Russian-Israeli arrested in Norway for taking photos with drone

Norwegian authorities have banned Russian citizens from flying drones in Norway.

 A drone operator flies his drone as Chinese drone maker DJI holds a demonstration to display an app that tracks a drone's registration and owner in Montreal (photo credit: REUTERS)
A drone operator flies his drone as Chinese drone maker DJI holds a demonstration to display an app that tracks a drone's registration and owner in Montreal
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A Russian-Israeli dual citizen was arrested in Norway on Tuesday after using drones to take photos in the country, according to Norwegian media.

The citizen, named as Vitaly Rustanov, had been in Norway since August and was arrested at the Storskog border crossing between Norway and Russia.

Norwegian authorities have banned Russian citizens from flying drones in Norway.

Police seized two drones and several electronic storage devices, according to Norwegian state news agency NRK.

Police asked for the suspect's arrest to be extended for two weeks.

 The border posts of Finland (blue and white), Norway (black and yellow) and Russia (red and green), stand outside the airport of the Norwegian Arctic town of Kirkenes, Norway, May 8, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/GWLADYS FOUCHE) The border posts of Finland (blue and white), Norway (black and yellow) and Russia (red and green), stand outside the airport of the Norwegian Arctic town of Kirkenes, Norway, May 8, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/GWLADYS FOUCHE)

The Norwegian Verdens Gang newspaper reported on that acquaintances of Rustanov have said that he is a long-time photographer and just a tourist.

"[He] is a photographer, he travels constantly and takes pictures everywhere," says Stepan Romanov, who works in a design agency in Moscow, to Verdens Gang.

Rustanov was reportedly carrying three passports, including an Israeli one, with Romanov stating that he was on his way to Israel.

Artyom Chernov, another acquaintance of Rustanov's, told Verdens Gang that Rustanov received Israeli citizenship last year.

"[He] is just an amateur photographer, sometimes he works as a freelance journalist. I'm sure he meant no harm and was just filming the beauty of Norway. I am sure he is not a spy," said Chernov.

Rustanov's attorney Jens Bernhard Herstad told Verdens Gang that the description provided by the acquaintances matches his impression of him and the information provided by police.

"If he had been a hardened spy, he would never have taken memory cards and equipment over the only border crossing between Norway and Russia."

Jens Bernhard Herstad

"If he had been a hardened spy, he would never have taken memory cards and equipment over the only border crossing between Norway and Russia," said Herstad, adding that while Rustanov still broke the law by flying a drone, if it was just for private purposes he may receive a lighter sentence.

The news agency also reported that it had gained access to a number of videos and photos shared by Rustanov and that they showed things like waterfalls, sheep in a field and sunsets.

Rustanov is also a member of a trade union for photographers in Russia.

Second Russian arrested for flying a drone in Norway

A second Russian national was arrested for flying a drone near Tromso Airport in northern Norway on Friday. He entered the country through the Storskog crossing on Thursday for a work visit and claims that he was only taking photos for private purposes, according to Verdens Gang.

The second suspect was also carrying a large quantity of photography equipment, including a drone and memory cards. Police have asked to extend his arrest for four weeks.

According to the report, authorities found photos of the airport in Kirkenes in northern Norway and a Bell helicopter belong to the Norwegian Armed Forces.

Drone activity over Baltic Sea sparks concerns

The arrests come amid alerts of unidentified drone activity near oil platforms in the North Sea and Baltic Sea and after an explosion targeted the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea.