Russia has orchestrated a military intelligence operation in Sweden with the intention of destabilizing the country on religious grounds. The main objective of this operation is to prevent Sweden from joining NATO, and to escalate tensions between Sweden and Muslim countries. By doing so, Russia hopes to create an environment that is conducive to acts of terror by Islamic extremists who have sought refuge in Sweden. Additionally, the Kremlin aims to provoke riots and violence, which could lead to an increase in terrorist activity in the country.
On January 21, 2023, the leader of the Hard Line party, Rasmus Paludan, publicly burned a Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. This act was reportedly proposed by a local journalist, Chang Johannes Frick, who allegedly guaranteed that Paludan would be protected from any damages related to this stunt. However, it is believed that Paludan was exploited by Russian military intelligence, with the help of Frick, who is suspected of being a GRU agent working for psychological operations.
The location of the incident, outside the Turkish embassy, was carefully chosen as it targeted Ankara. The burning of the Quran took place ahead of a scheduled visit to Sweden by Turkey’s defense minister. In 2023, Turkey will hold elections and the incumbent President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is competing with Arab countries for influence over Muslims worldwide.
In response to Sweden’s move to apply for NATO membership, Turkey has demanded the extradition of representatives of Kurdish forces and suspects in the 2016 coup d’état case. Stockholm’s aspirations to join NATO have also become a concern for Moscow. Therefore, the Kremlin has plotted an operation to escalate tensions between Turkey and Sweden during the upcoming elections in Ankara, knowing that an attack on a religious symbol of Islam cannot be ignored during an ongoing campaign.