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UNITED STATES

US embassy in Stockholm evacuated

The US embassy in Stockholm was evacuated on Wednesday with Swedish emergency services and police on the scene, investigating what media has referred to as a mystery letter containing "an unidentified white powder".

US embassy in Stockholm evacuated

“There has been a potential security incident that we are investigating and we have temporarily been evacuated,” said Jeff Andersson, spokesperson for the embassy to The Local.

“This happened in the last couple of hours and we are working with Swedish authorities to investigate the incident.”

According to the Stockholm emergency services, a “white powder” was found in an envelope sent to the embassy.

“I can confirm that there was a white powder in the envelope. It will be analyzed today or tomorrow, but for now, no one knows what it is,” explained Albin Näverberg of the Stockholm police to The Local.

“Right now, the police are on the scene and they have secured the envelope and are in the process of taking it outside safely.”

When asked to confirm that an unidentified white powder was the cause of the evacuation, embassy spokesperson Anderson remained staunch.

“I have nothing to say other than that there has been a potential security incident. That’s all I can say at this time,” he told The Local.

According to Anderson, there are no known threats directed against the embassy.

In total, some 170 people are employed at the US embassy but it remains unclear how many of them were there at the time of Wednesday’s evacuation.

Soon after 2pm, the police lifted their barricades and staff members were allowed to return to the embassy.

Oliver Gee

twitter.com/theuppsalakoala

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RUSSIA

No island as important as Gotland, says US military chief

There is no island as strategically important as Gotland, a top US military chief has told Swedish media as his soldiers prepare to join Sweden's largest exercise in two decades.

No island as important as Gotland, says US military chief
United States Army Europe commander Ben Hodges on a visit to Lithuania. Photo: AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Sweden is leading the major military exercise Aurora 17 in September, with units from all over Sweden, at sea, land and air. More than 19,000 troops are set to take part, including 1,435 soldiers from the US, 270 from Finland, 120 from France and between 40-60 each from Denmark, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia.

It will focus on the Stockholm and Gothenburg regions and Gotland, the Baltic Sea island at the centre of military discussions in Sweden, where fear of an increasingly assertive Russia has grown in recent years.

“Aurora 17 is the first and biggest exercise of its kind in more than 20 years,” said Sweden's Armed Forces.

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the commanding general of the US Army forces in Europe, described Gotland as a key location on a visit to the island ahead of the exercise.

“I look forward to my soldiers being given the opportunity to train as much as they can with you,” newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) quoted him as telling Swedish troops permanently stationed on the island for the first time since 2005.

“You have a strategically very important task here. I do not think there is any island anywhere that is more important.”

READ ALSO: Why is Sweden re-militarizing idyllic holiday island Gotland?


Swedish troops on Gotland. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

READ ALSO: Why Sweden is bringing back military conscription

Non-Nato member Sweden has strengthened its ties with the military alliance in recent years, despite Russia's words of warning that an expanding Nato would be seen as a “threat”.

Russia will hold a joint exercise, Zapad 2017, with Belarus around the same time as Aurora 17, seen by many Nato allies as an attempt to flex its muscles. The US has also stepped up its presence in eastern Europe with troops and tanks as part of a Nato military build-up that has drawn criticism from Moscow.

“Russia has changed the security environment,” Hodges told DN.

“We have to react to that, and not just the US, but the whole of Nato. The countries closest to the bear have historical experience. They feel the hot breath of the bear – and they are the ones most worried.”

“The fact that Sweden decided that they have to put troops back on Gotland is a very clear indication of what's going on. Sweden is known as moderate, credible and alliance free. Nevertheless Sweden felt that this was necessary.”

READ ALSO: Sweden in Nato would be a threat to Russia, says Vladimir Putin

Ben Hodges' comments in Dagens Nyheter were translated from Swedish to English by The Local. We understand his original comments were given in English, translated to Swedish by Dagens Nyheter.