Swedish responses to Integrity Initiative and Atlantic Council

So far there have been four responses to Integrity Initiative and a new Atlantic Council report in Sweden. They are published by very diverging media. The first is a letter to the editor published in a regional daily Skånska Dagbladet aligned with the Center party, the second in the weekly Internationalen supporting the opposition against Assad in Syria, the third in the blog Hans lilla gröna, run by a Green party member and the fourth Global Politics with pro-Syrian anti-imperialist Anders Romelsjö as editor. In spite of their differences they all bring up empirical material and political background rather than speculating or summarizing the leaks. There is also no direct linkage between the four media platforms making it seemingly weak – or the opposite if each one can find allies and avoid disputes with each other on this specific point.

The authors also use the specific political position Sweden has as a non-member of NATO. This makes statements as NATO’s Trojan Horses having a stronger resonance than in countries that are formally members. They are also all personally addressing experience making it easier to understand that what happens is daily life experiences for people, not something going on in computers far away. Integrity Initiative and Atlantic Council are part of governmental efforts together with private actors influencing our daily lives targeting messages and people they do not agree with openly and in secret. This makes the public debate biased and can also threaten people not to express their opinion.

I and several known and unknown Swedes were named as Kremlin’s Agents

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Carl Meurling writes in Skånska Dagbladet Opinion December 21, 2018.

Carl Meurling, an investor in Russia, writes December 21, 2018 in Skånska Dagbladet Opinion, a regional daily in the Southern province Scania:

Two years ago my life changed. The Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) then issued a report were I and several known and unknown Swedes were labeled Kremlin Agents… Since then, I have tried to understand why we were outed. My conclusion is that the Swedish foreign administration has partly been privatized by foreign special interests. It is unacceptable and a security risk for Sweden.

Carl Meurling, December 21, 2018

Meurling also brings to light that according to the data leaks about the Integrity Initiative the person to be responsible for the Swedish part of the project would be UI’s Russia expert. He concludes: ”Thus, a tax-financed part of Sweden’s foreign administration has an employee who at the same time works for the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs to influence Swedish politics via an anonymous front organization!

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Emma Lundström writes in the weekly Internationalen December 21, 2018.

Nordic clusters are led by no less than Martin Kragh.

The journalist Emma Lundström writes December 21, 2018 more bluntly in the weekly Internationalen: ”Integrity Initiative’s Nordic clusters are led by no less than Martin Kragh… The fact that a Swedish academician serves as coordinator for the Nordic section of Integrity Initiative is quite startling. That it is Martin Kragh may not be equally surprising to those who have followed his actions for some time. He has the habit of blackening political opponents.

NATO’s Trojan Horses

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Hans Wåhlberg writes on his blog December 16, 2018.

The Green Blogger Hans Wåhlberg goes much further in a blog post from December 16, 2018. To him it is important to point at how different actors work closely together in cohort due to their privileged resources and access to media. He starts by looking into the report “The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3.0” with a chapter about Sweden entitled: “Sweden – Fertile Soil for Influence OPS?” published December 3, 2018. The chapter is written by one Henrik Sundbom, who is a “fellow” at the Swedish think tank Stockholm Free World Forum (In Swedish: FriVärld), who has close cooperation and exchange with the Atlantic Council.

The report does not only focus upon the normal suspects but also puts much emphasis on the Green party. Wåhlberg also quotes the report: “Support for the Kremlin is stronger in the independent green movement, which overlaps more with the Swedish peace movement than with the Green Party itself“.

After examining several details Wåhlberg describes the content as ”pure conspiracy theory or guilt by association, perhaps on the verge of libel in the case of names mentioned” and ends with: ”Atlantic Council says it wants to reveal to the world, and make it aware of Russian troll farms and Russian disinformation (fake news). They do this by producing their own fake news. The whole thing might be comical or in any case not worth noting if it were not for the power this think tank possesses.  He finds it appropriate to name such an organization a Trojan Horse of NATO.

Who are they? Wåhlberg asks himself when looking into the Integrity Initiative program ”according to which they will form clusters of “friendly journalists” and key influencers in different European countries to fight against Russian propaganda and false news.

He asks if ”possibly the above mentioned Sundbom is one of them?” in the Swedish cluster. Then he also asks if Martin Kragh, who in his article the previous year, raised much of what Sundbom speculates in the Atlantic Council report, also belongs to the cluster. ”Kragh’s article certainly failed as scientific work and drew strong criticism from both newspapers and colleagues, but it has not prevented Sundbom from spinning on the same material. Sundbom and Kragh have also worked together earlier and this year, among other things, published a report for The Swedish Institute of International Affairs (“Resilience Against Influence Operations in the Eastern Partnership Countries“).”

