State funded Swedish NGOs turn a blind eye and succumb to active measures

Note: This text is part of the longer text NGOs and state-funded research trying to silence peace voices in Sweden.

The NGOs Östgruppen för demokrati och rättigheter and Ordfront also systematically together with PEN Sweden, silenced any knowledge from their websites about the systematic violations of human rights in Ukraine while, together with hundreds of cases in Russia, violations against human rights in DPR and LPR as well as Crimea gets extensive coverage by these organizations.

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The Swedish NGOs that don’t see, don’t hear and don’t speak.
Source: Aktivister för fred.

There is not a single case from Ukraine reported since the overthrow of Yanukovych in February 2014 until 2017. This is silenced while presidential candidates were violently attacked several times, four opposition parties got their offices stormed by the right-wing extremists, their membership register stolen or were stopped from acting openly by other means. Also, secret prisons are run by the Ukrainian security police and mass murder takes place with the consent of the government.

NGOs act against a documentary exposing fascist violence in Ukraine

The human rights NGOs showed their active opposition against exposing fascist violence and violations of human right in Ukraine during spring 2016. The Swedish national broadcast television had bought a French documentary called “Ukraine – the masks of the revolution”. When the broadcast was announced, the lack of concern about the actual abuses of human rights in Ukraine was replaced by hectic activity to label the documentary as false Russian propaganda.

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Presentation of Paul Moreira’s documentary “Ukraine – the masks of the revolution”.

Östgruppen co-organized an international petition campaign to demand that the documentary should not be shown without the experts questioning its content. They were also willing to present names which could participate in the TV-program when the documentary was broad casted to immediately comment upon the content in the way the NGOs claimed was a more correct version than what was presented by the French renowned and award-winning filmmaker.

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Article published in Ordfront Magasin April, 26 2016:
“Biased and simplified in SVT’s documentary”.
Author: Daniel Wiklander.

Ordfront has also participated in the campaign against the documentary. The editor Daniel Wiklander of the Syndicalist paper Arbetaren, where the articles by Putilov and Lännevall against Sachnin and any left-wing opposition who expressed opinions against the Swedish Ukrainian-policy were published, was now working for Ordfront. He wrote and published an editorial against the documentary while the rest of the edition of the magazine was filled with half a dozen stories about Russian propaganda and violations against human rights.

Östgruppen and Ordfront were strongly supported in their efforts against the French documentary by the Frivärld – a think tank sponsored by the Swedish employers’ association focused on defense issues and international policy. Also, the key journalists in the mainstream media and public service broadcasting acted against the French documentary. The Swedish consensus mentality did not accept any deviation from the main stream Swedish narrative.

But the campaign against the documentary failed to succeed. The international petition campaign coordintated by Östgruppen received 400 signatures. A national petition launched by Activists for Peace and its magazine Ukrainabulletinen received 1100 signatures. The documentary was, after delays, broad casted together with comments from an unbiased expert who was invited instead of people with views promoted by the state funded NGOs, business think tanks and the mainstream journalists.

After that, it became somewhat easier to discuss the Ukrainian conflict in social media while mainstream media still denied the access to all our articles and in general continued to keep silence about the problems in Ukraine.

Egor Putilov becomes useful again during summer 2016

Note: This text is part of the longer text NGOs and state-funded research trying to silence peace voices in Sweden.

There are many outlandish “too good to be true” stories in the way Swedish mainstream media and politicians tried to silence the Swedish peace opposition. One of the most outlandish is the way Egor Putilov has been used by these stories several times. First, he was used as a journalist in the left-wing media and the biggest daily exposing “pseudo” left activists who, as he put it, was controlled by Putin. That those accused by Putilov as Sachnin who is a political refugee from Russian Left front are in opposition to Putin in close cooperation with equally oppositional Borotba party in Ukraine is no to be taken into consideration. As long  as, they were critical against the new government in Ukraine, they were portrayed as nothing less then Putin’s agents. This is a message well received by many mainstream media journalists, and especially those promoting Swedish-NATO membership.

In the late summer of 2016, Egor Putilov was once more used as a proof of Russian infiltration in Sweden. But this time it was not what he exposed in his articles but he personally who was the convenient proof of Russia undermining Sweden.

At that time, Putilov was employed by the right wing populist Swedish Democrats under his true name Alexander Fridback. He worked as an aid in the Swedish parliament. He was accused of writing polarizing articles in Aftonbladet under false name. He was then writing against the same articles by another name to stir up controversy about the immigrant policies. It was soon also disclosed that he had made dubious real estate business deals with a Russian businessman linked to criminal activities and Russian authorities. These deals made him look, at least officially, very rich and he was now accused of being a Russian security risk inside the Swedish parliament within a political party that was also accused of being close to Putin.

