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TOPIC: sweden

Geopolitics

Nordic 007: The Quiet Rise Of Russian Spies In Sweden

This week marks the opening of what's been described as the biggest Swedish espionage case since the end of the Cold War, as tensions rise in the face of the Russian war in Ukraine.

STOCKHOLM — “Disappear in Sweden,” “Prosecuted before questioning,” “Spy.”

These are a few examples of the 28 internet searches Payam Kia did shortly before being arrested in November 2021, according to Stockholm based daily Aftonbladet.

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Two months earlier, his older brother Peyman, a former employee of the Swedish armed forces and security services, had been arrested on charges of aggravated espionage. The two brothers, who lived together in Uppsala, about an hour north of Stockholm, had long been suspected of sharing classified information. But it was only on November 11 that prosecutors brought charges against them, after having gathered enough evidence to support what has been described as Sweden’s largest espionage case since the end of the Cold War.

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In Brazil And U.S., Elections As Stress Tests For Democracy

After the Brazilian presidential election and the American midterms, checking the temperature on the state of democracy in a world that has been heading in the opposite direction for too long.

-Analysis-

MONTREAL — Beyond climate change and the return of inflation, the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, we can add another element threatening the stability of the world: the backsliding of democracy and faith in a system based on the rule of law, free expression, and a sovereign choice of leaders.

The V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden publishes an annual report that has tracked this decline.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a growing desire for democracy around the world, and the number of people living under a system of freedom and the rule of law was on the rise. But that number has been decreasing since the beginning of the 21st century.

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Russia Evacuates Kherson — What It Says About Kyiv's Counteroffensive

The southern city, which fell to Moscow's forces in the first days of the war, could become the clearest symbol of the success of Ukraine's autumn drive to retake territory.

"Dear residents! Ukrainian army will be shelling residential areas…" Such read the message early Wednesday from Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian occupation administration of the Kherson region, calling for the evacuation of up to 60,000 people.

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Stremousov’s evacuation orders is an acknowledgement of the ongoing loss of territory of pro-Russian forces in the southern region, following a similar announcement Tuesday by the new commander of Russian troops in Ukraine, General Sergey Surovikin, who warned that Kyiv was taking aim at the region’s nearby hydroelectric power plant.

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Retaking Zaporizhzhia, Iranian Climber Explains, Healthy Sleep

👋 ¡Hola!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Russia reports an attempt by Ukraine to recapture the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power, Iran’s climber explains why she competed without a veil, and researchers conclude that yes, you do need that beauty sleep. Meanwhile, Marc Pfitzenmaier for German daily Die Welt takes the temperature on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, the “last bastion” between Russia and the entire Batlic region.

[*Spanish]

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Geopolitics
Marc Pfitzenmaier

Gotland, The Swedish Island Standing Between Russia And NATO Vulnerability

The Swedish island of Gotland is the last bastion between Russia and the entire Baltic region. Sweden has been busy fortifying the island, with the stakes even higher as Stockholm is set to join NATO, and life for locals makes it clear that something has changed.

VISBY (Gotland) — Dag Svensson is kneeling on the ground in full combat gear. Propped on his shoulder is a 12-kilogram anti-tank guided missile, also known as an NLAW. Under the stern gaze of his captain, Svensson takes aim — a red laser dot in the scope indicates his target — and releases the safety with the fingers of his right hand and presses the ignition button.

There is no recoil from the rocket today, instead a mechanical whirring comes from the housing. Dag's captain is happy, so is Dag.

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"I could fire in the field at any time," he says confidently. It is also clear what he would aim for if the exercise turned into an emergency: "We are training here to meet the Russians."

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Chloé Touchard and Bertrand Hauger

Offline Zaporizhzhia, Planning Abe’s Funeral, Djoko Out Of U.S. Open

👋 Alo!*

Welcome to Friday, where tension is high around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant, Japan announces expected cost of former PM Shinzo Abe’s funeral, and unvaccinated tennis champion Novak Djokovic won’t be let in for the U.S. Open. Meanwhile, for NGO Climate Tracker, Camila Parodi looks at the disastrous environmental and human cost of lithium production.

[*Haitian Creole]

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Coronavirus
Emma Frans

So, Did Sweden's No-Lockdown COVID Strategy Pay Off?

