Sweden condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine as ‘cowardly’

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist held a press conference on Thursday morning discussing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine as 'cowardly'
Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist comment on Russia's attack on Ukraine at a press conference. Photo: Paul Wennerholm/TT

‘A dark chapter in Europe’s history’

“Today marks the beginning of a new and dark chapter in Europe’s history,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference on Thursday morning.

Andersson further described the invasion of Ukraine as “unprovoked, unlawful and indefensible”, stating that it was “a threat to international peace and security, a flagrant breach of international law and the European security order”.

During the day, Andersson will be meeting with the European Council, where an agreement on a new round of sanctions against Russia is expected.

In response to questions at the press conference regarding Sweden potentially joining Nato, the prime minister responded that “in this kind of situation it is important that the security policy set by Sweden a long time ago remains the case. That we are predictable and clear with our security policy. This is not the situation for any kind of wobbliness.”

Foreign Minister Ann Linde described the invasion as “a serious breach of international law” and a “cowardly attack”, further stating that “we are facing the most important security political situation since the Second World War”.

Swedish embassy staff in Ukraine have left the capital Kyiv and have been working from the city of Lviv, near the Polish border, since Wednesday night. The embassy will now move to Poland, said the ministers.

Nuclear attack ‘unlikely’

When questioned about how she interpreted Putin’s speech last night, in which he threatened all “outsiders who are considering getting involved: if you do so, you will meet consequences greater than any you have met in history”, Andersson stated that “the entire speech is full of statements which are shocking and which, alongside threatening Ukraine, also threaten the rest of the world and Europe”.

Linde stated that she did not believe that nuclear attacks were likely: “It is in Russia’s interest to use threats of nuclear weapons as a strategic deterrence, but our assessment of the situation is that the use of nuclear weapons in this situation is unlikely.”

“We see that there is a clear risk for cyber attacks, but also for other hybrid threats against Sweden,” Andersson said. “Not just the armed forces, but also other authorities see that there is an increased risk at this time, and are taking precautions.”

A threat to Sweden

Defence minister Peter Hultqvist also condemned what he calls an “offensive Russian war of aggression”.

“What Russia wants to do is destroy the Ukrainian state, destroy Ukrainian democracy, collapse the state’s systems, create Russian dominance and supremacy,” he stated at the press conference.

“What is being created now is great human suffering and death,” he continued.

Hultqvist said Russia’s actions were a threat to European security and also a threat against Swedish interests and sovereignty.

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Ikea to ‘scale down’ operations in Russia and Belarus over Ukraine

Swedish furniture giant Ikea said Wednesday it would "scale down" its activities in Russia and Belarus, after putting them on hold following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ikea to 'scale down' operations in Russia and Belarus over Ukraine

Along with a slew of Western companies, Ikea announced in early March that it was suspending its Russian and Belarusian activities, affecting nearly 15,000 employees.

“Unfortunately, the circumstances have not improved, and the devastating war continues,” Ingka Group, which manages the majority of Ikea’s stores, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Businesses and supply chains across the world have been heavily impacted and we do not see that it is possible to resume operations any time soon,” the company said, adding that it and the Inter Ikea Group had “decided to enter a new phase to further scale down the Ikea business in Russia and Belarus.”

The group said the retail business “will remain stopped, and the workforce will be reduced, meaning that many co-workers will be affected.”

Ikea has a total of 15,000 employees in Russia, including 12,500 employed by Ingka Group, the company said.

An Ingka Group spokesman said the company was not yet able to provide details on how many would be let go.

The company added that it planned “to sell out its home furnishing inventory in Russia,” and that the production side in Russia will “reduce the workforce and start the process of finding new ownership for all four factories.”

Two purchasing and logistics offices in Moscow and Minsk would also be permanently closed.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, along with triggering unprecedented sanctions, sparked an exodus of foreign corporations including H&M, Starbucks and McDonalds.