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SWEDEN AND RUSSIA

Sweden to bar Russia-based ice hockey players from national team

Swedish ice hockey players playing in Russia's KHL league next season will not be allowed to play for their national teams, the country's hockey federations said on Monday.

Sweden to bar Russia-based ice hockey players from national team
Sweden's national hockey team stands for the national anthem before a match against Czechia in November. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

“Those players who choose to play in the KHL next season will not be eligible for our national team, but the formal,” Swedish Ice
Hockey Federation secretary general Johan Stark told Swedish news agency TT, adding that the decision would be taken formally by the federation’s board at the end of the season. 

The Swedish federation had initially issued a statement saying its KHL players would not be available for play in the World Championships in Finland May 13-29, but Stark told daily Aftonbladet that statement had been “unclear”.

He clarified that players who signed contracts with KHL teams before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 would be allowed to play in the World Championships.

“Those players who signed contracts before (the war started) will be able to play,” Stark said. “In the best of worlds, we would have preferred for no Swedes to play in the KHL. The decision to stay (in the KHL) is up to the players themselves, but I know it’s not that easy to just leave,” Stark said.

The Finnish Ice Hockey Association was the first to announce the restriction on KHL players, saying in a statement that “players playing in Russia next season cannot play for the national team”. 

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SWEDEN AND RUSSIA

Sweden joining Nato ‘no problem for Russia’

Russia has "no problem" if Finland and Sweden join Nato, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Sweden joining Nato 'no problem for Russia'

“We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine,” Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat.

“We don’t have territorial differences. There is nothing that could bother us about Sweden and Finland joining Nato. If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want.”

However, “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us,” Putin said.

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Sweden and Finland have both decided to apply to join Nato after Russia launched its military operation in pro-Western Ukraine on February 24. The formal process for membership was launched at the Nato summit in Madrid on Wednesday.

Until now, Russia had always been critical of the prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the alliance, saying it would be a “destabilising factor” for international security. Putin nevertheless condemned Nato’s “imperial ambitions”, accusing the alliance of seeking to assert its “supremacy” through the Ukraine conflict.

“Ukraine and the well-being of Ukrainian people is not the aim of the collective West and Nato but a means to defend their own interests,” Putin said. “The Nato countries’ leaders wish to… assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions.” 

The Atlantic alliance and “above all the United States have long needed an external enemy around which they can unite their allies,” the Russian leader said. “Iran wasn’t good for that. We’ve given them this opportunity… to gather the whole world around them.”

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