‘Putin ally’s Yakunin son who flew drone over the Arctic violated law’


Norway’s top court on Friday ruled that the son of a Russian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin violated a law that bars Russians from flying drones when he flew drones over the Arctic last year.
The Supreme Court’s decision overturned a lower court’s ruling, saying said that “the flight ban for Russian citizens includes drone flights,” making it illegal for Russian companies or citizens “to land on, take off from or fly over Norwegian territory” as the Scandinavian country’s law states. Norway, like the European Union, decided on the ban in 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine.
Last year, a Norwegian district court had ruled that flying a hobby drone was not covered by the sanction regulations. Andrey Yakunin, who holds both a Russian and a British passport and who lives in Italy, was arrested in Hammerfest, in Arctic Norway, on October 17, after he had sailed around the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard and along the coast of Norway.
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 of Russian officials and businessmen following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. While circling Svalbard, Yakunin was responsible for two drones that he owned, and which were used several times for flights over the archipelago which sits more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland. Yakunin had been filming with the drone while mountaineering, glacier walking and sailing.His lawyer, John Christian Elden, noted that two of five Supreme Court judges had disagreed and didn’t decide whether drones had to be considered aircraft.
“That says something about how difficult this question is. Can one reasonably expect that an ordinary tourist would be able to understand this,” Elden said in a statement.
He added that the Supreme Court only considered whether hobby drones are covered by the sanctions regulations and not, for instance, whether the rules apply to persons with dual citizenship. The case now would be sent back to the district court.