What’s in a name? Egor Putilov, Alexander Fridback and Tobias Lagerfeldt are just a few of the names this man, who is hiding from a journalist on this picture, has called himself. (Image: Nyheter Idag)
Last week, a scandal has unraveled in the heart of Swedish political power, as Swedish media report.
A man with many names
At the core is a man who has been employed at the party secretariat for the Swedish Democrats in the parliament since February. This party is profiling itself with its anti-immigration stance and euro-skepticism and has close ties to similar parties in Europe.
He has used these different aliases when working for the Swedish Migration board, applying for a job at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and attending training at the Swedish Radio, from which he was kicked out for not being able to prove his identity.
Furthermore, Mr Putilov has written opinion pieces in several Swedish newspapers under different names. The pieces have mainly been about migration, but with diametrically opposed views – some being anti-immigration and other radically pro-immigration, posing as a volunteer at Refugees Welcomed – though that organisation had never heard of him. By essentially debating with himself under different aliases (a well-known troll tactic), he has fueled the already heated debate on immigration in Sweden.
Major security concern
In 2014, Mr Putilov bought a house in Stockholm from a convicted Russian businessman, who was married to a senior figure in the Russian tax authority in St Petersburg. Curiously, Mr Putilov bought the house for 6 million SEK and went on to sell it a week later for 12 million SEK. Experts see this as an indication of dependency on people with government ties in Russia as well as on a convicted criminal.
Swedish media have reported concerns that Mr Putilov’s access to the parliament posed a major security concern. At first, the Swedish Democrats party dismissed the issue, but after demands for accountability from several politicians, among them Sweden’s Minister of Defence, Mr Putilov has now resigned. He blames the scandal on “russophobia” and has likened Sweden to repressive societies and Stalinist times.
In line with Russian military doctrine
This scandal comes after the Digest reported that several security services in Europe have warned of the threat of Russian disinformation activities.
While Russian government-owned news site Sputnik has closed its Swedish-language operations, this case illustrates alternative tactics for influencing public debates. These are in line with the Russian military doctrine, which talks about “exploiting the protest potential of the population”.
Using false identities, Mr Putilov sought to inflame tensions around the migration issue, a divisive question. He worked for an anti-EU party, which Russian media say are partners for Moscow. When he resigned because of a suspicious deal, he blamed “russophobia”, another well-known tactic.
To find out more about links between Russia and political parties in Europe, read The Economist’s article.