Sweden greenlights anti-Nato protest despite Turkey warning

Sunday’s Stockholm demonstration against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sweden's planned Nato membership has been given the go-ahead despite Ankara's objections, Swedish police told AFP on Friday.

PKK protest in Malmo, Sweden
A PKK flag is waved at a May Day protest in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

“We are going to ensure that all those present on Sunday are able to exercise their rights protected by the constitution”, including freedom of expression, Stockholm police spokesman Ola Osterling said.

The demonstration, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday in the city centre, is titled “No to Nato, No Erdogan Laws in Sweden”.

It is organised by the “Alliance against Nato”, which includes the pro-Kurdish Rojava Committee among others.

Erdogan, who was re-elected for five more years on May 28th, has so far blocked Sweden’s Nato membership, accusing Stockholm of being a haven for Kurdish activists Turkey considers “terrorists”.

He has also demanded that Stockholm extradite several dozen activists, though those decisions can only be made by Sweden’s independent judiciary.

READ ALSO: Can Sweden’s new terror law be used to stop an anti-Nato demonstration?

Earlier this week, Ankara expressed its frustration over the planned demonstration, organised by groups close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed by Turkey.

Even though the PKK is also considered a terrorist organisation in Sweden – as in the rest of the EU – its supporters are generally allowed to protest in public.

A spokesman for the Turkish presidency on Tuesday said it was “completely unacceptable that PKK terrorists continue to operate freely in Sweden” and urged Swedish authorities to block them from demonstrating on Sunday.

A new law beefing up Sweden’s anti-terror efforts came into effect on June 1st, criminalising “participation in a terrorist organisation”.

But the new law is not aimed at attacking freedom of speech, Sweden’s justice minister reiterated on Friday.

Asked about the possible presence of PKK activists at Sunday’s demonstration, the police spokesman said they were “also protected by the constitution.”

READ ALSO: Nato chief to travel to Ankara to push for Sweden’s Nato membership

“This demonstration will go very well, that’s how we see the situation,” Osterling said.

Turkey and Hungary are the only two Nato countries yet to ratify Sweden’s membership bid. Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg will visit Turkey during the weekend to attend Erdogan’s inauguration and try to lift the final obstacles.

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Swedish opposition calls for Saab fighter jets to go to Ukraine

Sweden's Social Democrat opposition has called for Saab JAS 39 Gripen jets to be sent to Ukraine, saying they could make a 'big difference' in its push to regain land conquered by Russia.

Swedish opposition calls for Saab fighter jets to go to Ukraine

At a press conference on Thursday, Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson said that Ukraine needed to strengthen its air capabilities if it were to succeed in reconquering territory lost to Russia. 

“If Ukraine’s offensive is to succeed, its air defences need to be strengthened,” she said. “We cannot let Russia win. The Jas Gripen would make a big difference to Ukraine.” 

In a press release, the party called for an analysis to begin immediately into the consequences for Sweden’s own defence of sending some Gripen planes, how much training Ukraining pilots would need, and how long it might take to arrange deliveries. 

The party’s defence spokesperson, Peter Hultqvist, said that Sweden could either give the planes to Ukraine as military aid, sell Ukraine planes, or do a combination of both.

“The exact form of how this might happen is something we will have to return to. We of course see a perspective where we can both give support directly with deliveries, but also offer the possibility of exports,” he said. 

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has repeatedly asked Sweden to send his armed forces Jas Gripen planes, and Denmark and The Netherlands have both agreed to send F16 jets, with pilot training already ongoing.

Some experts argue that the Gripen is more suitable to Ukrainian conditions, as they can use shorter, rougher runways than the F-16, even landing on roads in some cases, can fly low, and need smaller crews and support staff.

READ ALSO: Could Sweden’s ‘unique’ Gripen fighters help Ukraine?

Sweden’s government has so far resisted sending Gripen planes to Ukraine, saying that Sweden’s 90 jets are required for its own defence. 

Defence Minister Pål Jonson has repeatedly stated that Sweden will not send Ukraine the planes. 

“We have no planes to spare,” he said in May.