Russia expels two Swedish diplomats amid growing tensions

The Swedish foreign ministry said the decision by Russia followed Stockholm’s refusal to extend one Russian diplomat’s visa and deny the application for a diplomatic visa for another Russian citizen.

“Russia has responded by asking two Swedish diplomats to leave Russia, which we regret,” ministry spokeswoman Sofia Nahringbauer, told AFP. Nahringbauer said the ministry did not want to comment on whether Sweden would take any further actions.

Russian Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was asked to comment on the issue during a briefing on Wednesday, and whether the move was in response to Sweden’s refusal to grant visas.

“I can only say that the global answer is already in your question. I mean, in your phrase ‘in response,'” she told reporters in Moscow adding that she didn’t want to elaborate any further.

In late February Swedish authorities arrested a technology worker suspected of spying for Russia.

Swedish security services said at the time they believed the person had been “recruited as an agent by a Russian intelligence officer posing as a diplomat in Sweden”.

Swedish authorities had been investigating the consultant for an “extended period of time” and he was arrested in dramatic fashion while having dinner at a restaurant in central Stockholm with the Russian diplomat suspected of being an intelligence officer.

Local media reported that police briefly detained the Russian diplomat but then released him on account of his diplomatic immunity.  

A year ago, Swedish security police warned of the “high threat posed by foreign spies”.

“Russia poses the biggest intelligence threat to Sweden,” the head of the Swedish security police’s counter-intelligence unit, Daniel Stenling, said at the time.