A thousand kilometers from the North Pole, in the Arctic Ocean, the Svalbard archipelago is Norwegian territory, but a 1920 treaty gives the signatory countries equitable access to its natural resources.
And so does Russia, and before that the USSR, which since 1932 has exploited this coal mine in Barentsburg with the Arktikugol company.
Sergei Guschin he is the Russian consul here. About the war in Ukraine he says:
“There are no visible signs of conflict on the surface. People try to help and support each other. I call it arctic solidarity.”
Longyearbyen is the most important population, the majority are Norwegian, but it has a large Russian and Ukrainian community.
Less than four hundred Russian miners, and especially Ukrainians from Donbas, live in these inhospitable places.
Timofey Rogozhin is one of those Ukrainians from Donbas:
“Two or three weeks after the war started, the general manager of Arktikugol, the Russian mining company, announced at a staff meeting that we should not talk about the war or provoke any conflict.” -He says
But the echoes of the war have reached here, making the atmosphere rarefied, instilling mistrust, according to Siv Limstrandprotestant pastor:
“We know about the wars in other parts of the world, but now all of a sudden it’s coming at us and the aggressor is someone we also know is closely watching out for their interests in the Arctic region. So it’s natural for people to think: Will this affect us in any way? -he says.
Because nobody is unaware here that the archipelago, in particular the southernmost island, Bear Island, is close to the waters through which the Russian nuclear submarines of the powerful Northern Fleet must navigate to reach the Atlantic Ocean.