Sweden has summoned its Russian ambassador after the latter claimed that the Nordic country would become a "legitimate target" for the Russian military if it ever became a member of NATO.
"The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will summon the Russian ambassador to make a clear statement against this blatant attempt at influence," Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told AFP. He added: "Sweden's security policy is determined by Sweden — no one else."
On Tuesday, Russia's ambassador to Sweden, Viktor Tatarintsev, posted a message on the Russian embassy's website in which he claimed that Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO would render the Nordic countries "a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including those of a military nature".
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Sweden and Finland simultaneously applied to become members of NATO shortly after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year. Both countries had previously been committed to neutrality throughout the Cold War and post-Cold War period.
It is currently expected that Finland will join the alliance within the coming months. However, Sweden's accession has been delayed after both Turkey and Hungary refused to ratify its membership.
Ankara is angered by Stockholm's alleged support for Kurdish nationalists within Turkey, while Budapest is incensed over Sweden's repeated criticism of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's policies, especially those pertaining to the judiciary and the rule of law.