'Bildt bugged in Russia opposition meet-up'
Published: 21 May 2012 15:32 GMT+02:00
Updated: 21 May 2012 15:32 GMT+02:00
Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt was bugged during meetings in Moscow last year, according to a Russian media report which also claims that Swedish intelligence services are aiding the Russian opposition.
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In an article with a headline that translates roughly as "The Russian opposition's Swedish family" the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda details contacts between Russia's political opposition and officials from the Swedish embassy in Moscow.
In Russian, "Swedish family" is sometimes used as a colloquial expression meant to refer to a promiscuous sexual relationship, according to Swedish daily Sydsvenskan.
The report in the pro-Kremlin daily alleges that Swedish military intelligence service MUST is actively involved in supporting the Russian opposition.
"In recent times, both the Swedish foreign ministry and the kingdom's intelligence service MUST have actively participated in cultivating the Russian opposition," the newspaper claims.
As evidence of the alleged cooperation, the newspaper cites a secret recording made during a meeting between Bildt and Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny which took place in May 2011 and to which Bidlt openly referred to on his official blog.
In discussing how to address the problem of corruption in Russia, Bildt referred to Navalny as a "rising star" and agreed with the Russian's claim that what corrupt Russian officials fear most is a travel ban to Europe, where many of them keep their assets.
"That's a good point," Bildt allegedly said, according to the secret recordings detailed by the newspaper.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda report also refers to a meeting between a Swedish diplomat and representatives from the Russian opposition which took place at the Swedish embassy in Moscow.
The report claims the Swedish diplomat is an agent for MUST and has also met with human rights activists elsewhere in Moscow.
According to Sydsvenskan, the article appears to be an effort to cast doubt on the Russian opposition and is related to an ongoing smear campaign in the Russian state-controlled media directed at Swedish diplomats which has been ongoing since December.
Among other things, Swedish diplomats have been accused of doing the diplomatic bidding of the United States and of having affected the outcome of recent elections in Russia.
Anders Jörle, the head of the press service at the Swedish foreign ministry, adamantly denies that Sweden is responsible for any kind of espionage.
“It’s out of the question that this happened and we deny the rumours strongly,” he told The Local.
“The people at our embassy in Moscow have done nothing illegal, it’s our role to keep in touch with everyone and this is carried out within the rules of the Vienna Convention.”
Jörle also points out that while the so-called rumours shouldn’t tarnish any relationships, talks have begun in order to look deeper into the situation.
“This shouldn’t mean anything for bi-lateral relationships, but it reflects common perceptions in the Russian media. This is not the first time something like this has come up, and we’re conducting an ongoing discussion,” Jörle told The Local.