Finally, a central Putin agent of the kind he himself was writing about was exposed in full day light. It was he himself who was the culprit. Immediately a special hearing was arranged in the parliament. The same journalists, who a year earlier had used Putilov’s accusations against Sachnin and other left wingers of being Putin agents, now used the chance to repeat their narrative again, that we again have a proof of how the Russian state is intervening in Sweden. They reveal the fact that they had used Putilov in the first instance as the main source for their allegations that there are serious Russian threats against Sweden.

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Article published in Arbetaren November, 7 2014:
“The technologists behind Putin’s propaganda war”.
Now with disclaimer.
Author:  Egor Putilov.

After Putilov was exposed, Arbetaren and Aftonbladet made disclaimers at the top of Putilov’s articles they published which still can be found on the Internet. Other journalists who had used and disseminated the content of Putilov’s articles hastily did what they could to forget about it to focus upon the new opportunity to once again tell the true story about Sweden being filled with Putin agents. After Putilov was expelled from the Swedish Democrats, this story soon faded away. The story is however still occasionally mentioned as an example of how severe the Russian threat against security in Sweden is.

The Swedish Institute for International Affairs research scandal

Note: This text is part of the longer text NGOs and state-funded research trying to silence peace voices in Sweden.

Could it be worse? Yes, it could. On the January, 5 2017, two researchers at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs, one of them also at the Uppsala University, published an article in an international journal of strategic studies.

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Article published in The Journal of Strategic Studies January, 5 2017:
“Russia’s strategy for influence though public diplomacy and active measures: the Swedish case”.
Authors: Martin Kragh and Sebastian Åsberg.

The article accuses several Swedish organizations and individuals to be carriers or ”interlocutors” of a Russian narrative and thus they are to be viewed as a threat to the security in Sweden. Some of the persons are anonymized while others are presented with their real names in the article. The reason for anonymizing is expressed as these individuals not being public figures. The interlocutors are defined as being peace organisations, conspiracy theorists and environmentalists as well as right wing extremists and left wing extremists. The authors also accuse mainstream media, the cultural pages of Aftonbladet, the biggest daily newspaper in Sweden. The article is widely spread internationally by newspapers such as The GuardianNew York TimesHuffington PostTagesspiegel etc. All, with the exception of the conservative Aftenposten in Norway, represent the study without criticism.

In Sweden, the paper received harsh criticism and soon the authors had to state that they were going to correct the text and take back their accusations against four Green MPs, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society and the cultural section of Aftonbladet. Academics claimed that the paper has such great methodological, empirical and theoretical flaws that it could not be called scientific. The Swedish Institute for International Affairs claimed, in defence, that it was not an official position of the institute although it was financed by the institute since the authors work there. In the international press, the paper was and still is presented as a study published by the institute and this applies also to articles based on the interviews with the authors.

The controversy about the article continued when Martin Kragh announced in Medierna, a special public service radio program scrutinizing media, that a scoop based on the paper and its background material soon was going to be published in a big daily newspaper in Sweden. Already in the article he had claimed that a meeting in Crimea had been a key nexus between Kremlin, European fascists and Swedish pro-Russian groups. Now the full story winames was going to be presented to the public about this Crimean meeting including contributors to the Aftonbladet cultural section present mingling with separatists and fascists.

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Article published in Expressen Kultur January, 19 2017:
“The secret names in the study of Kremlin fawning”.
Author: Karin Olsson.

The main scoop announced by Kragh did not hold water. This became clear at an early stage when Karin Olsson who had the task of writing the scoop started to check the story. Olsson is the head of the cultural section and deputy publisher of Expressen, the main competitor to Aftonbladet. Olsson could be seen as a good choice for writing the scoop. In the first publication directly after the article had been published in an international scientific magazine, Olsson dehumanized those accused of spreading the Russian narrative calling them “värddjur”, animals being hosts to parasites. This dehumanizing way is typical for the most aggressive propaganda against opposition to Swedish-Ukrainian policy and rapprochement to NATO.

The claim in the original article by Kragh was that a ”Swedish environmentalist” was present at a twofold meeting on the same day on Crimea, who in the first part mingled and exchanged experience with leftists, and in the second part with European right wing extremists.

