Timofey Rogozhin, the former top Russian tourist official in Barentsburg, who left his job last year, now spends considerable time on Telegram, countering Russian propaganda about the invasion. Calling himself a dissident, he describes atrocities committed in Ukrainian towns as “not mistakes but crimes.”
“Svalbard is a place where people from all different countries have managed to get along peacefully,” said Elizabeth Bourne, an American who is director of the Spitsbergen Artists Center in Longyearbyen, the primarily Norwegian transportation, commerce, research and university hub of Svalbard. “This situation is in danger of putting an end to that. I think that would be a tragedy.”
Longyearbyen is about 30 miles northeast of Barentsburg and is inhabited by roughly 2,500 residents from 50 nations. Cultural exchanges involving singing and dancing, and sports exchanges involving games like chess and basketball have been ongoing between Barentsburg and Longyearbyen since the Soviet era.
Their longevity is made more remarkable by the lack of a road between the towns. Travel must be done by snowmobile, boat or helicopter.