Two Years Ago — Former Norway Border Inspector Frode Berg Is Released In Spy Swap [November 15 2019]

“The time spent in prison has been a large burden for Frode Berg and his family. We are happy that he can now be reunited with his family.” 

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg

November 15 2021 — On November 15 2019, Russia released Frode Berg and two Lithuanians convicted of espionage in a swap that also saw Lithuania free two Russians jailed for spying. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

“Is it more important to cover up the defense ministry’s stupidity than to secure openness and EOS’ authority?” 

Aftenposten’s commentator Harald Stanghelle

UPDATE (November 15 2021) — Earlier this year, the parliament completed its investigation into the botched recruitment of Frode Berg — a retired border inspector in Kirkenes — to carry out intelligence gathering activity in Russia.

But the government has decided to keep the report [stamped “Top Secret” by the Defense Ministry] classified. Berg himself is not allowed to read it… Why on earth not?

Berg strongly believes that his missions were part of a much bigger operation.

“I understood that early, while under arrest in Moscow. There was steadily talk about another country also.”

Asked whether it was the US, Berg answered:

“Yes, it was, but I didn’t know anything about that.”

According to the defense minister, the report could damage national security if its contents regarding an “international intelligence cooperation” were revealed.

In a commentary published in Aftenposten last month, the defense minister admitted that it’s difficult to balance the needs for openness and security:

“We must keep the intelligence service’s operations confidential, at the same time the public must have confidence that they’re operating within the framework they’ve been given, and that there’s democratic control over the operations.”

To many observers, that “confidence” is now wearing very thin…

END of UPDATE

“It suddenly looks as though all the government parties plus the Progress Party are in favor of the secrecy. Who or what are they hiding here?”

Brynjulf Risnes — Frode Berg’s attorney (Nov. 2021)

November 15 2019 — The spy swap took place at Lithuania’s southern border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.

The transfer took place at midday (10:00 GMT).

“Today, at midday, the exchange operation was completed successfully,” Lithuanian intelligence chief Darius Jauniskis told reporters in Vilnius.

“Lithuanian citizens Yevgeny Mataitis and Arstidas Tamosaitis and Norwegian citizen Frode Berg successfully returned to Lithuania.”

Frode Berg was immediately transferred to the Norwegian embassy in Vilnius.

TIMELINE

  • December 5 2017 — Frode Berg, a 62 retired border inspector, was arrested by Russian security service agents in downtown Moscow. He is jailed  in isolation at the high-security Lefortovo prison.

  • April 23 2018 — Frode Berg faces 20 years in prison on the spying charges and the case against him is very strong. Berg told his defense attorneys that his trip to Moscow was orchestrated by Norway national intelligence agency 

  • July 18 2018 — Russian investigators file a motion with Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court seeking to extend detention of Berg charged with espionage until October 5 2018.

  • October 30 2018— The court has rejected an appeal against the extension of his arrest, saying the decision was legitimate. Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court had earlier extended Berg’s arrest until December 5 2018.

  • November 30 2018 — The court decided to prolong his arrest for another two months. His wife claims Berg has been “cast to the wolves” by Norwegian officials who allegedly recruited him as a courier, only “to refuse to acknowledge any connection to him or help his family when things went wrong.”

  • December 11 2018 — The Moscow City Court has sentenced ex-police officer Alexey Zhitnyuk to 13 years in prison for transferring classified information to Frode Berg. Zhitnyuk gave secret documents containing information regarding the Russian navy to Frode Berg in December 2017.

  • January 30 2019 –The Moscow City Court has extended Berg’s detention until April 5 2019.

  • March 22 2019— The Moscow City Court will consider a criminal case against Frode Berg, a citizen of Norway charged with espionage related to Russian navy. [court’s press service]

  • April 5 2019 — The trial finally begins in the Moscow city court building. Berg’s Russian lawyer Ilya Novikov tells Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Berg’s trial is “in practice over.”

  • April 9 2019 — Prosecutors ask the Moscow City Court to find Norwegian citizen Frode Berg guilty of spying against Russia and sentence him to 14 years in jail.

  • April 16 2019 — Frode Berg has been sentenced to 14 years, as requested by the prosecutor. According to the Moscow Times, Berg will not appeal the verdict and plans to request a presidential pardon from Vladimir Putin that would see him freed.

  • October 18 2019 — There are rumors that Russia and Lithuania have agreed to a spies swap. Russia and Norway may have reached an agreement on a similar deal.

  • October 24 2019 — The official commission which deals with prisoner pardons in Moscow has recommended that Russian President Vladimir Putin pardon Frode Berg.

  • November 7 2019 — Lithuania’s parliament passes legislation that could pave the way for a possible three-way spy exchange.

  • November 15 2019 — Lithuania’s president has pardoned two Russian nationals in a move that could pave the way for a possible three-way spy exchange between Russia, Norway and Lithuania.

  • November 15 2019 — Russia releases Frode Berg and two Lithuanians convicted of espionage in a swap that also saw Lithuania free two Russians jailed for spying.The spy swap took place at Lithuania’s southern border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave. The transfer took place at midday (10:00 GMT).

Home for Christmas – BBC News

REFERENCES

AN ARCTIC SPY MYSTERY : An arrest in Moscow shakes Norway’s far north — Washington Post (February 3 2018)

FSB’s arrest of Frode Berg resounds in Norwegian border town — The Barents Observer

Accused Norwegian spy feels ‘misused’ — Views and News from Norway

Berg fears he was duped into spying — Views and News from Norway (April 22 2018)

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One Year Ago — Former Norway Border Inspector Frode Berg Is Released In Spy Swap [November 15 2019]

Two Years Ago — Former Norway Border Inspector Frode Berg Is Released In Spy Swap [November 15 2019]

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