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Russian man behind Svalbard's first bank robbery imprisoned

Russian man behind Svalbard's first bank robbery imprisoned

  • 8 May 2019
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Longyearbyen is home to fewer than 3,000 people

A Russian man who carried out what has been dubbed the first-ever bank robbery on the remote Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has been sentenced to 14 months in prison.

Maxim Popov, 29, stole 70,000 kroner (£6,140; $8,000) from the world's northernmost bank in the town of Longyearbyen in December.

Police say Popov went to Svalbard to kill himself but had second thoughts.

He then sought his own arrest so that he would not have to return home.

It is not clear why Popov did not want to return to Russia.

Svalbard's chief police inspector, Vidar Arnesen, told the BBC that Popov was convicted of threatening behaviour with an armed weapon rather than bank robbery, as he had been trying to draw attention to himself.

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He was arrested close to the bank on the island of Spitsbergen following the robbery in December and all of the money was recovered.

Police say there was no evidence of a plan to escape the island, where there are few roads, boat connections or flights.

Court documents state that Popov came to Svalbard, some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the North Pole, after reading online that it was easy to obtain a firearm there.

Firearms are typically sold on Svalbard for protection from the region's polar bears.

Criminality in Svalbard is extremely rare and police say Popov is the first person ever to rob the bank there.

The coal-mining town of Longyearbyen, where winter temperatures drop below minus 40 degrees Celsius (−40 degrees Fahrenheit), is home to fewer than 3,000 people.

Popov was tried and will serve his sentence on the Norwegian mainland as Svalbard does not have a prison.