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SWEDEN AND UKRAINE

Flight bans, visas and trade sanctions – what does the EU’s Ukraine response mean for Sweden?

Over the weekend the EU agreed a further package of measures in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. From flight bans to entry rules and financial sanctions, here's how these will apply to those who are in Sweden or want to come here.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday announces further measures to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday announces further measures to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Stephanie Lecocq/AFP

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced further measures on Sunday, adding further pressure on Russia on top of previous economic sanctions in response to their invasion of Ukraine.

Her full statement did not go into much detail on exactly how the new rules will apply.

It’s likely that there will be further clarifications in the days to come, but here’s what we know so far;

Visa rules

EU member states will discuss on Monday using a little-known rule called the Temporary Protection Directive to allow Ukrainians to stay within the Bloc for up to a year without a visa. 

Since 2017, Ukrainians have benefited from the 90-day rule, which means they can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa.

“We need to be prepared for day 91,” EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, a former Swedish employment minister, said on Sunday.

This change would not affect entry to the Bloc – the 90-day rule means that Ukrainians can already enter without having to show a visa – but once here they would not be required to make an application for asylum.

Ursula von der Leyen said: “We welcome with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs and I am proud of the warm welcome that Europeans have given them.

“We are mobilising every effort and every euro to support our Eastern Member States – to host and take care of these refugees.”

The Swedish Migration Agency on Saturday, February 26th put in place an “enforcement halt”, meaning it will no longer deport Ukrainian citizens from Sweden, or rule on any asylum, work permit, or residency permit applications that have already been made. 

But Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said before Russia launched its invasion that it would not be right for Sweden to again take as disproportionate a responsibility for Ukrainian refugees as it did for the refugees who arrived from Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea during European refugee crisis of 2015. 

“We cannot take a similarly large number of refugees as we did in 2015,” she said. “It would be reasonable for those countries which did not take such a big responsibility then to take a bigger responsibility this time around.” 

The government has largely stuck to this line, despite public calls for more generosity, although the Migration Agency is preparing to take at least some refugees and has said it is willing to scale up its welcome centres in the event of a humanitarian crisis. 

Flight ban

Russian-owned, Russian-controlled or Russian-registered planes are now barred from all EU airspace, including the airspace over Sweden. They will not be able to take off or land anywhere in the EU, or fly over EU airspace. This includes commercial airlines and private jets.

There is, however, no travel ban on Russia, so people can still travel between Sweden and Russia on either a non-Russian airline or by road, rail, or sea.

On Monday, Russia announced a reciprocal ban on the airlines of 36 countries, including Sweden. However, most European airlines, including SAS, had already suspended routes to and over Russia the previous week.

Sweden’s foreign ministry has advised all its citizens against all unnecessary travel to Russia. So far it has not advised Swedish citizens already living in Russia to leave. 

SWIFT/Russian central bank sanctions

If you have any financial dealings with organisations or individuals in Russia, these could become difficult in the coming days.

The EU has agreed to disconnect Russia from the Swift network, which is a communications network used for making international money transfers, and von der Leyen also announced sanctions on Russia’s central bank

Shipping ban

If you have recently ordered anything from Russia you may find there are delivery issues even if your payment goes through without problems. Economic sanctions mean that certain cargo from Russia can be seized or blocked from entering the EU. 

Russia Today ban

The EU has also banned Russian state media outlets including Russia Today (RT), Sputnik and their subsidiaries. Exactly how this will work is not yet clear, with Von der Leyen announcing that the EU is “developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe”.

Impact on trade

Although Sweden’s economy is highly dependent on exports, it has a relatively low exposure to Russia and Ukraine.

Exports to Russia account for 1.3 percent of Sweden’s total exports and imports account for 1 percent. 

“Our assessment is that the effects on the Swedish economy should be relatively limited compared with other countries,” Mikael Damberg, Sweden’s finance minister, said in a press statement on Monday. 

Volvo Cars on Monday said it was temporarily suspending production at its factory in Russia and also stopping sales of cars. 

Eurovision

And if you’re a Eurovision fan, don’t expect to see a Russian entry at the contest in May, the European Broadcasting Commission has announced that Russia is barred from the 2022 event.

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SWEDEN AND UKRAINE

Russia expels Swedish diplomats in retaliation for ‘hostile actions’

Moscow on Tuesday said it was expelling three Swedish diplomats after Stockholm expelled three Russian diplomats over the conflict in Ukraine, despite Sweden saying four were dismissed.

Russia expels Swedish diplomats in retaliation for 'hostile actions'

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it summoned the Swedish ambassador to Russia and “strongly protested” the expulsion of Russian diplomats and Sweden’s “military support to the Kyiv regime”.

It also accused Sweden of “covering up the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists against the civilian population of Donbas and Ukraine,” referring to a region in eastern Ukraine, parts of which are controlled by pro-Russia separatists.

“In response to this, the Russian side decided to declare persona non grata three diplomats of the Swedish embassy in Russia,” the ministry said.

In early April, Sweden said it was expelling three Russian diplomats who conducted “illegal operations”, following similar moves by other EU allies.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde said the action was “very regrettable,” but said that a total of four diplomats had been expelled — three from the embassy in Moscow and another at the Swedish consulate in Saint Petersburg.

In a written response to AFP, Linde stressed that Sweden expelled the Russians because they had conducted operations that “violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” but claimed the Swedish diplomats had conducted “traditional diplomatic activities.”

“Sweden will respond in an appropriate manner to Russia’s unwarranted and disproportionate actions,” Linde said.

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