Andrey Yakunin, a 47-year-old British-Russian citizen who was charged for flying a drone in Svalbard, walked free on Wednesday evening.
The multimillionaire is the eldest son of oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, a close Putin associate and former head of Russian Railways.
Yakunin was arrested onboard his yacht in Hammerfest, northern Norway, in October after he earlier in the summer was on adventure expedition to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
Russian citizens are not allowed to fly drones in Norwegian airspace, but when he was questioned by the police, Yakunin said he was a British citizen. The police, however, found his Russian passport onboard the sailing yacht.
The ruling of acquittal by Nord-Troms and Senja district court says that flying a hobby drone is not covered by the sanctions regulations.
“It is very gratifying, but not at all surprising, that the district court has concluded that Andrey Yakunin has not committed any criminal offense in Norway,” says his lawyers John Christian Elden and Bernt Heiberg.
The sailing yacht is still in Tromsø, but Yakunin flew to Oslo where he and his team met with media Thursday afternoon.
State prosecutor Kristin Røhne told the newspaper VG shortly after the release that the ruling will be appealed and is expected to come up for a higher court in late January.
Two other Russian citizens detained for flying drones in Norway have been sentenced to 90 days and 120 days in prison.
This article has been fact-checked by Arctic Today and Polar Research and Policy Initiative, with the support of the EMIF managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
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