Son of Putin ally who flew drone over Arctic broke law, Norway’s Supreme Court says

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norway’s highest court ruled on Friday that the son of a Russian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin violated a law banning Russians from flying drones when he flew drones. drones over the Arctic last year.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturned a lower court’s ruling, stating that “the flight ban for Russian citizens includes drone flights”, making it illegal for Russian companies or citizens “to land, take off or fly over Norwegian territory” as the Scandinavian states the law of the land.

Norway, like the European Union, decided to ban it in 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine.

Last year, a Norwegian district court ruled that piloting an amateur drone was not covered by the penalty regulations.

Andrey Yakunin, who holds both a Russian and British passport and lives in Italy, was arrested in Hammerfest in the Norwegian Arctic on October 17 after sailing around the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and the along the Norwegian coast.

Yakunin is the son of Russian businessman Vladimir Yakunin, a longtime acquaintance of Putin, who was placed on the US State Department’s sanctions list against Russian officials and businessmen after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.

While circling Svalbard, Yakunin was responsible for two drones he owned which were used on several occasions for flights over the archipelago located more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland. . Yakunin had filmed with the drone while mountaineering, glacier walking and sailing.

His lawyer, John Christian Elden, noted that two of the five Supreme Court justices disagreed and did not decide whether drones should be considered aircraft.

“That says a lot about how difficult this question is. Can an ordinary tourist be reasonably expected to understand this,” Elden said in a statement. He added that the Supreme Court only considered whether recreational drones were covered by the penalties regulation and not, for example, whether the rules applied to people with dual nationality.

The case would now be returned to the district court.

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