In Brief

Russia simulated nuclear attack on Sweden, says Nato

Military and intelligence units targeted in war game 'attack' that caught Swedes napping

Russia targeted Sweden in a simulated nuclear attack during exercises in 2013, Nato has confirmed, as worries about Moscow's military build-up continue.

The admission comes in the newly released annual report for 2015 from Nato's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg. The incident was reported in Sweden and further afield at the time but this is the first confirmation from the organisation.

"As part of its overall military build-up, the pace of Russia's military manoeuvres and drills have [sic] reached levels unseen since the height of the Cold War," Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, wrote.

"Over the past three years, Russia has conducted at least 18 large-scale snap exercises, some of which have involved more than 100,000 troops.

"These exercises include simulated nuclear attacks on Nato Allies (eg, ZAPAD [a large-scale Russian military exercise]) and on partners (eg March 2013 simulated attacks on Sweden)," he added.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the attack saw two Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters, cross the Gulf of Finland on 29 March.

The Russian planes came within 24 miles of Swedish territory off the island of Gotland, 100 miles from Stockholm. After apparently completing dummy bombing runs, the planes veered off to avoid violating Swedish air space.

Their "targets" are said to have included a military base in southern Sweden and the headquarters of the country's signals intelligence agency, which is outside Stockholm.

The incident caused controversy at the time, says the paper, because the Russians essentially caught the Swedes napping. They had no advance warning and no aircraft ready to scramble to monitor the incoming aircraft. Instead, they had to rely on Danish planes which shadowed the Russians.

Russia has not commented officially on the Nato claim but the Telegraph spoke to Evgeny Buzhinsky, a former general who now heads the Moscow-based PIR think tank, who said it was "nonsense designed to stir up hysteria about the Baltic states".

He added: "This statement about a supposed nuclear strike on Sweden is nothing more than a provocation."

Since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine two years ago, there have been fears it might use the presence of Russian-speaking minority groups in the Baltic states as an excuse to invade.

Buzhinsky told the Telegraph this was not going to happen, however, and that there would be no strategic advantage to taking control of Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, nor were the Russian speakers there going to ask for "protection".

But he warned any increase of Nato's military presence in the region would be a "reason for concern from the Russian side" and would be met tit-for-tat.

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