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Burning of Qur’an in Stockholm funded by journalist with Kremlin ties | Sweden

The Stockholm Quran burning incident, threatening Sweden’s NATO bid, was revealed to have been funded by a far-right journalist with ties to pro-Kremlin media.

The holy book was set on fire last Saturday outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm by far-right politician and anti-Islamic provocateur Rasmus Paludan, who has dual Danish-Swedish citizenship and is known for committing such acts.

Swedish media reported that Paludan’s 320 SEK (£25, $31) permit for the demonstration was paid for by former pro-Kremlin RT contributor Chang Frick, who now regularly makes commercials for far-right Swedish Democrats. Frick confirmed that he paid for permission to hold the protest, but denied asking anyone to burn the Muslim holy book.

The feat drew criticism in the Islamic world and intensified the standoff with Turkey over Sweden’s bid to join NATO, which requires the approval of all 30 member countries. “Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer count on our support for their NATO membership,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in response to the book burning.

Despite Sweden’s calls to resume trilateral talks with Turkey and Finland over their NATO membership bids, Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it was “pointless” to hold further discussions. On Friday, Turkey also summoned the Danish ambassador and accused Denmark of supporting a “hate crime”.

Paludan told local media that he held the rally because “some Swedes wanted me to burn the Koran in front of the Turkish embassy.” In an interview with The Insider website, Frick confirmed that he had paid for permission to hold the protest, but stated that “it was not my idea” to burn the Muslim holy book.

He also told the site that he has not worked for Russia Today, later renamed RT, since 2014 and has not supported Russia since the annexation of Crimea.

Frick, a former representative of the Swedish Democrats, is the founder of a far-right website on immigration to Sweden. Speaking to the New York Times in 2019, he joked about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pulling out a wad of ruble bills from a recent trip to Russia, he told a reporter, “This is my real boss! It’s Putin!

Frick also hosts a regular show on a media channel linked to the far-right Swedish Democratic Party, which has an agreement to support Sweden’s three-party coalition even though it is not part of the government.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Bilström called the Islamophobic provocations appalling. “Freedom of expression is widespread in Sweden, but this does not mean that the Swedish government or I support the opinions expressed.”

Finland and Sweden last year launched tripartite talks with Turkey aimed at overcoming Ankara’s doubts about their NATO membership. The Swedish government has said it is doing exactly what it promised to strengthen its anti-terror legislation, but Turkey is demanding more, including the extradition of 130 people it considers terrorists.

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