Suspected Russian spy arrested by Norway attended conference on hybrid warfare

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BRUSSELS — The suspected Russian spy arrested in Norway this week attended a hybrid threat seminar recently that included a pipeline explosion response scenario, according to Norwegian media, the coordinator of the group that hosted the event and a photo of the event. .

Norwegian security authorities announced this week that they had arrested a man claiming to be a Brazilian academic conducting research on Arctic issues in the city of Tromso, who they believe is actually a Russian “illegal”. He has been identified in news reports as Jose Assis Jamaria.

The arrest comes after at least seven Russians – including the son of a close aide of President Vladimir Putin – were detained in recent weeks for flying drones or taking pictures near sensitive areas.

Norway and other countries in Europe are rushing to secure critical infrastructure after the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines. In recent months, there have been more sightings of drones in Norwegian oil and gas fields and at Norwegian airports.

The series of incidents has put Norway – and Europe – on edge. The oil and gas sector is the core of Norway’s economy. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has become a critical supplier to Europe.

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The Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang first reported Thursday that the suspect attended a Sept. 29-30 seminar in Vilnius, Lithuania, on dealing with hybrid threats.

The seminar was hosted by EU-HYBNET, the European Hybrid Threat Network a concept that includes things like sabotage, disinformation, cyber attacks, and other means of combat outside of traditional state-to-state military conflict.

Paivi Mattila, a professor at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland who coordinates the EU-HYBNET program, confirmed by phone that the suspected spy attended the event. She said he did not go through a security check, but declined to comment further, citing the investigation.

A picture shared on Twitter by Mykolas Romeris University shows Jamaria sitting among workshop participants at the event, which was organized with the Lithuanian Center of Excellence for Cybercrime Training, Research and Education on September 29.

Both the EU-HIBNET website and a brochure on EU funding of the Vilnius event Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission, confirmed the funding but said EU institutions were not involved in the group’s day-to-day activities.

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The “training and exercise” event was intended to help participants understand “vulnerabilities that adversaries could exploit” and “outline hybrid challenges in a realistic near-future operational environment,” according to a brochure for the gathering.

Participants examined various scenarios, including one case of “shutdown of gas flow following a pipeline explosion.” In that case study, “initial findings support the assumption that this is probably sabotage rather than an accident”—an eerie echo of the recent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines.

EU warns of “strong” anti-sabotage response after Nord Stream explosions.

Norwegian domestic security officials announced the arrest of the 37-year-old suspect earlier this week, saying he posed a “threat to fundamental national interests”.

There are concerns that he “may have acquired a network and information about Norwegian politics in the northern area,” Deputy Chief Hedvig Mo of the Norwegian Police Security Service told Norwegian media. Even if the information the person received did not threaten Norway’s security, it could be misused by Russia, she said. Officials did not release information on the time of his arrest.

Details of the case are still emerging. Jamaria was doing research at the Arctic University in Norway. As of Oct. 25, he was listed as a researcher at a university think tank called The Gray Zone. He is no longer listed on their site.

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Before moving to Norway, he lived in Canada, where he studied at the University of Ottawa and the University of Calgary. While in Ottawa, he volunteered to canvass for a political campaign, according to Global News. He graduated with a master’s degree from the Center for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary in 2018.

In 2019, he wrote an article for the Canadian Naval Review. The article, titled “Third Base: The Case for CFB Churchill,” advocates establishing a naval base in Canada’s north.

The case comes months after another suspected Russian “illegal” was arrested in the Netherlands. In that 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, creating a cover story over time, often many years. In one high-profile case in 2010, the United States arrested 10 Russian operatives who had been living in the United States for years while secretly reporting to Moscow’s foreign intelligence agency.

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