Published: Just now
GOTHENBURG. The Swedish Armed Forces have found people with connections to Russia at Swedish ammunition warehouses.
This is stated by Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist in an Aftonbladet interview where he also talks about unexplained drone sightings and how Russia shadowed naval exercises.
– Russia has been conducting war planning on Swedish territory for a very long time, says Peter Hultqvist.
Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist (S) leans back in the government plane when he falls silent and suddenly says:
– Sometimes I get information that people have been seen or noted that there were people with connections to Russia at ammunition depots, military bases and exercises. This is what has happened and it has also happened that the Russian side tried to inform itself very closely about various types of exercises.
“Actively engaged in espionage”
According to Aftonbladet’s information, it has been the question of naval exercises on the west coast where Russian submarines overshadowed Sweden’s cooperation with NATO countries such as Great Britain and the United States.
Peter Hultqvist does not want to go that far in his description, but says:
– They have marked their presence with various weapons. But that doesn’t stop us from carrying out what we’ve decided to do. We decide completely independently what we do and we do not adapt to possible Russian attempts at marking.
With a couple of weeks left until the election, the Minister of Defense and his staff have invited Aftonbladet to participate in a visit to the association and an inauguration of the new office of the Norwegian Public Service Agency in Gothenburg.
Peter Hultqvist prefers to talk about how a Swedish national defense should marry with NATO membership. But he also talks about what the deteriorating security situation has meant in practice recently.
– Russia actively conducts espionage against Sweden. It involves the recruitment of spies but also direct information gathering during military exercises, various types of infrastructure and military operations. This is a reality that the Swedish public must be aware of.
Peter Hultqvist mentions unexplained sightings of drones in connection with military exercises as a growing problem.
– We have drones that are constantly returning and we have noted various events in the local geography when training activities take place. This is a matter of espionage, nothing else.
The Minister of Defense does not want to go into any details about the various events, but states:
– There is a reporting chain for this type of incident and Säpo is naturally involved. At the same time, it is nothing new. After all, Russia has been conducting war planning for a very long time on Swedish territory, where they plan how to act in different ways in a war situation.
During the visit to Gothenburg on Wednesday, Peter Hultqvist meets soldiers at Älvsborg’s Amphibious Regiment who told about how to work with mines and the naval target robot Robot 17 that Sweden also sent to Ukraine.
– These are two powerful weapons that give us the ability to adapt the terrain to our advantage, says the commander, Colonel Fredrik Herlitz.
Mines to deter
The port of Gothenburg is seen as crucial when it comes to receiving help from friendly nations in the event of a crisis or war and then the mine weapon plays an important role in deterring an attacker.
If and when Sweden’s NATO application is approved, such so-called host country support will be further formalized and this requires preparations already now, according to the defense minister.
– Everything is based on reciprocity where we commit to doing certain things but it is also the case that we expect to receive support. Then the supply lines become important, both the west coast but also Trondheim and Jämtland towards the coast, says Peter Hultqvist.
In practice, it is about securing NATO forces’ advance routes to be able to come to Sweden’s rescue in the event of a Russian attack.
– It can apply to troop reinforcements in a crisis situation, about possible advance storage and other types of preparations, says Peter Hultqvist.
After Sweden applied for NATO membership, criticism has sometimes flared up against Peter Hultqvist because he went from being a NATO opponent to advocating and working for NATO membership. Today, he says that it was a necessary decision when Sweden risked standing alone in Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea region.
– We decided that we had to change course. When Russia showed its total unreliability and through the war radically raised the tension level, we had to make a decision and then you have to make a reconsideration and stand for it, whether you receive criticism or not.
“Never heard anything like it”
In various articles, it has been claimed that Turkey would have had something against Peter Hultqvist because he had a meeting with representatives of the organization YPJ in 2016. But the defense minister dismisses that there would be any obstacle in the NATO process.
– I have never received any such indication that it would be anything special other than what I have read in various speculative articles. But I have never heard anything like that, I have had bilateral meeting with the Minister of Defense of Turkey and so on, but I have never heard anything like that.
– We have many Kurds living in Sweden who are Swedish citizens and it is clear that as a municipal councilor or member of the Riksdag it is natural to have that type of contacts. Then I think that several Kurdish defense forces should be given recognition when it comes to the fight against IS, but it is important to emphasize that we have never accepted terrorism and will not do so either.