Wåhlberg concludes:

“There can be no other explanation than that it is part of a long-term campaign to discredit the peace movement with the aim of later turning the still NATO-negative Swedish public opinion. One way is then to describe NATO resistance only as a result of Kremlin’s propaganda or as something that is driven solely by the Kremlin’s agents.

Kragh admittedly recognized when he was pressured by Aftonbladet “the basic democratic right to have one’s own opinion on Swedish security policy”. But despite this, the campaign against the peace movement continues from new writers who appear in new forms. The nasty thing is that it also takes place in partially hidden forms where institutions with ties to the United States and NATO collect information about the opinions of individuals and produce material where they are discredited.

Hans Wåhlberg, December 16, 2018

Thanks God they are rightly criticizing me.

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Anders Romelsjö writes on the Global Politics blog December 9, 2018.

The antiimperialist blogger Anders Romelsjö:

Atlantic Council is closely associated with individuals and agencies in the deep state of the United States, having good relations with the White House. It aims to strengthen the alliance between the United States and Europe, and is an important pillar of NATO. It has been involved in all US political and military war adventures over the past 50 years and has been working for decades to cover for CIA sponsored subversive operations, killings and political manipulations in all corners of the world. It is, of course, sponsored by powerful forces such as arms manufacturers, oil companies and other major business interests, as well as receiving funding from more than 25 US-friendly governments around the world.

Now Atlantic Council has drawn attention to me and the blog! Thanks God they are rightly criticizing me. Praise would have made me quit, and consider jumping into a lake.

Anders Romelsjö, December 9, 2018

Anders Romelsjö also posted two articles on Integrity Initiative.

December 2, 2018 he wrote that Martin Kragh was ”a cluster coordinator” for Nordic Studies in the Integrity Initiative including reposting a longer critical analysis on Kragh’s article on Russian disinformation in Sweden.

December 3, 2018 he writes about Swedish names in the Integrity Initiative material based on an article published on the blog Moon of Alabama.

Activists for peace


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Make 2019 a year of peace!

Activists for peace (In Swedish: Aktivister för fred) can look back to two fruitful years. Together with our cooperation partners we can now move forward on several different initiatives:

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  1. Calling for international actions on the 5th memorial day of the attack on the house of trade unions in Odessa, Ukraine, May 2, 2019.
  2. Work against repression in Russia and Ukraine. A project initiated in a co-operation between Russia and Ukraine.
    Link will be posted.
  3. Cooperate with other popular movements in the Nordic and other European countries towards and beyond the EU parliamentary elections in May. The chances are better than ever to be part of building alliances for conflict resolution and Yes to peace negotiations – no to war. More and more movements say Yes to common security – no to rearmament and strengthen peace demands by saying Yes to investments for social justice and the environment – no to austerity policies.
  4. Be part of building stronger world-wide alliances – for peace on earth and peace with the earth.

We have together with the social forum network Prague Spring 2 against right wing extremism and populism (PS2) been able to contribute to take initiatives such as the Odessa solidarity action and work to stop repression in Russia and Ukraine. With PS2 we have closely followed Thematic World Social Forum on migration in Mexico City, Mexico, European Forum in Bilbao, Spain and been part of Europe in movement in Barcelona, Spain, Assembly of Resistance in Budapest, Hungary and Nordics in movement in Malmö, Sweden.

In 2017, Activists for peace initiated Dags för fred! (In English: Time for peace!) in Stockholm, Sweden and co-arranged Another Europe is possible in Gothenburg, Sweden. This have made it possible to start cooperation with a broad range of peace, migration, environmental, solidarity, no to EU and EU-critical movements.

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This year, 2018, we have supported our two Ship to Gaza activists. Although we are not working politically on the Palestine issue – since we are mainly focused on Ukraine and criticism of how NATO advances closer to Russia in the Nordic region – we have supported Divina Levrini who went all the way from Sweden until getting hijacked by the Israeli military on international waters and Lars Drake, a Ship to Gaza veteran.

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During the autumn; informing and support protests against NATO military excercise in Norway where also Sweden actively participated, has been a main task.

We also have participated in Naturbrukskonferensen (In English: Conference on Land management), a yearly meeting with small farmer, environmental and other organisations to promote food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture and forestry. Here we addressed the need to strengthen civil contingencies by raising food self sufficiency, reestablish food and other contingency storages and give small farmers a say in the planning of civil contingencies.