During the pandemic, the world watched as Sweden carried out a unique approach to combat the COVID-19 virus, relying on social distancing instead of lockdowns. Although labeled a "disaster" at the time, the strategy worked well for all — except one key group.

As much of the world shut down early in the COVID pandemic, Sweden remained open. The country’s approach was controversial, with some calling it “the Swedish experiment”.

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Geopolitics
Johannes Jauhiainen

Why Turkey Could Still Block NATO Membership For Sweden And Finland

The U.S. Senate has ratified NATO membership for the two Nordic countries. But one sticking point remains: Turkey wants the Nordic nations to adopt tougher anti-Kurdish policies.

HELSINKI — Sweden's and Finland's NATO membership took another leap forward this week as the United States voted in favor of the Nordic countries joining the military alliance, with 95 senators for and one against. After the vote Wednesday night, the ratification is still pending in seven countries. But all eyes will now be on just one: Turkey.

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NATO cannot accept new members without the green light of all its member states, so Helsinki and Stockholm have had no other choice than to listen to Ankara’s demands. Many fear that this will make it more difficult to criticize Turkey for human rights violations — something both Nordic countries have done in the past.

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Geopolitics
Johannes Jauhiainen

Finland May Ban Tourist Visas For Russians In New Move By Nordic Neighbor

Finland has recently joined Sweden in seeking NATO membership in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Now Finnish politicians say they also support blocking Russian tourists from coming across the 1,340-km-long border the two countries share. It would be a bold move.

HELSINKI — For Russians, particularly the rising middle class in and around the city of Saint Petersburg, Finland has become a favorite travel destination. The capital Helsinki is only a three-and-half hour train ride away, the scenic Finnish lakeside town of Imatra sits across the border from Svetogorsk and Russian skiers flock to Lapland mountain resorts each winter.

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But this tourist traffic may be about to vanish as a growing number of Finnish politicians are calling for restrictions on visas, a move that would broaden the scope of the sanctions against Russia to target ordinary people in addition to state enterprises, public officials and Oligarchs.

Such a clampdown would also come after the historic decision of Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) border with Russia, to seek NATO membership (alongside Sweden) in response to the invasion of Moscow’s southern neighbor, Ukraine.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Shaun Lavelle, and Emma Albright

Russia Watching NATO, As Path Cleared For Finland And Sweden To Join

As NATO leaders meet in Madrid, Finland and Sweden look much closer to joining the alliance after Turkey dropped its objections to their membership. It's yet another momentous change underway since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A high-stakes NATO summit has kicked off in Madrid, as leaders of the world’s largest defense alliance discuss the war in Ukraine and key decisions that will shape the organization’s future direction. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Russian invasion of its neighbor had prompted a fundamental shift in its approach to defense.

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Finland and Sweden look much closer to joining the alliance after Turkey dropped its objections to their membership. The three countries released a joint memorandum that “extend[ed] their full support against threats to each other's security," Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said.

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In The News
Joel Silvestri, McKenna Johnson, Lila Paulou and Lisa Berdet

Finland, Sweden Near NATO Membership, Capitol Riot Witness, Serena’s Defeat

👋 Moni moni onse!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Turkey lifts its veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, there’s stunning new testimony in the Jan. 6 hearings and Airbnb bans parties forever. Meanwhile, the latest edition of our “Work → In Progress” series zooms in on changes at play in the world of work, from the emergence of digital nomad visas to asynchronous work schedules.

[*Chewa, Malawi and Zambia]

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Ideas
Cameron Manley

Peter The Great And Putin The What?

In the context of the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his team have repeatedly made references to a glorious figure of Russian history: Peter the Great. But the current would-be tsar's selective memory tells us all we need to know.

-Analysis-

This past Thursday, Russians marked the 350th anniversary of tsar Peter the Great’s birth (June 9, 1672). Celebrations were held in his namesake city, St Petersburg, and the capital Moscow. As part of the celebrations, President Vladimir Putin attended a new exhibition in the capital dubbed "Peter the Great: The Birth of the Empire."

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Of course the exaltation of a leader best known for his Westernization and modernization ambitions is filled with terribly dark irony this year. Indeed, inspired by his time abroad, Peter I built St. Petersburg as Russia’s "window to Europe." Now, instead, Putin's invasion of Ukraine has slammed the door shut on Russia's rapport with the Continent — and indeed threatens to undo whatever progress Russia has made in recent years.

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