What has happened?
Russia announced today that it is expelling five Swedish diplomats from Russia. The announcement comes after Sweden decided in April to expel five people from the Russian embassy in Stockholm.
At the same time, Russia also announced that it will close the Swedish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg and the Russian Consulate General in Gothenburg as of September 1.
Why has it happened?
– It was completely expected because we have expelled a corresponding number from the Russian embassy in Stockholm before. It is something that has been going on for quite some time, that if we deport someone, they deport someone and vice versa, says Maria Engqvist.
– The closure of the consulates, on the other hand, is justified by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the fact that this is part of and a response to the Russophobic campaign in Sweden.
What does it say about the diplomatic relationship between the countries?
– It is more or less frozen to the ground. We still have embassies in each country, but the bad Swedish-Russian relations also reflect developments in the world in general and in particular in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
– Russia has also drawn up a list of unfriendly countries and Sweden is on that list together with all EU countries, Switzerland, Norway, the USA and a number of other countries. So this is another stage in the bad development.
How long has the relationship been bad?
– In general, the relationship has become progressively worse since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. But even before that, the relationship has been a bit up and down for a lot of different reasons. It is a long negative development that we have seen for many years actually, but the reactions are getting stronger now given the circumstances.
What consequences can this have?
– Everything boils down to how Russia has treated Ukraine, but it also relates to Russia’s active intelligence gathering in Sweden, which we have seen in, among other things, Säpo’s annual reports. It is not something that is compatible with diplomatic activity. As long as Russia continues to pursue this path, it will generally be difficult to see any thaw in this frozen relationship in the near term at least.
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