Four Russian fighter jets violate Swedish airspace over Baltic Sea

Four Russian fighter jets entered Sweden's air space to the east of the island of Gotland on Wednesday evening, the Swedish Armed Forces said in a statement.

Four Russian fighter jets violate Swedish airspace over Baltic Sea
Archive photo of a Russian Su-27 photographed at close quarters by a Swedish signal-tracing jet. Photo: FRA/TT

While Russian incursions of the Nordic nation’s airspace happen fairly regularly, Wednesday’s event was given increased scrutiny given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“Against the background of the current situation we are taking the incident very seriously,” Carl-Johan Edström, Chief of Sweden’s Air Force, told AFP.

According to the Swedish Armed Forces, the violation was brief, but Swedish Jas 39 Gripen jets were scrambled to document and photograph the two Su-24 and two Su-27 fighter jets. 

The violation occurred during the day, at about the same time as a joint Swedish-Finnish military exercise in the Baltic Sea.

Edström told Sweden’s TT newswire that the four Russian fighter jets had flown “a few kilometres” into Swedish airspace, and that two Swedish fighters were sent up to meet them.

“We saw that they were nearing Swedish territory on the eastern side of Gotland, from the north,” he told the newswire. “As we arrived, an airspace and territory violation was carried out by the Russian jets. We were on the scene and could directly confirm that it had been done, and made sure it couldn’t happen again.”

The war in Ukraine has pushed Sweden to up its awareness, and on Tuesday Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced that the government take action to speed up the country’s rearmament.

Defence expert Robert Dalsjö told TT that Wednesday’s violation might be a warning to Sweden against Ukraine’s side. 

“It would be very surprising if it wasn’t a way for Russia to send a message,” he said. “Four planes violating Swedish airspace at the same time looks a lot like a statement, especially now.”

“I would assume it’s a signal that Russia don’t like the fact that we’re on Ukraine’s side and have sent weapons to the country, shown solidarity with the EU and decided to strengthen Swedish defence.” 

After the end of the Cold War, Sweden slashed military spending. It was only after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, that parliament agreed on a turnaround.

Sweden reintroduced mandatory military service in 2017 and reopened its garrison on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea in January 2018.

In October of 2020, it bumped up defence spending by 40 percent with an extra 27 billion Swedish kronor ($2.8 billion, 2.5 billion euros) to be added to the defence budget from 2021 to 2025.

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Pro-Russian hackers claim responsibility for cyber attack on Swedish privacy agency

A pro-Russian hacker group has claimed responsibility for a cyber attack that forced at least two Swedish government agencies offline on Tuesday, although their claim has not been confirmed.

Pro-Russian hackers claim responsibility for cyber attack on Swedish privacy agency

The Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection (IMY) was hit by an overload attack early on Tuesday morning, and was still offline at the time of publication at around 2:30pm, hours later.

According to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, a pro-Russian group claimed on communications app Telegram that it had attacked the authority’s website, as well as other Swedish websites.

IMY was unable to confirm the information when asked by the TT news agency.

“We don’t know who’s behind this,” IMY spokesperson Per Lövgren said.

The website of the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority was also down on Tuesday, according to Aftonbladet. It however appeared to be back up and running in the afternoon.

An overload attack sends more traffic to its target than it can handle, making it impossible for regular users to visit the website.

The attack is the latest in a spate of cyber attacks targeting Swedish businesses and public authorities in recent weeks, although the extent to which they’re linked or not is unknown.

This week, hacker group Medusa listed information it stole from Stockholm’s Sophiahemmet hospital for sale on the dark web, asking for a million US dollars to delete the data.

Last week, Bjuv, a small municipality of some 16,000 residents in southern Sweden, received threats from Russian hacker group Akira that it would leak data it stole from the municipality.

Last month a major attack on IT supplier Tietoevry by Akira affected tens of thousands of employees at Swedish businesses and agencies, forcing some shops to close for several days.