Russia-affiliated journalist paid for Quran burning in Sweden

Anna Mikhailova

i24NEWS Web journalist | @AnMikailova

4 min read
Swedish-Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan holds an edition of the Quran during a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.
Fredrik SANDBERG / TT News Agency / AFPSwedish-Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan holds an edition of the Quran during a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.

Swedish media suggest that Moscow was behind the protest aiming to sabotage Sweden's NATO membership bid

Swedish journalist Chang Frick, affiliated with Russian propagandist channel RT, paid for Danish far-right activist Rasmus Paludan to publicly burn the Quran near the Turkish embassy in Sweden. 

The protest that took place on Saturday caused backlash in Turkey and led to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that Sweden shouldn’t expect Ankara’s support for its NATO membership bid. Swedish media suggest that Moscow was behind the Quran burning, using Frick, who has worked as a freelancer for RT and its subsidiary Ruptly.

The timing of the event is particularly significant as it came shortly before the planned visit of Sweden's Defense Minister Pal Jonson to Turkey, which was canceled after the protest was announced. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has previously said that if Sweden and Finland join NATO it could lead to “negative implications” for peace in Europe. The Nordic countries applied for the membership in the U.S.-led alliance amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine and were negotiating with Ankara for months to secure its approval. 

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Swedish media learned that while Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, traveled to Stockholm specifically for the protest, his application fee for the demonstration permit was paid by Frick. Paludan confirmed to the media that the idea to burn the Quran was proposed to him by Frick. He also guaranteed that any damage that Paludan could sustain as a result of this protest will be covered.

Frick, who is known for his pro-Russian position, is an owner of the news site Nyheter idag and presenter of the SD channel Riks, which is financed by the Sweden Democrats party. Henrik Vinge, deputy party leader, told local media that Sweden Democrats were not involved in Paludan’s actions.

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Frick, who denies having any ties with RT since 2014, confirmed paying for Paludan but claimed he did not believe that the protest had jeopardized Sweden’s NATO application. “If I, by paying 320 kroner in an administrative fee to the police, sabotaged the application, it was probably on very shaky ground from the beginning,” he told Swedish media. 

He added that he did it "to support freedom of speech" and aimed against Turkey. "In this particular case, I support this kind of activity when it comes to Turkey and Erdogan," he said. 

Latest reports said that Frick also paid for Paludan’s plane ticket to Sweden, but both Paludan and Frick deny it.

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