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Ikea joins H&M and Spotify in suspending operations in Russia

Swedish furniture giant Ikea announced on Thursday it would suspend its activities in Russia and Belarus, affecting nearly 15,000 employees, 17 stores and three production sites, in response to the war in Ukraine.

Ikea joins H&M and Spotify in suspending operations in Russia
File photo of an Ikea store in Stockholm. Photo Janerik Henriksson/TT

“The war has had a huge human impact already. It is also resulting in serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions. For all of these reasons, Ikea has decided to temporarily pause operations in Russia,” the company said in a statement to AFP.

The suspension mainly concerns Russia, where the Swedish group has been present since 2000 and is one of the largest Western employers.

Operations in Belarus would also be halted, though the country hosts only a few suppliers and has no shops, according to Ikea.

“The devastating war in Ukraine is a human tragedy, and our deepest empathy and concerns are with the millions of people impacted,” the company said.

“These decisions have a direct impact on 15,000 Ikea co-workers, and the company groups will secure employment and income stability and provide support to them and their families in the region,” Ikea said.

While the stores operated by the Ingka group account for the bulk of the workforce affected, 12,000 people, Ikea also has nearly 2,500 employees working in manufacturing, with three factories in Russia.

According to the company, 47 suppliers in Russia and 10 in Belarus, would be affected by the decision, which also puts a stop to imports and exports between the two countries.

Prior to this announcement, Ikea had initially announced that it would leave its shops in Russia open, which was met with criticism in Sweden.

Several other Swedish companies have already halted their Russian operations over the war and sanctions imposed on Russia.

On Monday, Swedish truck maker Volvo said it was stopping sales and halting production at its Kaluga plant, and telecoms giant Ericsson also said it would halt deliveries to Russian clients. On Wednesday, Swedish clothing giant H&M said that it would halt all sales in its Russian stores.

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CRIME

Swedish spy brothers go on trial in ‘unique’ Russia case

Two Swedish brothers, one a former intelligence official, went on trial in Stockholm on Friday accused of "aggravated espionage" for allegedly spying for Russia's GRU military intelligence service between 2011 and 2021.

Swedish spy brothers go on trial in 'unique' Russia case

“This case is unique in many ways… We haven’t had a trial like this in more than 20 years”, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist told court in his opening statement.

He said the information obtained, transmitted and divulged was “extremely sensitive material”. His co-prosecutor Per Lindqvist said it could be “detrimental to Sweden’s national security”.

READ ALSO: Swedish brothers charged with spying for Russia

Defendants Payam and Peyman Kia risk life sentences if found guilty. Most of the trial will be held behind closed doors.

“The court will have insight into material that very few in this country have seen or have access to,” Ljungqvist said.

A court sketch of the trial showing Peyman Kia and his lawyer to the left, and Payam Kia and his lawyer in the middle. Photo: Anders Humlebo/TT

On Friday, prosecutors made brief introductory statements before the judge ordered reporters out of the courtroom.

Payam Kia is aged 35 and his brother 42, according to the charge sheet. They are of Iranian origin, according to Swedish media reports.

Peyman Kia, who appeared calm in court dressed in a dark suit and tie, has served in Sweden’s intelligence service Sapo and intelligence units in the Swedish army.

According to Sweden’s newspaper of reference, Dagens Nyheter, he at one point worked for the Office for Special Information Gathering (KSI), the most secret section of the military secret service.

He is accused of illegally acquiring information during his employment with Sapo and the armed forces.

Payam Kia is accused of “participating in the planning of the deed and handling contacts with Russia and the GRU, including the handover of information and receiving compensation”.

Bearded and dressed in the Swedish jail system’s green overalls, he hid his face as he entered the courtroom with his lawyer. Lawyers for the pair have been tight-lipped about the case. They told court on Friday that their clients denied the charges.

The prosecutors requested that much of the material in the case be classified even after the end of the trial, due to its sensitive nature.

The names of several witnesses, including those working for the Swedish military and security police and who have access to vast amounts of classified information, will also be kept secret.

The case is expected to continue until December 12.

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