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Sweden sends tanks and soldiers to the Baltic island in the face of the Russian threat

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“AThe armed forces are taking the necessary measures to protect the integrity of Sweden and demonstrate our ability to protect Sweden and the interests of the Swedes,” Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP via email.

The move comes after three Russian amphibious assault ships sailed across the Baltic Sea through the Great Belt off Denmark this week as tensions escalate between Russia and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states.

In a statement released Thursday, the military said troops would be deployed to “intensify operations in many locations” due to “increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea.”

Hutqvist also told news agency TT that the patrols on Gotland show that Sweden is taking the situation seriously and that “it won’t be taken by surprise”.

Swedish military operations commander Michael Claesson told AFP that the units sent to Visby come from a garrison already stationed on the island, denying it was a “show of force”.

Western countries blame Russia for tanks and dozens of soldiers amassing on the border with Ukraine in recent weeks, which NATO says is a prelude to a possible invasion.

Russia denies it is preparing a military offensive and says it is a response to the growing presence of the Atlantic Alliance in its sphere of influence.

In the middle of today, the Swedish armed forces said they had detected growing Russian activity in the Baltic Sea, indicating the presence of “elements that deviate from the normal framework”, and decided to increase military training in the Scandinavian country.

“From now on, we will be more visible and will be in important civilian strategic locations,” Thomas Angshammar, spokesman for the SVT Gotland Regiment, told public television, referring to the port and airport of Sweden’s largest island in the Baltic Sea. Sea. .

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The reason lies in the “increasing activity” in areas close to Sweden and the importance of “demonstrating to the people of Gotland and other countries that we have an active defense that adapts to the situation.”

However, the Swedish defense believes that the risk of an attack on the Scandinavian country is “low”.

Tensions between Sweden and Russia have intensified in recent years, which coincided with the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, with mutual condemnations of airspace violations, in particular by the Swedish side.

The most serious incident occurred in 2014, when Stockholm cited a violation of its territory by an alleged foreign submarine, indirectly blaming Russia for this, but the main evidence – several photographs provided by civilians – was forgotten after a few months.

In recent years, Sweden has stepped up its cooperation with NATO, with which it has an association agreement, and has approved a number of measures to increase its defense budget.

The Stockholm government also decided to send a permanent detachment to Gotland, restore compulsory military service, allow the presence of NATO troops on Swedish soil and reissue a manual with information on how to act in the event of an emergency or military invasion.

In 2018, the Swedish Armed Forces called on the 22,000-strong National Guard, a permanent corps of volunteer reservists, to prove their ability to mobilize, a measure that has not been used since 1975.

Read also: Sweden increases military readiness in the face of Russian activity, eliminates the threat

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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.). ).

See also  Who was the lieutenant colonel whom Putin distinguished as a "Hero of Russia"? - Gift

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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