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SWEDEN AND UKRAINE

‘Yellow and blue flags stand for freedom’: Zelensky to Sweden’s Riksdag

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised Sweden's "historic decision" to send weapons to Ukraine, in a speech to the Swedish parliament.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking to the Swedish parliament on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking to the Swedish parliament on Thursday. Photo: Paul Wennerholm/TT

Zelensky began his speech by referencing the identical colours of the Swedish and Ukrainian flags. 

“It’s no coincidence that both Ukraine’s and Sweden’s flags are blue and yellow, because we stand for freedom, justice and equal rights for all,” he said in a video link speech that got a standing ovation. “It is simple logic that Sweden is among the countries that has supported Ukraine the most.” 

In his speech, he thanked Sweden for the weapons it had sent to his country, called for tighter sanctions on Russia, and requested help in rebuilding his country’s cities in the aftermath of the war.  “It was a historic decision for Sweden to send military aid,” he said. “We are thankful for that”. 

Not a member of NATO and officially militarily non-aligned, Stockholm on Thursday announced a second delivery of 5,000 anti-tank launchers.

Zelensky, who has made multiple appearances by video link before parliaments in other countries in recent weeks, was due to address an extraordinary NATO summit later Thursday.

In his speech to Sweden, Zelensky warned that Europe’s own future was at stake in the conflict in Ukraine, saying that Russia would “destroy freedom” across the continent and pursue its neighbours. 

“If Ukraine wouldn’t endure and protect ourselves, it would mean that … all neighbours of Russia are in danger from now on,” he said.  “This is a fundamental challenge for the European security and defence system.”

He warned Sweden that Moscow had its Baltic Sea island of Gotland in its sights. Sweden reopened its garrison on Gotland in 2018, in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, after shutting it down in 2004.

“It would mean that you are in danger, because it is only the sea that divides you and this aggressive policy”, he said

“Russian propagandists already discuss on air, on TV broadcasts, how Russia will occupy Gotland and how they will control it for decades”, he added. “They think it would be comfortable to put anti-defence systems and bases there to cover the advance on the Baltic states.”

When it came to sanctions, he called for a new, tougher, sanctions package every week, a ban on the use of Russian oil, and  for Sweden to bar Russian ships from its ports. 

He talked of the damage Russia had already done to his country. “Why has Russia done this?” he asked. “Why are they turning their neighbours into slaves?” he asked.

“If Ukraine had not defended itself,” he declared. “It would have meant that everything that both we and you value would disappear.” 

Support for NATO membership has soared in Sweden since Russia’s invasion, but Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has so far ruled out the idea. Joining the alliance risks “destabilising” northern Europe, she said.

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SWEDEN AND UKRAINE

Swedish fighter charged in Russian-occupied Donetsk

A Swedish man who fought on the Ukrainian side in the fight for the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol has been charged by the authorities in Russian-occupied Donetsk for fighting as a mercenary. 

Swedish fighter charged in Russian-occupied Donetsk

The charges were reported by the Russian state-controlled news wire Tass, and confirmed by Sweden’s foreign ministry. 

“We have this information about a Swedish citizen who is currently being denied his freedom and we are working to get some clarity about this,” the ministry’s press service told TT. “We are not currently ready to provide any more detailed information than this. 

Pro-Russian authorities occupying Donetsk accuse the man of fighting as a mercenary. Alongside the Swedish man, one Croatian and three Brits are also facing judicial action, which newspaper Expressen was the first to report.

The news agency reported at the beginning of July that the man had been captured. The last Ukrainian defenders ceased fighting in Azovstal around May 20th.

Two Brits and a Moroccan citizen have previously been given the death penalty on the same charges.

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