The “Swedish environmentalist” was Tord Björk; a veteran environmentalist since the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm 1972, holding positions as board member or coordinator of committees at national level of Friends of the Earth Sweden since decades and active in the social forum Prague Spring 2 Network against right wing extremism and populism (PS2). The name was stated already in the references of the paper. This makes the claim, that the authors were making the names of the accused interlocutors of a Russian narrative, anonymous if they were not public figures, questionable for at least two reasons. First, it only requires looking at the reference link closely to find who was behind the ”anonymised” name. The name was only a few seconds away already in the paper published online. Second, Tord Björk has worked for several decades with environmental public activities and must thus be regarded as a public figure.

The accusations also proved to be false by the references in the paper itself. One can question if the authors even had looked carefully enough at them. In the references, the time for the two meetings were stated as being almost two months apart. This makes the authors’ claim about mingling between European fascists and Swedish environmentalist physically impossible.

Another source was then supposed to prove that Sachnin had been at this Crimean meeting. Sachnin, who has been contributing to the cultural section of Aftonbladet did not attend the meeting on Crimea. Sachnin’s role as a “false political refugee” and “Putin’s agent” could not be proven. The idea to make a scoop showing how the cultural section of Aftonbladet directly was a Kremlin tool did not work out as this neither could be proven. The whole scoop fell apart.

But, Olsson did the best she could to hide the mistake by the authors of the allegedly scientific article. She concealed the false story in the paper by presenting a new version so that the mistake would not be exposed. The European fascist meeting was erased. So was the later claim by Kragh that contributors to the Aftonbladet cultural section had been present on Crimea. The media made somehow magically the fake claims to be erased from public memory. When asked by journalists, Kragh afterwards claimed that he was sick during the interview when he announced the upcoming story about the contributors.

Instead a new story about the Crimean meeting was presented as a journalistic sensation. The “secret” names behind ”Kremlfjäsket” (In English: Kremlin fawning) were revealed by Expressen. Key evidence of the link between Russian disinformation in Sweden and the Kremlin was now presented in a lightweight version, still with a Crimean meeting as centrepiece.

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Article published in Internationalen July, 24 2014:
“Ukraine: Dancing on the edge of the abyss”.
Author: Tord Björk.

The problem is that the facts were known since the meeting took place during the summer of 2014. An article written by Tord Björk – Ukraine: Dancing on the edge of the abyss – about the meeting on Crimea was published in Internationalen soon after the meeting took place. The report was from the first of the two separate meetings held on Crimea during the summer of 2014. The opposition from all over Ukraine could meet there, a meeting not practically possible to organise anywhere else. The article presents the presence of a wide range of groups including left wing organizations such as Borotba and left wing groups from Europe and Canada, as well as representatives of the militias of DPR and LPR. The problem with right wing extremism in the new republics was also openly addressed.

Two members of the social forum network PS2 were present at this meeting on Crimea. One of them was Tord Björk. The presence of PS2 was, besides solidarity concerns, part of an effort to develop dialogue between civil societies across the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict and this included both pro-Maidan and anti-Maidan groups. It was a sustained effort that in 2015 enabled a seminar at the World Social Forum in Tunis with participants from both Kiev and Donetsk.

According to the researchers at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs a main component of the Russian narrative is that the new government is stated as a “fascist junta”. The common international statement at the meeting on Crimea does not use this term. Instead it claims that there is a right wing neoliberal government with some right wing extremist ministers in Ukraine. This is correct at the time and no one disagrees with this claim. But instead of presenting these facts about the meeting and referring to the article by the accused ”Swedish environmentalist”, both the so called scientific article and the tabloid scoop in Expressen chose to hide this source. The fact that “separatists from Eastern Ukraine” were present at the meeting is instead presented as a fact to expose as a sensation although this, together with the problem that right-wing extremists are also part of the resistance against the Ukrainian military, is already addressed openly.

By unnecessarily making the name anonymous of accused ”interlocutors” of Russian disinformation, the research paper was helping a tabloid paper make a scoop under the headline of secret names being revealed helping the Kremlin. The media has sensationally “exposed” a fifth column in Sweden with the help of the unnecessary anonymity chosen by the authors at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. It was done to maximize the effect of the sensation in the report they seem to have planned to help from the very start.

There were only two problems. First, the journalist Olsson needed to check the facts since a newspaper cannot publish wrong accusation against individuals. Thus, contrary to the methods used by Kragh, journalistic methods such as asking people and checking the sources showed that the research included fake facts. It was proven that the background material did not show what the authors from the Swedish Institute for International Affairs in advance claimed to be the most sensational revelations. Since this was to be exposed in the coming scoop, the sensation imploded.

