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Russia intelligence reportedly planned protests against Turkiye, Islam in Nordic countries to prevent NATO accession

December 6, 2023 at 9:08 pm

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) logos at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. [VALERIA MONGELLI/AFP via Getty Images]

Russian intelligence planned anti-Turkish and anti-Islamic protests in Sweden and Finland in an effort to prevent those Nordic countries’ accession into the NATO alliance, leaked intelligence documents have reportedly revealed.

According to the Finnish news organisation, Yle, on Monday, in coordination with Russian opposition organisation the Dossier Centre which initially received the leaks, the Russian “plan states that the violent demonstrations that followed the Koran [Quran] burnings in Sweden have increased the fear of Islam in EU countries. The document calls for further stirring up this tension”.

The documents, in particular, revealed that one of the key methods to be used was “to write as many wall graffiti against Islam and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan as possible in well-known places in the cities”.

Demonstrations against Turkiye and Islam would then, according to the documents, be broadcast as “footage of the demonstrations be distributed on social media as widely as possible. The news media were also expected to report on the events.”

The Dossier Centre also revealed that some of the leaked documents mentioned a series of demonstrations that were listed as “completed operations”, reportedly referring to anti-Turkiye and anti-Islam protests in the French capital, Paris, back in March.

After months of deliberations and delays over Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO to protect themselves against potential aggression by Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, Turkiye finally approved both Nordic nations’ applications this year.

READ: Erdogan expects steps from US on F-16 sale for Sweden NATO accession

The reasons for its previous delay in approving Sweden’s accession – and now the current delay by the Turkish Parliament to ratify it – was not only Stockholm’s hosting of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements, but also largely due to the Swedish government’s allowance of protests against Turkiye and the public burning of the Islamic holy book, the Quran.

It was speculated by many that Russia was behind those demonstrations, but there was no evidence to support that, apart from reports in January linking a Quran-burning incident outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm to far-right journalist, Rasmus Paludan, who has ties to the Kremlin-backed media channel, RT (Russia Today) and was reportedly paid by one of the channel’s employees to gain a permit for the protest.

These latest revelations of Russian intelligence documents planning such demonstrations and activities, however, seem to provide more substantial evidence of Moscow’s utilisation of anti-Turkish and anti-Islam elements within Europe in an effort to advance its own interests – in this case, the attempted prevention of Helsinki and Stockholm’s accession into NATO.

According to Yle, Finnish security police confirmed to it that they were aware of the Russian intelligence service’s plans to incite demonstrations within Finland, but there are apparently no indications that the plan was carried out in the country.

READ: Using NATO membership as leverage, Turkiye is giving the EU a taste of its own medicine