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‘Butts should be next’: city councillor

Sweden's controversial littering law is under fire after local authorities have reported no change in garbage left in public places since it came into effect in July. Critical voices are now calling for a sharpening of the rules, according to a report in daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

'Butts should be next': city councillor

“There should be a fine for those who throw cigarette butts on the street. The law should be stricter,” Ulla Hamilton, city councillor for traffic in Stockholm, told DN on Friday.

Accoding to the report, Sweden’s controversial littering law grants police the power to fine offenders on the spot but the Riksdag chose to excuse from penalty those who toss bus tickets, cigarette butts and chewing gum.

While the clean-up of litter costs communities billions of kronor each year, the infant law has reportedly had little effect.

More than 90 percent of Sweden’s municipalities believe that the rate of littering has remained at the same level as before the law was enforced in early July, according to DN.

And some believe that Parliament’s move to exclude certain litterbugs will further damage the law’s effectiveness.

“Allowing some to litter will make it harder to enforce the law. Throwing cigarette butts on the street opens it up to a collective behavior that says that it is okay to litter,” Joakim Brodahl from the Keep Sweden Clean (Håll Sverige Rent), told the DN.

Furthermore, police reportedly rarely fine offenders.

“For police, it is a priority issue. We have to see the crime occur and the public will not accept that we keep watch from park shrubberies,” Bengt Svensson, a police commissioner from the National Police, Rikspolisstyrelsen, told DN.

Irene Oskarsson, a member of the Parliament’s environment committee, said that the police still have a few resources to prioritize this type of crime.

“But the law is good,” Oskarsson said to DN.

Svensson, however, defends the pace of the litter law’s effect.

“This kind of laws will take time before it penetrates the public. This has been the case with the helmet requirement for minors cyclists and the ban on urinating in public places,” police commissioner Svensson said to the paper.

The Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation (Stiftelsen Håll Sverige Rent), has previously tried to identify which groups of people clutter the most.

“Our general profile shows that there are many who litter, but especially male smokers aged 15-19 years are characterized by frequent littering,” said Brodahl to DN.

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OFFBEAT

Plot thickens over Russian pantyhose probe

The mystery surrounding why exactly a Swedish diplomat was selling smuggled pantyhose in a Moscow kiosk grew on Tuesday as the Swedish foreign ministry alleged the Russian media portrayal of the incident was a deliberate smear attempt.

Plot thickens over Russian pantyhose probe

“They’ve presented the story in a way which deliberately sullies the diplomat’s reputation,” Swedish foreign ministry spokesperson Anders Jörle told The Local.

The comments come following a report by Russia’s NTV television which shows the 35-year-old Swedish diplomat unloading cartons of nylon stockings from a car bearing diplomatic plates and standing behind the counter of a kiosk in Moscow where the hosiery was being sold.

The diplomat was subsequently arrested and taken in for questioning by Russian police, who accused the the Swede of selling stockings smuggled into Russia from Belarus.

During the interrogation, the diplomat admitted to involvement in the stocking trade.

Speaking with the TT news agency, a unnamed source from the foreign ministry described the 35-year-old as a capable diplomat.

The source went on to suggest that the Russians had elected to spread the story about the Swedish diplomat’s extracurricular activities in response to an incident last week during which the wife of a Russian diplomat in Stockholm was accused of shoplifting.

But Jörle denied that the foreign ministry was working from the theory that the supposedly biased Russian news reports were part of a diplomatic tit-for-tat.

“I’ve never said that there is a connection between the two incidents,” he said.

“They both happened, but I can’t say whether they’re connected.”

Jörle nevertheless confirmed the foreign ministry’s assertion that the Russian news report failed to provide a complete picture of the incident.

“They don’t give all the details which we have access to surrounding the incident, some of which aren’t very flattering for the Russians,” he said.

However, Jörle refused to elaborate on exactly what about the Swedish diplomat’s purveyance of pantyhose might make Russian officials uncomfortable.

“I’m not going to get into it,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Stockholm, Anatoly Kargapolov, confirmed that police were called to a Stockholm store last week after alarms went off when the wife of a Russian diplomat was leaving the shop.

“It was not a case of shoplifting,” Kargapolov told The Local.

He explained that the woman stayed in the store after the exit alarms sounded, but that store employees couldn’t understand her because she didn’t speak English or Swedish and that she didn’t have any diplomatic identification with her.

“The police were called, but our consular representative eventually showed up and the whole matter was cleared up at the store,” he said.

“It would be a mistake to connect the two incidents,” he added, emphasizing that the Russian embassy would rather move forward than dwell on the alleged misdeeds of the Swedish diplomat.

“We regret that this happened. What’s most important for us is not to have this incident affect our bilateral relations,” he said.

According to Jörle, the Swedish foreign ministry plans to investigate the incident, but added that no further disciplinary action is currently planned for the 35-year-old diplomat.

He also had little to say as to why the diplomat was involved in selling stockings in the first place.

“That’s a good question,” he said.

“All I can say is that, from what we understand, it isn’t something that can earn a person much money.”

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