Secondly, while researchers can claim that they chose to put off publishing sensational material for two and a half years, journalists cannot do so. The sensation was not the news since the criticism against the Crimean meeting as well as the report from it were openly presented already close in time to when the meeting took place. Applying journalistic rules to the tabloid ”scoop”, serious journalists would have addressed the issue already then, during the summer 2014. The only way Expressen could present the material as a scoop was to put normal journalistic news rules aside and instead use the fact that the researchers made some of the names anonymous. In this way, they could pretend that a scoop was made.

Kragh, the main author of the research article, claimed while he announced the upcoming scoop in the media that there was a group of journalists, researchers, and others – in that order – that had shared background material and followed the accused interlocutors during a long period. The accusations have in other words been known to the journalists during a long time. Only Olsson however, has stepped forward as part of the group, with which Kragh has collaborated. Their access to key institutions in Sweden is shown already by the fact that the key actors include resources from the most well-funded foreign policy institute in Sweden, the prestigious Uppsala University and a large national tabloid newspaper.

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The head of the unit for psychological defense at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency tells one of the authors that it’s “A very good report!”.

The fact that the initial paper received uncritical welcoming response from the media in Sweden as well as on Twitter from people such as the head of the unit for psychological defense at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency shows that there is substantial power behind the group of people that for many years have been collecting background material about the accused “interlocutors” of a “Russian narrative”.

Donbass and Swedish Ukrainian policy

The open letter from Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’e Republic (DPR and LPR) includes rather detailed information especially about the dangers caused by the violations of the Minsk II agreement due to bombardments along the contact line. Electricity, gas and water supplies which often serve both sides are destroyed. Hospitals, schools, kindergartens, houses and other buildings are also damaged and in part destroyed

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Damage to Donetsk water filter station after shelling January, 29 2017.
Source: Social media online. 

If this happens to people on the Ukrainian side like in Avdeevka, a suburb of Donetsk, this is widely reported in Western media as if DPR has caused these problems when it is Ukrainian bombardment hitting the water treatment plant in Donetsk destroying the roof where the chemicals for cleaning the water are kept. Also, the electricity lines serving a coal plant for heating in Avdeevka, and other areas, have been hit. OSCE SMM reports about the course of events and the lack of unwillingness to solve the acute situation causing Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM, to make the following statement:

Once again, it is very important now that the root causes of the fighting that led to so much suffering are being removed. The humanitarian agenda in this respect should take the front seat. Any political agenda should come second.”

Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM,
February, 1 2017

OSCE and OHCHR reports make it clear that during a long time the situation in Donbass has been a humanitarian disaster. This year 2,3 million of people are in an urgent need of humanitarian relief and the same number are endangered due to water shortages with accompanying risk of outbreaks of water-related diseases. 70 percent are elderly, women and children. ccess to food is uncertain. Thousands of domestic houses and public services, as well as infrastructure, are damaged or destroyed.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that 60 percent of the population of DPR and LPR, rely on pensions and other social benefits as their main source of income while the Ukrainian government since a long period of time has suspended all payments. Only five border crossings are open and tens of thousands, at the risk to their lives, pass there every day. Humanitarian relief can go through only two border crossings.

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Foreign policy statement made by the Swedish government February, 19 2014.
Source: Swedish government.

The foreign policy statement made by the Swedish government issued on February, 19 2014 denounced the use of violence and called for negotiations. It was issued the same day as the opposition stormed the Interior Ministry’s weapon stocks in Western Ukraine and this was followed by further escalation. The agreement made between the opposition and the government with mediation of ministers from the EU on February 21 requested a peaceful transition of power. This was presented as an international agreement and the opposition immediately broke it. The opposition chose to override the democratic constitutional order by using force to impose a new government. A complete change was made in three days.

Since then, the Swedish government have during the following three years not cared for the advice it gave in its 2014 foreign policy statement. Avoiding violence and calling for negotiations between opposition and government was no longer of importance to Sweden. Besides, the government of Sweden has shown itself to be indifferent to the humanitarian catastrophe which is caused by the refusal to negotiate in combination with the military action taken against the opposition in Donbass. Despite this, the Swedish government has often portrayed itself as giving importance to humanitarian issues.

A shift in the Swedish foreign policy lacking interest in dialogue about solutions to the current Ukrainian crisis and the humanitarian situation in Donbass may now be on its way.

