You’re reading Reaction. To get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter, columnists including Tim Marshall, Maggie Pagano and Adam Boulton, full access to the site and invitations to member-exclusive events, become a member HERE. 

An anti-Swedish poster campaign has been launched in Moscow, claiming that high-profile Swedes had supported Nazi ideology.

The posters, one of which appeared on a bus stop outside the Swedish embassy in Moscow, read “We are against Nazism, but they are not”, with the word “they” printed in the colours of the Swedish flag.

The posters display pictures of Swedish celebrities, including IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, who died in 2018. Author Astrid Lindgren, known for her children’s books featuring Pippi Longstocking, and film director Ingmar Bergman, both of whom are deceased, also appeared on the posters alongside supposed evidence of the Nazi sympathies that they had held.

The quotations on the posters have either been edited or are deliberately misleading. A quote from Kamprad, in which he said, “I was a Nazi! I admired Hitler,” refers to his time in Sweden’s Nazi youth movement during the Second World War – something he had since described as the “greatest mistake of [his] life.”

The former Swedish PM, Carl Bildt, tweeted: “Are there any limits to these guys? Or are they preparing a ‘denazifying’ operation against Sweden as well?”

This apparent attempt to fuel anti-Swedish sentiment in Russia comes as Sweden and Finland look increasingly likely to apply to join NATO, in a dramatic shift in both nations’ policies. In April, Russian hostility towards the Nordic countries saw Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, warn that Russia would move nuclear weapons towards the Baltic if Sweden and Finland joined the Alliance.

“It would not be possible to talk any more about the Baltic non-nuclear status. The balance has to be restored,” he said.

In February, Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine by claiming that he sought to “demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine,” and protect Russian speakers from supposed genocide committed by the Ukrainian government. Moscow’s latest propaganda campaign against Sweden strikes the same note.

The Russian state has also angered other nations in its obsessive crusade against Nazism. On Sunday, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that Adolf Hitler was part Jewish, in an insane attempt to prove that President Zelensky is a Nazi. “Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews,” he claimed.

The comments, which were made on Italian TV programme Zona Bianca, were described by Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, as “unforgivable and outrageous as well as a terrible historical error.”