Sweden detains ‘Russian tech spy’

Sweden detains ‘Russian tech spy’

Sweden has arrested a tech specialist on suspicion of spying for Russia, in a move likely to increase bilateral tensions.

The man was arrested at a meeting with a Russian diplomat in central Stockholm this week by the Säpo security service.

“This is about a person who is suspected of being recruited as an agent by a Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover in Sweden,” said Daniel Stenling of the agency’s counter-espionage wing.

The authorities said he worked in an area “which the Security Police knows is of interest to the intelligence services of foreign powers” and is suspected of passing details to Russia since at least 2017.  

The Russian agent could not be detained or arrested in Sweden due to diplomatic immunity, but Stenling said that if this was not the case, this suspect would also have been apprehended.

Swedish prosecutors are due to decide today (Friday) whether to ask the court to have the alleged Russian suspect remanded.

“The threat against Sweden is now more far-reaching than it has been for many years, and advances in technology have made state actors’ cyber-espionage more advanced,” Stenling said.

“Technological developments have made state actors’ efforts to gather intelligence in cyberspace more sophisticated,” he said.

“At the same time, the more traditional intelligence-gathering approach, using recruited agents to collect information, is still being used. This combination enables state actors to broaden and deepen their collection of classified information.”

Stockholm was a focal point for Cold War espionage as a neutral zone where agents exchanged classified information.

Anders Thornberg, the director of Sapo, told the BBC last year that Sweden feared Russian political interference.

“It’s very important for us to follow this and we are not shy in Sweden. We say that the biggest threat to our security in that perspective is Russia,” Thornberg said.

Analysts believe it is a debate in Sweden about whether to move closer to Nato and abandon its tradition of neutrality that made the country a focal point for Russian attention.

Since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, Sweden has increasingly viewed Moscow as a threat, bringing back conscription and reestablishing a garrison on the Baltic island of Gotland (pictured), near where the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with export gas from Russia to Germany.

Sweden summoned Russia’s ambassador this week after a Russian SU-27 fighter aeroplane flew within 20 metres of a Swedish aircraft between Gotland and the Baltic states.

Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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