Swedes swarm to join the home guard

The Swedish home guard (hemvärnet) has received twice as many applications as normal since Russia took actions in Crimea, a newspaper noted on Thursday.

Swedes swarm to join the home guard
The Eslöv home guard marching band. File photo. Hemvärnets Musikkår Eslöv/Flickr

The Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper looked at how many Swedes had applied to join the home guard after Russia became involved in the Ukrainian crisis. It found that 122 Swedes had registered their interest online, almost double the 66 people who got in touch over the same time span in the past six months. 

While home guard spokespersons did not want to tie the upswing directly to Crimea, they said a connection to world affairs was likely.

"I am convinced that the situation in the world is significant to the individual's interest in showing that 'I'm with you, I'm ready, I'm ready to help'," home guard national head Roland Ekenberg told DN. 

The most significant hike in interest was found on the Baltic island of Gotland. More than 450 Gotlänningar (the Swedish name for the islanders) belong to the home guard, of whom 250 carry weapons. One of their prime tasks is to guard the F17 Gotland air base when it plays host to the Jas Gripen aircraft during heightened incident preparedness.

The Swedish air force sent several fighter jets to the island last week, in routine response to a large-scale Russian naval training exercise off the coast of Kaliningrad. 

"It's really easy to get people to help," the island's home guard chief Anders Eckerberg told DN. 

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