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Arrest of suspected pair of Russian spies shocks Sweden – Observer

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whitefish here our liveblog about the war in Ukraine

Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Koulkova seemed to have a normal life. They have lived in a white-fronted house in Saltsjö Bu, on the outskirts of Stockholm, since 2015. “They were just like everyone else in the area, talking about gardening and always saying hello.” informed — told the couple’s neighbor to the British newspaper The Times. Last Tuesday, at 6 am, everything changed.

That morning, two helicopters fly over the house where the couple lived. From there, an elite detachment of the Swedish army entered through the window, and police cars parked near the house. This was all part of a second operation detailed later by Stefan Hektor, director of the Swedish police, who explained that the goal was to prevent any evidence from being destroyed, either “down the toilet” or “by destroying computers.”

The “friendly couple” were arrested after this very difficult police operation. It is based on the decision of the Swedish Prosecutor General’s Office, which accused Sergei Skvortsov of carrying out “serious illegal espionage activities” against Sweden and a foreign state over the past 10 years. The woman was his accomplice.

The defendants denied the accusations of Swedish justice, but Sergei Skvortsov remained in custody, and the woman paid bail and was released. Meanwhile, Swedish prosecutor Henrik Ohlin went into more detail about the allegations that the Swedish police were assisted by the FBI, according to which the couple also collected information from the services that compromised US security.

To do this, the couple will acquire illegal technology from the Russian military industry that will help them complete the mission. Sweden also managed to unravel Sergei Skvortsov’s ties to the Russian intelligence services, which will be in contact over the past few years. Nonetheless, Swedish authorities only started tracking the couple in 2016when the company they owned ran into economic problems.

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The Russian couple hails from Perm near the Ural Mountains. Sergei Skvortsov, who was born in 1963, studied at the Moscow Engineering Institute, and his wife, a year younger, also received her higher education in the Russian capital, but already at the State University of Computational Mathematics. They got married in 1994 and have a son who also lives in Stockholm. Elena Kolkova has another daughter from other relationships.

They moved to Sweden in the late 1990s. Sergei Skvortsov worked for several Swedish technology companies. Although they lived in Sweden, the couple bought an apartment in Moscow, in an area where several Russian secret agents usually live. One of your neighbors was Sergey Fedotov — accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal four years ago in London. In 2015, the house was named after the daughter of Elena Koulkova.

Swedish printing house, quoted Le Monde indicates that Elena Kolkova received Swedish citizenship in January 2010. Her husband received the same two and a half years later.

The opening of this case comes at a time when relations between Russia and Sweden are going through a difficult moment. After the invasion of Ukraine, Stockholm wanted to join NATO, which angered the Kremlin. The scandal is seen as another point of tension between the two countries.

In turn, the press secretary of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, has already reacted to this case, condemning, in her words, “the anti-Russian hysteria of the West.”🇧🇷 “This is a Russophobic campaign that has become an obsession with espionage in some countries.“, he accused.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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