For 25 years, Norwegian border agent Frode Berg fostered relations with Russia from his post in the town of Kirkenes, just minutes from the border. That is, until the 62-year was arrested in December in Moscow on espionage charges, shocking those who knew him in Kirkenes, as Anton Troianovski explains in his deep dive for the Washington Post. Charges in Berg's arrest—an expert says he's the first Norwegian arrested by Russia for espionage since the early 20th century—revolve around him allegedly mailing money and spy directives in envelopes to a woman in Moscow named Natalia. Troianovski floats multiple theories as to why Berg was detained: that he was set up by Russian spies to spark a fight between Norway and Russia, that he was an "unwitting courier" for Norwegian intelligence operatives, or even that he "truly [did] lead some kind of double life."
Troianovski explains Berg's longtime role in nurturing relations with Russia, including a joint annual ski race he helped set up and a cross-border art exchange he joined. All of which has made Kirkenes' locals nervous: Some fear if he does turn out to be a spy, it would throw other people in jeopardy, as Berg participated "everywhere and in everything" involving the town's cross-border projects. Berg insisted Friday from a Moscow courtroom, where his jail stay was extended three more months while Russia investigates the case, that he's innocent. "I feel really misused," he said in reference to unnamed Norwegians who his lawyers say gave him the envelopes to mail. The Kirkenes mayor backs him up: "I can guarantee you he's not a spy." And so, doubts linger. "He seemed to be a nice guy," a Kirkenes port agent tells the Post. "But then again, who really knows anybody?" The full story is here. (Read more Longform stories.)