Sweden holds crisis talks on 'telecoms sabotage'

Major transport glitches, damaged telecoms masts raise fears of spying by foreign powers

STOCKHOLM • Sweden's civil emergency agency held a crisis meeting yesterday to discuss a number of cases of suspected sabotage involving telecommunications masts and a computer breakdown that grounded air traffic across much of the country.

The incidents have reignited fears of foreign spies and the readiness of Sweden's depleted security services to confront such issues in a country on the frontline of increased Western tensions with Russia.

The Civil Contingencies Agency has said it has no grounds so far to believe that the various cases are related, but its decision to hold a "national coordination" meeting - confirmed by a spokesman - highlights the growing sense of public unease after the incidents.

Two telecoms masts have been damaged in the last few weeks and, on Thursday, a computer glitch grounded planes across much of Sweden, while technical problems knocked out the Swedish railways' booking system.

The spate of unexplained technical problems and apparent attempts to damage telecoms equipment have fanned fears that Sweden's infrastructure is being tested by foreign security services.

Dr Wilhelm Agrell, a professor in intelligence analysis at Lund University, hinted at a possible Russian link. "The scenario resembles the picture of so-called hybrid warfare that has developed since the Crimea operation in 2014," he said, referring to Russian forces' seizure of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula two years ago.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has not responded to requests for comment on the allegations of possible Russian involvement made by Swedish media and academics.

Sweden has, for years, seen Russia as its biggest geopolitical threat. Only last month Russia's Foreign Ministry warned of consequences if Sweden joined Nato. There have been reports, too, in the Swedish media about the nation's security services, which have issued a warning about Russian agents spying on important infrastructure.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Sweden holds crisis talks on 'telecoms sabotage''. Print Edition | Subscribe