The Swedish Defence Research Agency has revealed Carl Bildt, one of the country’s most senior politicians in the previous centre-right coalition government, was the victim of a smear campaign.
Allegations that he was spying on Russia to see retribution for a failed battle three hundred years ago were made by state-controlled Russian media in 2013.
At the time, Carl Bildt was Sweden’s Foreign Minister and had helped set up the Eastern Partnership (EAP), an EU initiative designed to bring eastern European countries closer to the EU, including Ukraine, Moldova and Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis started two years ago as a row intensified over Ukraine’s position in Europe. The country’s former leader President Yanukovych decided not to sign a deal that would have seen his country develop closer trade ties with the EU, and sought closer cooperation with Russia instead.
Ahead of that decision, "Russia perceived the Eastern Partnership and the EU's offer to let Ukraine become closer to the EU as threatening and tried to counter it by discrediting Bildt”, Ulrik Franke, who authored the report on the Russian smear campaign, told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Bildt was described as a CIA agent on the television show Vesti Nedeli on Russian television channel Russia-1, which also criticised Sweden’s culture and approach to parenting by showing clips from children's television programme Biss and Kaj. The show by Swedish broadcaster SVT features two characters named after 'wee' and 'poo' who live in a sewer, as part of efforts to help youngsters understand bodily functions.
According to Franke, the idea was to subtly suggest that Sweden was “strange” and did not follow "conventional standards” in order to send a message to viewers that Russia strongly disagreed with his pro-European stance.
Carl Bildt has not responded to the revelations in the Swedish media.
News of the campaign against Bildt emerged a day the Nordic Council of Ministers shut its offices in Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad over accusations from Russia that the organisation was filled with ‘foreign agents’.
On Thursday, Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist announced that the government planned to boost protection from potential intruders in Swedish waters, by increasing defence spending on ships and submarine warfare technology.
The move followed criticism over the country's defence capabilities as Russia's military presence in the region continues to grow.