Russia ordered two Norwegian diplomats Tuesday to leave the country by the end of the week in the latest move of an spy row between the two neighbors.
"Today the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Norwegian ambassador in Moscow," a ministry statement said."He was told that competent Russian organs have incontrovertible evidence about the involvement of a counselor of the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow, (Rune) Castberg, and the consul at the Norwegian consulate in Murmansk, (Ole) Bjornoy, in activities incompatible with their official status."
This latter phrase is diplomatic language for spying.
Norway, the only NATO alliance member bordering Russia, ordered out two Russian diplomats last week on espionage charges and barred another three from entering the country.
Norway's ambassador to Russia, Per Tresselt, denied the diplomats were spies.
"The Norwegian side deeply regrets the recent action by Russian authorities. There is absolutely no foundation for the meas-ures that have been taken," he said.
Russia's moves recalled the days and language of the Cold War, and the timing looked deft. Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik had been due to arrive Tuesday on a two-day trip, but Norway postponed the visit.
Russia has criticized Norway's handling of the incident, in which a Norwegian bureaucrat acted, according to Norwegian accounts, as a double agent to help trap the Russian diplomats.
"Taking into account all of the above Castberg and Bjor-noy, have been told to leave Russia not later than March 20 of this year," the Russian statement said.
"We would like to point out that the activities of the Norwegian special services toward Russia and its citizens do not contribute to a normal development of relations between our two countries."
Castberg was the fisheries counselor at the embassy, where 23 diplomats work, and had served less than a year in the post. Bjornoy, one of three Norwegian diplomats in Murmansk, had previously worked in the St Petersburg consulate, Tresselt said.