So far, Sweden has aggressively been attacking Russia for all conflicts in the former Soviet Union space after its dissolution. The former foreign minister Carl Bildt even compared Putin with Hitler after the Georgian attack on the capital of South Ossetia – an attack which was repelled by Russia in 2008. Sweden has, among the Western European countries, continued to be a main agitator for EU’s eastward expansion. Together with Poland, Sweden headed EU’s Eastern partnership project in the same way as Sweden was the driving force in expansion of Swedish and Western financial capital into the Baltic States and other former Soviet republics.

Thus, Sweden has consistently refused to show any interest in listening to other views than that of the Ukrainian government. For a long time, the Swedish government refused any direct dialogue with the Russian government. This is contrary to neighboring Finland who regularly meet at top level with Russia. Not to mention that Sweden does not show any interest for the concerns of the people of Donbass who have been reduced to pawns in the interest of Swedish policy for EU’s eastward expansion at all costs.

The Swedish policy has been consistent regardless of the shift in government during the autumn of 2014 from right wing to red green party politics. In the European Council, the whole Swedish delegation voted by a majority to take away the votes of the Russian parliamentary delegation. This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the delegation from the Nordic countries where a majority either abstained or voted against excluding Russians from voting. There has been almost no possibility too small or too big where Sweden has not used the opportunity to damage dialogue and/or trade relations with Russia.

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Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström and Russian foreign minister Sergej Lavrov in Moscow, February, 21 2017.
Photo: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

When the Swedish foreign minster Margot Wallström finally travelled to Moscow to meet her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on February, 21 it is thus a welcome shift in the Swedish foreign policy of avoiding direct dialogue with Russia. We hope that this move was done in good faith and with substantial interest in solving the Ukrainian crisis.

We call upon our government to follow the advice put forward by Holger Nielsen from the Socialist People party in the Danish parliamentarian foreign policy committee. This party that supports the EU, sees it necessary not only to put pressure on Russia to fulfill the Minsk  II agreement, but also on the Ukrainian government. It should be of utmost importance to any political party and government claiming interest in ending human suffering and promoting conflict resolution to end the war.

Whether the shift in Swedish foreign policy towards dialogue with Russia is based on humanitarian and peace concerns remains to be seen. Sweden was heading the United Nations (UN) Security Council in January 2017 and used this as an argument for visiting countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Our country has argued for a need to foster dialogue due to its position at the UN while representatives also promoted Swedish trade interests.

We argue that it is of historical importance for Europe to solve the humanitarian crisis in the Donbass region. We will judge our government as well as all Swedish political parties in accordance with their willingness to put human security above politics in order to immediately put an end to human suffering. And Sweden has a leverage to do this.

Sweden has, like many other Western countries, contributed millions of Euros to the Ukrainian government and has a wide range of tools available to ask all relevant actors to fulfil the Minsk II agreement. The responsibility of Sweden’s lack of fulfilling this so far has been manifested in the human suffering in Donbass. It is a disgrace to efforts done by both the Swedish governments and Swedish citizens in the past to stop human crises and support peace initiatives.

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Commemoration of the Odessa massacre, Stockholm, May, 2 2015.
Source: Goran B.

We will welcome a change in the Swedish foreign policy if it has substance. Until then we will denounce the lack of interest in peaceful conflict resolution and lack of concern for the largest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe. We will collect money, clothing, shoes and other basic necessities to support civilian victims in Donbass. We will challenge the lack of interest for the systematic violations of human rights in Ukraine. On May, 2 2017, we will commemorate the Odessa massacre where 42 people were killed in the trade union house which three years ago, was attacked by a right wing extremist mob. We will also initiate a broader discussion about peace in Europe and the need to view the Ukrainian conflict in a wider social, ecological, economical and international policy context.

To support the campaign, we have thoroughly been reading the reports from OSCE, OHCHR and other sources about the humanitarian and military situation in Donbass including political statements. On our Swedish blog, we have published a general description about the humanitarian situation, a detailed analysis of border crossings along the contact line and a walkthrough of the escalation at the turn of January and February where special focus is given to the Avdeevka-Donetsk-Yasinovataya area.

During October 2016, we participated at a peace gathering in Berlin. This was organized by the International Peace Bureau and did not only call to an end to militarism, but also called for a just ecological transition to address the global threat of climate change – a transition needed also due to other environmental concerns.

We do hope to cooperate with others for peace and a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Donbass. Together with other peace movements, trade unions, peasant organisations, environmental organisations we want to contribute to a future for Ukraine and the rest of the world built on the common concern not only to promote peace on earth but also for peace with earth.