Sweden sees bigger Russian threat to telecoms, power network

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden’s SAPO domestic security agency warned Tuesday that it expects Russia to increase activities threatening Swedish security in fields including telecoms and the power network.

SAPO head Charlotte von Essen said Russia’s actions were “unpredictable,” but stressed that “we can expect that Russian security-threatening activities against Sweden will increase.”

The sectors “where there is reason to be particularly vigilant to counter espionage and sabotage” are telecommunications, electricity supply and the transport of “critical material,” von Essen said. She didn’t elaborate on what she meant by the latter.

“From the Russian side, there is an interest in disturbing these areas,” von Essen added. “These are sectors where attacks against Sweden could cause damage to the rest of Europe as well.”

She spoke at the end of the three-day People and Defense conference in Salen, a ski resort in central Sweden. The annual event was attended by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Swedish foreign policy and security experts.

Von Essen said SAPO expects Russia to make use, “to a greater extent than before, of non-official platforms such as the Russian diaspora, institutions and companies in Sweden.”

She also warned that SAPO is seeing an increased spread ”of conspiracy theories and anti-state messages, which in the long run risks undermining trust in society’s institutions, politicians’ decision-making and the state’s legitimacy.”

“Both the threat of assassination and the threat to our constitution can arise in broad extremism. This is a development that plays into the hands of foreign power,” von Essen said.

She declined to say whether Russian activity had increased since Sweden — and neighboring Finland — applied to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both Nordic countries have a long prior history of military non-alignment.

The Associated Press