic position at the Russian embassy. The defection took place in the middle of May this year.
As far as VG understands, PST has the last few weeks spent a considerable amount of time and resources to prepare and conduct questionings - socalled debriefing - of the Russian diplomat. The defection reportedly has been viewed with great interest from PST's closest cooperative partners abroad, particularly from the British MI6.
Probably telling the truth
The man's age and low-ranking position at the Russian embassy are, when viewed together, a very strong indication that the man is telling the truth when claiming to have a background from an intelligence-service, VG is told from centrally placed sources.
From what VG understands, the 53 year old has also given information when questioned by PST which strengthens his claims. From Norwegian side questions about the defection are being met with a wall of silence.
Neither PST, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) or the Directorate of Foreign Nationals Affairs (UDI) have admitted knowledge of the matter to VG in the last few days. The defection is, however, openly confirmed by the Russian embassy in Oslo.
- Yes, it is correct that an individual who was to work as a diplomat here at the embassy, did defect the same day he arrived in Norway. He never showed up at the embassy, says press-attaché Alexander Zinoviev to VG.
According to Zinoviev the embassy did not even have time to send the 53 year old's papers of accrediation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- He therefore does not have the status of diplomat in Norway, even if he does hold a Russian diplomat's passport, declares Zinoviev.
- Is it correct that the man has a background as an intelligence officer?
- Of that I have no knowledge, answers the Russian press-attaché. The Russian embassy goes far, however, in suggesting to VG that the 53 year old's motives for seeking asylum in Norway are of financial nature.
The 53 year old is the first Russian diplomat to defect in Norway since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
In the summer of 1991 the Soviet-Russian KGB-officer Mikhail Butkov defected, after having conducted intelligence-gathering in nroway since february 1989, under cover of being the Scandinavian correspondent for the newspaper Rabotsjaja Tribuna.
Butkov did not have status as a diplomat, but still had an office in the Russian embassy in Oslo. It has later become known that Butkov most of this time was a double-agent for the counter-intelligence office of the then Politiet's Overvåkingstjeneste (Police Surveillance-Service), POT, now renamed PST.
Based on what VG has reason to believe, Minister of Justice Odd Einar Dørum and other members of the cabinet have been briefed on the sensitive diplomat-defection.
As VG understands matters, the 53 year old arrived to Norway alone when he defected and requested asylum. He is supposed to be at a secret location in South-Easter Norway. The man reportedly has family which still is residing in Russia.
VG has in the last few days been in touch with the 53 year old's solicitor, Kjell T. Dahl in Oslo, who, after having conferred with his client, declines to comment the case.
Will report leaks
Dahl reveaks to VG that he will report this to the police, as he views this as deliberate leaks and violation of the confidentiality-requirement.
- My client reacts strongly to VG at all being aware of this case. I will therefore ask the police to investigate this matter, in order to find out who may have leaked this, says Dahl to VG.