I find Longyerbyen a fascinating place. It is on one side a well developed tourist spot with all that is needed to do tours in style, but it also has -still- a bit of a Klondike feeling over it with all the mining remnants around. It has even been more thrilling over the last ten days because there´s been a whole bunch of people involved in polar travel and exploration, like for example Victor Boyarski of the Barneo Station and guides like Doug Stoup. And loads of Marathon Runners and other type of travellers. All stuck in Longyerbyen for a time longer than expected. When I first came across them, they seemed eager to leave and full of life, but by the day they were just hanging around the lobby at SAS Radison Blue looking slightly worried.
The problem have been mainly the runway on ice at the amazing Barneo have cracked at least three times. I find it amazing that a place like this exists just a stones throw from the proper North Pole. A testament to the strength (possibly folly) of human kind. And once they had fixed it a fourth time, other problems arouse briefly, mainly paperwork with the Norwegians running the biggest part of these amazing islands called Svalbard. Then a rumour started that the leader of the very interesting Chechyan country, Ramzan Kadyrov and his Spetznaz soldiers had arrived at Longyerbyen, dressed up as tourists and left for Barneo, where they supposedly parachuted all and made a mock war. Now, when i first heard it, I smiled a lot. A friend of mine sent me a few Instagram photo, whether they came from the real account belonging to the Chechen leader, is hard to know, there so many around, but they did show Longyerbyen Airport and a bearded member, which anyone who knows anything about Ramzan Kadyrov immediately could see wasn´t him. I found it all hilarious, but interesting.
Unfortunately, social media and its vast net of citizen journalists (sometimes good, but most times not, since source research is none existend, well, that goes for quite a lot for established media as well nowadays) set off a rumour that this was the truth. Irina Orlova at Barneo came out with quick reply:
It’s time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Today in FB, I again met accusals of the Barneo team in bringing the Chechen ‘spetsnaz’ disgiused as tourists to Longyear.
I didn’t react to these insinuations till our friends became engaged; they started to doubt our decency.
I’ll explain, why all this is lie.
First of all, we use Antonov-74 airplane, which is not constracted for parachute jumps, but, as is well known, the ‘dreadful Chechen spetsnaz’ parachuted at Barneo.
Secondly, during the last 15 years we never, and I mean it, ever misleaded the local authorities, and do not plan doing it in the future. Does the good reputation, built over that time, mean nothing anymore?
And the last, but, possibly, the most important thing, I’d like to point at. All our activities are under close control of the Longyear airport security service. On which ground those, talking of Chechen trace, accuse the security service in incompetence and carelessness in their duties? Because, then it is this service failed to detect Chechen soldiers, ostensibly diguised as tourists.
One more thing.. There are many references to the photograph, made in Longyear airport, where bearded man (supposedly Ramsan Kadyrov himself) may be seen. To this I can only remind that not each beard belongs to Kadyrov.
I really do hope that we don’t have to talk of this issue again, and justify Barneo team for what we never did. Particularly, as many ways lead to Barneo, and those, who, for whatever reasons, cannot come via Longyear, may reach the Ice Base from Frantz-Josef Land, or Novaya Zemlya archipelagos.
And, it took a few more hours for the very able journalist Correne Erasmus-Coetzer, working for Explorersweb and Pythom, to do a proper job and figure things out. Read the full investigation here. My own special interest in Ramzan Kadyrov has to do with the fact, that his dad Ahmad Kadyrov was born and bred in Karaganda and I have come across people who grew up with him. So I am keeping an eye on the son and his rather odd world. I do have a lot of respect for the Chechyans.
Well, this is how close I got to the Chechyan leader!