Sweden is not a member of Nato but has been drawn closer to the bloc by the Ukraine war
Deputy national editor
March 30, 2022 4:54 pm(Updated 11:17 pm)
Two Russian planes that flew through Swedish airspace at the beginning of the month were equipped with nuclear weapons, a Swedish television network has reported.
On 2 March, in the wake of Vladimir Putin ordering his forces to adopt a position of increased nuclear readiness, four planes flew into Swedish airspace near the island of Gotland in the Baltic.
According to TV4, two of the planes, Sukhoi 24s, were armed with nuclear weapons. These planes were escorted by Sukhoi 27 fighters.
Sweden is not a member of Nato but has been drawn closer to the bloc by the Ukraine war, attending meetings alongside other western leaders.
The Swedish air force, which was already operating at a heightened level of awareness due to the invasion, met the Russian planes and took reconnaissance photographs.
The incursion lasted around a minute.
Russian planes on manoeuvres have periodically been escorted by Royal Air Force planes in recent years, while as recently as February, they “buzzed” three US navy planes in the Mediterranean.
But as the war in Ukraine erupted, the gravity of such incidents has increased, with Putin ally and former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev saying nuclear “readiness” remains a priority.
The possibility of nuclear warfare is understood to be deterring western powers from responding more directly to the invasion of Ukraine.
In a bizarre speech after Russian troops crossed into their neighbour’s sovereign territory on 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned those who would oppose him: “People should know Russia’s response will be immediate and lead you to consequences you have never encountered in your history.”
Three days later, on 27 February, he set his nuclear forces to “special alert” status.
Submarines capable of carrying ballistic missiles were also deployed to the north Atlantic.
Russia has a large stockpile of nuclear warheads, though many are older models.