The war in Ukraine continues to dominate. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway has visited the Norwegian city of Kirkenes, on the border with Russia, to meet the locals and hear how it feels to live close to the border with Russia after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kirkenes is located in Sør-Varanger municipality, which is the only municipality in Norway that borders Russia. The Crown Prince began the visit to the Barents Secretariat, where the mayor of Kirkenes, Lena Bergeng and head of the Barents Secretariat, Lars Georg Fordal, talked about how Russia’s warfare affects the city’s population. They also discussed cooperation and friendship across borders, and business. At the same time, they also told the Crown Prince about the strong community in Kirkenes, and the unity they enjoy, regardless of nationality.
The mayor of Kirkenes said that many Russians live in the city, and that everyone knows someone from Russia. They are friends, neighbours, spouses and colleagues. In addition, they are used to traveling freely across the border to shop, visit friends, maintain business cooperation and go on holiday.
The head of the Barents Secretariat said to His Royal Highness that their goal is to create mutual understanding between Russia and Norway, by sharing knowledge and building networks and financing cooperation projects.
After the briefing, the Crown Prince took a walk through the snow-covered centre of the city, and had lunch at the local patisserie with six of the city’s residents. Together they talked about how they experience living close to the Russian border. At the local youth club, the Crown Prince met several young people from the Youth Council, and was shown around by the unit leader for culture. The young people told about the offer at the newly opened club and enjoyed showing their visitor the new E-sports room.
Crown Prince Haakon`s visit concluded at the city’s ice hockey field. The ice hockey club is led by William Sjøstrand. He was born in Murmansk, Russia, and moved to Norway when he was 30 years old. His family has Norwegian roots and is referred to as Kola-Norwegians. The league facilitates a number of matches between teams from Norway, Finland and Russia.