Pussy Riot rocks Swedish political stage

Two masked Pussy Riot members visited the Swedish political conference Almedalen on Monday, speaking with EU Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson and hoping to discuss the plight of two colleagues still languishing in Russian jail.

Pussy Riot rocks Swedish political stage

“There was lot of propaganda in the Russian media, which a lot of people believe,” the pair said in Russian, referring to the high-profile case against three members of the activist group who were jailed for staging a protest in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow last year.

The protest aimed to highlight the increasing ties between rising religiosity in Russia and the Putin government.

“On the other hand, people could see how far the authorities would go to silence us, and what dirty methods they can use to do it,” they added with a translator by their side.

Using the nicknames Shaiba and Serafima, the two women met the Swedish press and managed to deliver a message to Sweden’s EU Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson.

“We ask you and everyone else to write letters and pose difficult questions whenever you meet a Russian politician,” the pair told the minister, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

“Human rights must be at the top of the agenda. It’s also important to visit prison camps if the opportunity comes up.”

TT/The Local/at

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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.