Swedish government firm on not joining Nato despite Russian aggression

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters that Sweden plans to stay out of Nato despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Swedish government firm on not joining Nato despite Russian aggression
Stockholmers protest outside the Russian embassy against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

With the military offensive ordered last night by Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have entered a new and dark chapter in European history”, Andersson told a press conference.

She condemned “a clear violation of international law and against the European security order”.

Despite a debate about Nato membership that has been revived by Ukraine tensions, the Social Democrat leader said Sweden’s position on not joining the defence alliance remained in place.

“In a situation like this it is important that Sweden’s long-standing security policy stays firm. That we are predictable and clear,” Andersson said.

“Sweden has been alliance-free for an extremely long time. It has served Sweden’s interests well,” she added.

Earlier in neighbouring Finland, the government also ruled out immediate moves closer to Nato membership.

“We have a security policy designed to withstand times of crisis. We will use the means at our disposal, including cooperation with Nato partners,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a press conference.

“After a crisis, we will see what further action is needed,” the minister said.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto noted that “despite early warnings, this morning has been a shock to us all”.

Unlike Sweden, Finland has adopted a so-called “Nato option” provision, which means that “if Finland’s security requires it, Finland has the opportunity to apply for membership”, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

Full membership is an ongoing debate which has already been reignited in recent weeks in Finland, and Russia’s action would likely spur a broader debate, Marin noted.

“However, this is a debate that would require broad parliamentary consensus,” Marin said.

Nato member Norway condemned a “serious violation of international law” and announced the “temporary” relocation of its embassy from Kyiv to Lviv, in the west of Ukraine.

“The attack is a serious violation of international law and puts innocent people’s lives at risk,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store tweeted.

Denmark, also a Nato nation, summoned the Russian ambassador to condemn the invasion.

“This day is a stain on Russian history. Denmark strongly condemns Russia’s ruthless and completely unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a statement.

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Sweden detects fourth leak at Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

A fourth leak has been detected in undersea pipelines running from Russia to Europe, the Swedish Coast Guard said Thursday, after pipeline explosions earlier this week in the Danish and Swedish economic zones, in suspected sabotage.

Sweden detects fourth leak at Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

“There are two leaks on the Swedish side and two leaks on the Danish side,” a Swedish Coast Guard official said, after three leaks were confirmed earlier this week on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

The official added that the two leaks on the Swedish side are “close to each other”.

The Swedish coast guard could not immediately say why the latest leak only appeared days after the initial breaches. 

Media reported that the latest leak was detected at the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but the coast guard did not confirm this. 

Sweden had previously reported a leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline northeast of Bornholm, while Denmark has confirmed a leak on Nord Stream 2 to the southeast of the island, and another to the northeast above Nord Stream 1.

The vast leaks cause significant bubbling at the surface of the sea several hundred metres wide, making it impossible to immediately inspect the structures. 

Suspicions of sabotage emerged after the leaks were detected. Moscow denied it was behind the explosions, as did the United States, saying Moscow’s suggestion it would damage the pipeline was “ridiculous”. 

The UN Security Council will meet Friday to discuss the incident.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which link Russia to Germany, have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions in recent months as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the pipelines — operated by a consortium majority-owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom — are not currently in operation, they both still contained gas.

Danish officials said on Wednesday – prior to the discovery of the fourth leak – that more than half of the gas in the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea had leaked into the atmosphere after they were damaged.

“A clear majority of the gas has already come out of the pipes,” the head of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Böttzauw, told a press conference.

“We expect the rest to escape by Sunday,” he added.

Defence Minister Morten Bødskov said Wednesday morning that, due to pressure of the gas leaking out, it would take “one or two weeks” before inspections of the damaged structures could begin.