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ASSAULT

Swede assaulted by US women hoops players

Two American women basketball players have been remanded in custody by a Swedish court on suspicions of assaulting a man on the streets of Visby on the Baltic island of Gotland last weekend.

“We’re talking about unprovoked violence from two people against someone who was lying defenceless on the ground,” prosecutor Mats Wihlborg told the helagotland.se news website.

The two women, Ashleigh Brown and Jeannie Saunders of the Visby Ladies basketball team, were ordered held in custody in part over fears they could try to leave the country.

The highly inebriated man who is the victim of the alleged assault had a mobile phone belonging to the American women in his pocket, but no memory of how the phone ended up on his person.

When the women discovered that the man had the missing phone they grew very agitated, according to witnesses.

Screaming at him, they allegedly pushed him into a pile of snow and began hitting and kicking him.

Two of their team mates witnessed the incident.

The accused women have been suspended from the Visby Ladies basketball club and their contracts with the team have been terminated.

“We made it clear to [the women] that they represent the team in all circumstances. That’s just how it is when you’re a professional sports player,” Visby Ladies’ spokesperson Marco Leino told helagotland.se.

Brown, 23, denies assaulting the man, but has admitted she behaved aggressively toward the alleged victim, a man in his forties.

Saunders, 25, admits pushing the man in self-defence and then kicking him repeatedly.

The women have been remanded in custody for the two weeks remaining until the trial, as Gotland’s district court concluded there was a risk of their either leaving the country or influencing the trial, as they’re friendly with the main witnesses.

The Visby Ladies team has been left shocked by the incident.

“We’re sad, disappointed, angry and confused. We’re actually all a bit shocked. These are nice girls, and it’s hard to see how they could’ve ended up in this situation,” said Marco Leino.

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MILITARY

Sweden steps up Baltic defence in ‘signal’ to Russia

Sweden's defence minister has said his country is carrying out military exercises in the Baltic Sea to 'send a signal' to countries including Russia.

Sweden steps up Baltic defence in 'signal' to Russia
Swedish troops on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. Photo: Joel Thungren/Försvarsmakten/TT

The so-called “high readiness action” means the Swedish army, navy and air force are currently more visible in the southeastern and southern Baltic Sea and on the island of Gotland.

No details have been disclosed about the number of troops involved in the action.

Sweden is “sending a signal both to our Western partners and to the Russian side that we are prepared to defend Sweden's sovereignty,” Hultqvist told news agency TT.


Ground troops on Gotland. Photo: Bezhav Mahmoud/Försvarsmakten/TT

“There is currently extensive military activity in the Baltic Sea, conducted by Russian as well as Western players, on a scale the likes of which have not been seen since the Cold War,” the Swedish Armed Forces' Commander of Joint Operations, Jan Thörnqvist, said in a statement.

“The exercise activities are more complex and have arisen more rapidly than before. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has caused global anxiety and uncertainty. Over all, the situation is more unstable and more difficult to predict,” Thörnqvist said.


A Visby-class corvette and two Jas Gripen jets in the air. Photo: Antonia Sehlstedt/Försvarsmakten/TT

Hultqvist said Sweden was also monitoring developments in Belarus “very closely”.

Non-Nato member Sweden, which has not been to war in two centuries and which slashed military spending at the end of the Cold War, reopened a garrison on Gotland in January 2018 amid concerns about Russian intentions in Europe and the Baltic.

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