Russia slams Swedish military ‘propaganda’

Russia slams Swedish military 'propaganda'
A Russian military parade earlier this year. Photo: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Russia has accused Sweden of spreading propaganda after high-ranking defence officials voiced concern about the country's military activities.

“Stop using Swedish mass media to create tension and frightening people with talk about a Russian threat,” Swedish Radio quoted Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zacharova as saying at a press conference on Thursday.

“Unfortunately we're seeing time and time again how Sweden intentionally avoids contacts with Russia and instead engages in propaganda,” she added.

Her comments came just days after several top Swedish military officials accused Moscow of attempting to drive a wedge between European countries in an effort to divide and weaken a fragile EU.

As The Local reported earlier this week, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said after a defence seminar during Sweden's Almedalen Week that Moscow is using “various methods to try and weaken Europe”.

The head of Sweden's military intelligence and security service Must, Major General Gunnar Karlsson, meanwhile said that Russia would “benefit from and would like to see a split within the EU, and also Nato”.

Sweden's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Micael Bydén, also spoke about his country's relationship with Russia this week, voicing concern about a number of near-misses in the past years between Russian military jets and Swedish aircraft.

“It could be that a mistake leads to an accident and that can then be used for the wrong purposes. Or perhaps I'm sitting here with information that could solve the problem, but it doesn't get there and then it's assumed that it could be something else,” he said, adding that he would like to see “a phone number” set up between officials in the two countries.

Zacharova replied in strong terms on Thursday, saying that Bydén should have brought his concerns to Russia directly rather than talking about them to Swedish media.

“Why doesn't he just pick up the phone and call his colleagues in Russia to ask his questions,” she said.

Sweden has been uneasy about more assertive Russian behaviour in the Baltic region in recent years, including Russian planes skirting or violating the national airspace of neighbouring countries. Earlier this year Swedish security service Säpo described Russia as Sweden's biggest security threat.