Nordic protest after Russian inspection

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in the Russian passport control-desk at Borisoglebsk border check-point.

Russia’s crack-down on foreign funded groups have reached Nordic Council’s information office in Kaliningrad. Carl Bildt and the other Nordic Foreign Ministers lodge sharp protest.


The protest comes after Russian authorities last week conducted a so-called control visit to the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Information Office in Kaliningrad.

The office is part of the Nordic Council of Ministers Secretariat and acts, in agreement with the Russian authorities, as an Info Point for cooperation between partners from the Russian enclave in the Baltic and the Nordic countries.  

During the raid, authorities went through the office documents, such as books.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his Nordic colleagues issued a strong protest on Friday.

“If they continue to hamper our business, it is no doubt that it will have a negative effect. If they regulate the operation so that we can continue it’s good, but we do not know yet,” Carl Bildt says to SVT.

Bildt had a joint press-conference in Stockholm together with Norway’s Espen Barth-Eide and Finland’s Erkki Tuomiojan.

The inspection of the Nordic Info office comes as a part of wide-ranging checks of foreign funded non-governmental organizations currently taking place in Russia. The checks were initiated after President Vladimir Putin called on FSB to fulfill the aims of last year’s controversial NGO-law forcing foreign-funded NGO to register with the Ministry of Justice as “foreign agents.”

Bildt says the Nordic countries would jointly demand an explanation next week from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Representatives from all Nordic Embassies in Moscow will then walk together to the Foreign Ministry building in Moscow and ask for political talks.

Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Dagfinn Høybråten, also objects to the Russian control visit to the Council of Ministers’ Information Office in Kaliningrad.

“I deeply regrets the control visit, which must be considered as disruptive to the otherwise good co-operation between the Nordic Council of Ministers and Russia,” says Høybråten in a statement and continues:

“In a democratic society it is crucial that individuals and non-governmental organisations are able to work freely and without fear of misplaced interference and control. The Nordic Council of Ministers therefore objects to the Russian authorities’ control visit to the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Information Office in Kaliningrad.”

Finland’s Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, says to Helsingin Sannomat that Russia’s action was not acceptable.

“I’m not worried on behalf of the Nordic branch, because I think that things will be arranged when we make such a clear statement from the Nordic countries. But the whole situation for how civil society is functioning is very worrying,” says Erkki Tuomioja.

In the Barents Region, the Nordic Council of Ministers has Contact Centers located in Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and Petrozavodsk. 

The centers are structured and managed as part of the Information Office in St. Petersburg.

Tasks of the Contact Centers are to facilitate contacts, networking and partnership between the Nordic Council, the Information office in St. Petersburg and local authorities, representations, institutions and organizations. The Contact Centres also ensure distribution of information about Nordic Council of Ministers’ policies and programs in Barents Region.