The arrest comes as at least seven Russians, including the son of one of President Vladimir Putin’s close associates, have been arrested in recent weeks for flying drones or taking photos near sensitive areas.
Norway and other European countries are scrambling to secure critical infrastructure after the destruction of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines. In recent months, there have been several sightings of drones in Norwegian oil and gas fields and Norwegian airports.
Norway and Europe are outnumbered by the number of cases. The oil and gas sector is a major part of the Norwegian economy. Since the start of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, the country has become an important supplier to Europe.
Norway, along with the sighting of drones, arrested the son of Putin’s confidant
Norwegian newspaper “Verdens Gang”. It was first reported Thursday that the suspect attended a Sept. 29-30 seminar in Vilnius, Lithuania on countering hybrid threats.
The workshop was hosted by EU-HYBNET, the European Network on Hybrid Threats – a concept that includes things like sabotage, disinformation, cyberattacks, and other means of warfare outside of traditional state-to-state military conflict.
Paivi Mattila, a professor at Laurea University in Finland who coordinates the EU-HYBNET program, confirmed by phone that the suspected spy attended the event. He said he did not undergo a security check, but declined to comment further, citing the investigation.
A picture shared on Twitter by Mykolas Romeris University appears to show Giammaria among seminar participants at an event organized with the Lithuanian Cybercrime Center of Excellence for Training, Research and Education on September 29.
Both the EU-HYBNET website and the brochure for EU-funded Vilnius event Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission, confirmed the funding but said EU institutions are not involved in the day-to-day activities of the group.
According to a brochure for the gathering, the “learning and training” event was intended to help participants understand “the weaknesses adversaries can exploit” and “articulate hybrid challenges in real-world operational environments of the future.”
The participants discussed various scenarios, including a case of “stoppage of gas flow after a gas pipeline explosion”. In this study, “preliminary findings support speculation that it is likely to be a sabotage rather than an accident” – an ominous reflection of the recent Nord Stream pipeline sabotage.
EU warns of ‘strongest’ anti-sabotage response after Nord Stream blasts
Norway’s security authorities announced the arrest of the 37-year-old suspect earlier this week, saying he “threatens fundamental national interests”.
Deputy head of the Norwegian Police Security Service, Hedvig Moe, told Norwegian media that she was concerned that he “may have obtained a network and information about Norwegian policy in the northern region”. Even if the information obtained does not directly harm Norway’s security, it could be misused by Russia, he said. The authorities did not provide information about the time of his arrest.
The details of the case are still unknown. Giammaria was doing research at the Arctic University of Norway. Since October 25 of this year, he has been listed as a researcher at the university’s think tank called “Grey Zone”. He is no longer listed on their site.
Before moving to Norway, he lived in Canada, where he studied at Carleton University and the University of Calgary. While in Ottawa, he volunteered for a political campaign, according to Global News. He completed his Masters in 2018 at the University of Calgary’s Center for Military, Security and Strategic Studies.
In 2019, he wrote an article for the Canadian Naval Review. The article entitled “Third base: the work of CFB Churchill” speaks in favor of establishing a naval base in northern Canada.
The case comes a few months after another “illegal” Russian suspect was arrested in the Netherlands. In this case, an alleged Russian spy claimed to be a Brazilian seeking an internship at the International Criminal Court. He previously studied in the United States.
“Illegals” operate without diplomatic cover and create a cover story over time, often years. In a high-profile case in 2010, the US arrested 10 Russian operatives who had been living in the United States for years and were secretly reporting to Moscow’s Foreign Intelligence Service.