Police in Norway arrested an academic working at the University of Tromsø in the Arctic Circle on Monday, on suspicion of secretly spying for Russia, according to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
Norway’s police told NRK that the man, a researcher at the university, claims to be a Brazilian citizen but they suspect he could be using a false identity and could actually be a Russian citizen.
“We have asked that a Brazilian researcher at the University of Tromsø be expelled from Norway as we believe he represents a threat to fundamental national interests,” said Hedvig Moe, Assistant Head, Norwegian Police Security Service, speaking to NRK.
“PST (Norwegian Police Security Service) is worried that he may have acquired a network and information about Norwegian politics of the northern area. Even if this network or the information gathered bit by bit is not a threat to the security of the kingdom, we are worried that the information could be misused by Russia,” Moe added.
CNN has reached out to the police force for comment.
The agency did not reveal the man’s name but said on its Twitter account that he was being held on suspicion of violating two sections of the Norwegian penal code, dealing with “illegal intelligence” that could “damage fundamental national interests” and “security interests of other states.”
PST said it was working closely with other countries’ intelligence agencies as they work on the case.
Russian authorities have yet to comment on the arrest but in an email to NRK the Russian embassy said they were not aware of the circumstances of the case and described it as part of the “spy mania” in Norway, where “everything Russian … is suspicious and smells of espionage.”
The public broadcaster said the case is being treated as an immigration case, and the man’s lawyer said he opposes the detention and “does not agree with the basis for it.” He said he’d received “very little concrete information on the case so far.”
In July, Richard Moore, the head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto that since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, European countries have expelled “north of 400 Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover” across the bloc.
The country has been on edge after a series of leaks in two Russian gas pipelines – both of which run under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark – that leaders of several countries said were the likely result of sabotage.
The leaks happened just before the ceremonial launch of the Baltic Pipe carrying gas from Norway to Poland, a centerpiece of Warsaw’s efforts to diversify from Russian supplies.
In June, Dutch authorities said they had thwarted an attempt by a Russian spy to gain access to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by posing as an intern.
They identified him as Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, a Russian military intelligence officer who in April traveled to the Netherlands to start an internship at the International Criminal Court (ICC). From there, he would have had a perch to spy on war crimes investigations into Russian military actions in Ukraine and elsewhere, sources say.