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British-Russian son of former Putin ally cleared of drone flying offence in Norway



The British-Russian son of a former Vladimir Putin ally said he was only “filming nature’s beauty” after being acquitted of illegally flying a drone in Norway.

Andrei Yakunin, the businessman son of former Russian Railways boss Vladimir Yakunin, was arrested in October 2022 for flying a drone in the Svalbard archipelago.

Norway banned Russians from flying aircraft and drones over its territory after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Oslo boosted security further after the suspected Russian sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September.

The 49-year-old faced a possible three-year sentence for flying the drone, while unauthorised photography can merit a one-year sentence.

‘I am just a yachtsman’ 

“From day one, I have been saying that there is no offence for a British man to fly a drone in Svalbard. 

“However, it has taken almost two years and a complicated legal process, with 52 days in detention to get this message across. 

“But common sense and justice have inevitably prevailed in the end. I have never committed any criminal offence,” Mr Yakunin said.

“I am just a yachtsman and an outdoor sports enthusiast who happens to enjoy filming nature’s beauty.”

Mr Yakunin was first acquitted by a district court, which accepted he did not know flying the drone was illegal, in December 2022.

He was acquitted again in the Court of Appeal in February 2023 after prosecutors challenged the original verdict.

In June 2023, Norway’s Supreme Court overturned the acquittals but a district court acquitted Yakunin again when it heard the case in February this year.

When prosecutors tried to appeal again, the request was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

It said he had already spent 51 days in custody, which would be about the sentence the prosecutors demanded, and that there was no need to reconsider whether Mr Yakunin was aware he was breaking the law.

Mr Yakunin’s lawyers said that the prosecution had now confirmed it would not be making any further appeals and hinted at a future damages claim for “emotional and material costs accrued as a result of the unfair charges”.

“The case against me has finally been dismissed and my third and final acquittal is a victory not only for my team and me but first and foremost for common sense,” the businessman said


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