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Nato: Russia planned anti-Turkey protests to stall Finland, Sweden Nato bids, says report

Leaked Russian intel memo indicates plans to stir the waters in Europe to push Ankara to continue blocking Nato applications
Protesters burn the national flag of Sweden as they demonstrate in front of the Consulate General of Sweden after Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line and who also has Swedish citizenship burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, in Istanbul, on January 21, 2023. (AFP)
Protesters burn the national flag of Sweden as they demonstrate in front of the Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul, on 21 January 2023 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Russia has drawn up plans to orchestrate anti-Turkey and anti-Islamic protests throughout Europe to stall the Nato accession process of Finland and Sweden, according to an alleged Russian intelligence file published by Finnish media. 

Turkey last year blocked both countries' membership to the alliance, accusing them of adopting a lax attitude towards the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Ankara later approved Finland’s bid but has continued to slow walk Sweden’s accession, citing Quran-burning protests and anti-Turkey demonstrations in Stockholm, among other things. 

The plan was revealed in a memo purportedly prepared by a Russian intelligence officer, and which was initially leaked to the Dossier Center, a centre for investigative journalism on Russian activities, run by the Russian opposition. 

The secret intelligence report was published by the Finnish news organisation Yle on Monday in coordination with the Dossier Center, which received the documents in two batches, the first part at the end of last year and the second in the spring of this year.

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“The intelligence service's plan states that the violent demonstrations that followed the Koran burnings in Sweden have increased the fear of Islam in EU countries. The document calls for further stirring up this tension,” the report says. 

Finnish security police confirmed to Yle that it was aware of the Russian intelligence service’s plans to incite demonstrations in Finland as well. But there are no indications that the Finnish plan was carried out. 

Demonstrations mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were also planned in major European cities, according to the leaked file. 

“One of the methods mentioned in the document is to write as many wall graffiti against Islam and Erdogan as possible in well-known places in the cities,” the report adds.

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“The plan included that the 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 Center says in other leaked documents there were a series of demonstrations that were listed as “completed operations”, such as protests against Islam and Turkey in Paris in March. 

Turkish officials sources earlier this year told Middle East Eye that they weren't surprised by the indications that some of the Quran-burning protests were somehow tied to the Kremlin. 

In January, separate reports linked a Quran-burning incident outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm to a far-right journalist with ties to Kremlin-backed media.

According to Swedish media, Rasmus Paludan, a dual Danish-Swedish national, obtained a demonstration permit for 320 Swedish krona ($31), a fee that was covered by Chang Frick, a former contributor to the Kremlin-backed channel RT.

Frick, who currently makes regular media appearances for the far-right Sweden Democrats, confirmed that he funded the permit for the protest. However, he denied any involvement in encouraging the burning of the Muslim holy book.

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