Russia warns Sweden will be ‘sent to their death’ if they join NATO

Sweden has summoned the Russian ambassador to Stockholm over an “attempt to interfere” in the security of the Nordic nation after a senior Putin official issued a warning regarding their NATO application. The Russian ambassador said the Scandinavian country would become a “legitimate target for Russia’s retaliatory measures” if it joined NATO, adding that a “military” intervention was also possible that could entail them being “sent to their death”.

While this threat is not novel – Putin himself has warned both Sweden and Finland of Russian retaliation to their NATO accession – the Swedish foreign minister said the latest comments, given they were made within their borders, amounted to an “obvious” effort to undermine their bid to join the alliance.

Sweden’s foreign ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador on Wednesday after the latest threats against their NATO accession.

Foreign minister Tobias Billstrom called the statement posted on the Russian Embassy’s website an “obvious attempt at influence.”

Sweden’s security policy is determined by its government and no one else, he told the Swedish news agency TT. It’s unclear if or when the Russian ambassador will appear at the Foreign Ministry.

The statement in question was made by Viktor Tatarintsev, the Russian ambassador to Stockholm.

In a message on the embassy website, he said that Sweden and neighbour Finland would both face “retaliatory measures” should they join NATO.

He described the decision to join the alliance as “hasty” and equivalent to “a step into the abyss”.

He concluded by saying that “Swedes will undoubtedly be drawn in and sent to their deaths for the interests of others”.

Sweden and neighbouring Finland jointly applied for NATO membership in May 2022, abandoning decades of non-alignment, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The approval of Sweden’s bid has stalled due to opposition from Turkey and Hungary. The Turkish government has accused Sweden of being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organisations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara needs further assurances before it will give its final approval.

Asked about Sweden’s NATO membership on Wednesday, Mr Erdogan told reporters: “There are certain things we expect of them. They must be fulfilled first.”

On Monday, Hungarian lawmakers ratified Finland’s request to join NATO, but it remained unclear when they would ratify Sweden’s accession to the Western military alliance.

Members of Hungary’s governing party said they would wait for the government in Stockholm to clear up lingering disagreements before scheduling a vote in parliament.

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The Hungarian government alleges that some Swedish politicians have made derisive statements about the condition of Hungary’s democracy and played an active role in ensuring that billions in European Union funds were frozen over alleged rule-of-law and democracy violations.

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said it was up to Hungary and Turkey to make their decisions.

“We think it would make sense to have us in the alliance because we think we have assets and capabilities to make NATO stronger,” Mr Jonson said at a London news conference with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of its 30 existing members to take in new countries.

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