In early December 2018, Tord Björk from Activists for Peace was once more the target of a smear campaign. In a joint effort by Stockholm Free World Forum, an NGO paid by The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise to promote business interest in security affairs and Atlantic Council, the closer cooperation between environmental and peace movement and linkages to the Green Party was presented as a threat in the report Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3.0. Tord Björk had written in an article in an environmental magazine that the referendum in Crimea in 2014 was a breach of international law but that a majority of the local population including the Ukrainians supports the outcome. The author of the report, Henrik Sundbom, a fellow at Stockholm Free World Forum, claimed that the article showed to much sympathy with the Russian Crimean narrative.

Last year a close cooperation partner to Sundbom, Martin Kragh, head of the Russia and Eurasian programme at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and researcher at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University where he also is Research Director at the Uppsala Forum for Democracy, Peace, and Justice, together with the daily Expressen also started a smear campaign against Tord Björk and Ukrainabulletinen, the newsletter publicized by Activists for peace.

In late December 2018 Activists for peace started to inform on our blog about the smear campaigns and their connections in Sweden and internationally to Integrity Initiative and Atlantic Council. Activists for peace have compiled links to some 150 comments made in 24 countries and this is complemented with open source material presented in 100 links about the scandal last year. What was once a tragedy during the Cold war seems to have returned as a farce. You can read more here (link will be posted).

More links:

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Call for action, sign our Petition: Say yes to peace in Ukraine! – Stop European Parliament from using disinformation and attacking Minsk II agreement

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We (Activits for peace, In Swedish: Aktivister för fred) call upon all constituencies in the European parliament to criticize the use of disinformation during the ongoing escalation and economic blockade in Eastern Ukraine and lack of support for the Minsk II agreement by its members in the European Parliament’s Ukraine delegation.

We demand that all actors including Ukraine equally follow the Minsk II agreement.

We call upon people in all of Europe to support diplomatic efforts to solve the Ukrainian conflict.

The time has come to say yes to peace in Ukraine and Europe!

Sign our international petition: Say yes to peace in Ukraine! – Stop European Parliament from using disinformation and attacking Minsk II agreement.


A vast majority of MEPs in the European parliament elected to be responsible for relations to the Ukrainian parliament have used their position to spread disinformation and attack the Minsk II agreement. It is of utmost importance for building peace that different actors do not deny facts on the ground trying to falsely blame the opponent for acts committed by the side in the conflict that EU supports. It is also of great importance that diplomatic efforts to end the conflict and human suffering are honoured. The Minsk II agreement is endorsed by the UN Security Council, i.e. at highest possible international level. Attacks against the Minsk II agreement by the vast majority of MEPs given the responsibility for addressing the Ukrainian conflict is unacceptable.

We demand that the constituencies in the European parliament immediately address the concern this creates for EU as a democratic community basing its decision on facts and not on disinformation.

Europe needs peace now. The greatest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe which is threatening the health and life of millions of people in Eastern Ukraine must be solved. The way the West says that Russia is the only actor who must follow the Minsk II agreement is creating passivity and prolonged human suffering. On the ground, the Ukrainian forces and the volunteer battalions have advanced in what is labelled as a ”creeping offensive”. This means that the Ukrainian forces are advancing into the grey zone and this is not in line with the Minsk II agreement which Ukraine has signed.

On the ground, Ukrainian ultra nationalist have since January also illegally blocked the railway transport between Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) in order to totally break the economies of Donbass and Ukraine apart. This economic blockade is in violation of the Minsk II agreement and a threat to the economy of the Ukraine and DPR and LPR, who are tied together by mutual need for, for instance, selling coal and buying fuel for power stations. President Poroshenko strongly oppose the illegal blockade, but cannot force the ultranationalist to follow the law.

During a session in the European Parliament on the 14th of February 2017, the situation in Eastern Ukraine was presented in an erroneous way by Anna Maria Corozza Bildt, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Rebecca Harms, Dariusz Rosati, Sandra Kalniete, and several others in the European Parliament’s Ukraine delegation. They explicitly tried to undermine the Minsk II agreement by using false statements about the ongoing escalation of the conflict in order to avoid criticism against the aggressor that currently is Ukraine. A country responsible for a creeping offensive unable or not willing any longer to maintain law and order and thus letting ultra nationalists enforce an economic blockade against the Minsk II agreement.

Read more about the background and the campaign in To all peace loving people in Europe and the world – Time to join hands for peace in Ukraine.

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.