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MILITARY

Did Russian jets carry nuclear weapons into Swedish airspace?

Swedish broadcaster TV4 reported on Wednesday that the Russian jets that violated Swedish airspace this month were carrying nuclear weapons. But defence experts in Sweden are sceptical.

Defence experts are sceptical about the statements that the Russian planes who flew in Swedish air space carried nuclear weapons.
Defence experts are sceptical about the statements that the Russian planes who flew in Swedish air space carried nuclear weapons. Photo: FLYGVAPNET/TT

According to an article published by TV4 on Wednesday, two of the Russian planes that had to be escorted away from airspace near Gotland on March 2nd were equipped with nuclear weapons. It was picked up by international newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. 

According to anonymous sources quoted by the broadcaster, the pilots of the two Sukhoi 24 attack aircraft, which were accompanied by two Sukhoi 27 fighter jets, had made sure that the Swedish pilots could see the weapons. 

Although the Swedish Armed Forces would not comment on the information, Carl-Johan Edström, the head of Sweden’s airforce told the broadcaster that the incursion had been done deliberately to send a signal to Sweden. 

“We see it as a deliberate act, which is extremely serious when you consider that this is a country currently at war,” he told the broadcaster.

When contacted by the TT newswire on Thursday, Edström denied that Swedish pilots had seen nuclear weapons on the jets

“If we had an increased threat against Sweden which could be linked to this event or to other events we would have informed people about it,” he said. 

The Swedish Armed Forces has not yet commented on which weapons the planes were carrying. But defence experts told Sweden’s TT newswire they were sceptical of claims they were carrying nuclear weapons.

“My judgement from the pictures is that the planes look completely unarmed”, said expert Andreas Hörnedal from the Swedish Defence Research Agency. 

He said Kh-32 cruise missiles, which can be nuclear-armed, cannot anyway be carried on a Sukhoi 24. 

“These are huge missiles that weigh 5.5 tonnes and are carried on a different plane”, he said. “This was an obvious factual error, which, on the other hand, can happen when it comes to technological details”. 

It’s still unclear how the information reached TV4, but it could well have been Russian misinformation, Hörnedal told TT.

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NATO

Sweden ‘to send in Nato request on Monday’

Sweden will express its interest in joining the Nato alliance on Monday, Sweden's Expressen newspaper has reported, citing anonymous sources.

Sweden 'to send in Nato request on Monday'

According to the newspaper, Magdalena Andersson will call a governmental meeting late on Monday where the decision on whether to join Nato will be made, after which the country will send in formal documentation immediately.

Officials at Sweden’s foreign ministry have been drafting the text for several weeks, the paper claims, meaning it is now complete and ready to be submitted. 

The meeting will follow a debate scheduled in Sweden’s Riksdag parliament for 10.30am on Monday morning, which will discuss the conclusions of the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’, which is due to submit its reassessment of Sweden’s security situation this Friday. The anti-Nato Left and Green parties are unlikely to support the conclusions of the report and the report is not expected to state explicitly whether Sweden should join the alliance or not.

After the debate, Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, who is on a state visit to Sweden, will hold a speech in the parliament, with the title “a responsible, strong and stable North”. 

Finland on Thursday kicked off the formal process whereby Sweden and Finland are likely to join Nato, when its president Sauli Niinistö and prime minister Sanna Marin published a joint statement recommending that Finland apply to join “without delay”. 

On Sunday, the ruling committee of Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats will take a decision on whether to back Nato membership for Sweden, thereby reversing the policy of non-alignment it has supported since before Nato was founded. 

The formal shift in the Social Democrats’ position will remove the last hurdle to a Swedish decision in favour of joining Nato. 

Here’s a breakdown of how the day might look: 

  • 9am. The day starts at 9am, Swedish time, when the Finnish parliament meets to discuss the decision taken by the government on Sunday. No other parliamentary business is scheduled. According to the Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper the Finnish parliament will also publish the conclusions of its debates in a letter to the government recommending that Finland apply to join Nato.
  • 10.30am. A debate is scheduled in Sweden’s parliament, which will discuss the conclusions of the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’. 
  • 12am. Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, who is on a state visit to Sweden, will hold a speech in the parliament with the title “a responsible, strong and stable North”. 
  • Afternoon: According to Expressen, Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson will call a governmental meeting late on Monday, where the decision on whether to join Nato will be made.
  • Officials at Sweden’s foreign ministry have been drafting the text of the application for several weeks, the paper claims, meaning it is now complete and ready to be submitted. 
  • Afternoon/Evening: Sweden and perhaps Finland send in applications to join Nato.
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