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Neo-Nazi organizations and radicals as a tool of influence in Scandinavia

Russia continues its subversive operations on the territory of Sweden. Their intensity and variety of influence targets indicate that Moscow is trying to avoid accusations of masterminding them as the allegations of Russian intelligence being involved in such a surge looks more like an implausible conspiracy theory at first glance.

At the same time, the Kremlin found itself in a situation of strategic loss, which forces its bosses to ultimately boost malign influence operations, sometimes neglecting a proper cover for their stunts. These operations are actually aimed not so much at the leadership of adversary states, but rather at their own audience, which is fed the illusion of chaos reigning beyond Russia’s borders. This fits into the Soviet-era narrative of the “decaying West.” Back in the day, it was supposed to prevent people from comparing living standards in their country with those in the Western world. North Korea applies a similar policy to prevent people from fleeing the country en masse. However, Russian intelligence expects that such operations will also contribute to radicalizing a certain part of the population of the targeted nation, as well as create for the media a picture that will require a foreign policy response that would benefit Moscow.

Outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm, extremists burned the Torah and the Israeli flag. The initiators had first applied to local authorities to receive permit to hold the rally, claiming it would be a protest against Israel’s policy. Such a permit was issued in due manner.

The action was set up by a nationalist group Nordic Resistance Movement (Nordiska motståndsrörelsen). According to the organization, in this way they supported fighters against terrorism and globalism.

According to our assessment, Russia’s Anti-Globalist Movement, the group affiliated with Russia’s military intelligence, may also stand behind the stunt.

The Kremlin is interested in demonstrating various manifestations of neo-Nazism across Europe, which should thus confirm propaganda narratives that Russia is waging a war against modern-day Western Nazism.

The act by Nordiska motståndsrörelsen is undoubtedly related to the recent burning of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. After Russia’s traces in the operation were exposed, Moscow organized a cover-up campaign involving the burning of the Quran outside a Copenhagen mosque, as well as in front of the Russian embassy. There were also foiled stunts in Finland and Norway. Having failed to achieve the desired effect, amid a wide-ranging discussion of Russia’s involvement in anti-Islamic efforts on Swedish soil, Moscow likely sought an alternative stunt that would reduce the level of  accusations against the Kremlin, while further building up the pressure on Sweden.

For this purpose, Moscow employed its connections with the Nordiska motståndsrörelsen, previously established through the Russian Imperial Movement. The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) is a neo-Nazi organization, registered in Sweden as a political party. It seeks to create, through an actual revolution, a Northern European National Socialist Republic consisting of Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and the Baltic States.

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The organization is built on a clear hierarchy, with an obvious militaristic touch.RIM leader Vorobyev had visited Swedish Resistance Movement (SMR) in Sweden in 2015. In March 2015, two NRM members were invited to St. Petersburg to attend the “International Conservative Forum” and to take part in military training courses organized by the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), a far-right group that recruited people for war action in eastern Ukraine in 2014-2017. After that, the said men organized a series of explosions on Swedish soil, for which they were effectively convicted. 

On 26 January 2020, a Russian man named Anatoly Udodov was arrested at the Arlanda Airport after the police had discovered his cache of weapons. The law enforcers in the previous summer had seized his multiple firearms due to his connections to SMR. Vorobyev described Udodov as a RIM representative in Sweden and investigators believe he is the local recruiter for RIM training camps. According to Swedish police, Udodov is friends with a convicted terrorist Viktor Melin, 23. Melin was part of a group of Swedish neo-Nazis who traveled to Russia for military training, and upon returning were responsible for a string of bombings targeting minorities and political enemies. 

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According to Johannes Due Enstad, a researcher with the University of Oslo, points to another link between Russia and the NRM.

According to our estimates, Moscow’s cooperation with the NRM is based on the principles applied in Moscow’s cooperation with the Germany-based group Der Dritte Weg. Thus, it is likely that the NRM members were trained at the Partisan Center, while the neo-Nazi RIM acted as an intermediary between them and Russia’s military intelligence.

Meanwhile, Canada and the U.S. recognized the RIM as a terrorist organization, which is suspected of being involved in mailing improvised explosive devices in late 2022. Besides, two RIM members were killed in Libya, which is validly suggests their affiliation with the GRU. In 2022, organization members took part in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The RIM is also reported to have a relationship with the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division’s Russian affiliate. We see common features in the structure and functioning of Atomwaffen Division and the NRM, which suggests common sources of their organizational development.