More Swedes prepared to defy Putin as support for joining Nato swells

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
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Russian President Vladimir Putin joins his hands as he holds a meeting of the Russia - Land of Opportunity platform supervisory board at the Catherine's Hall of the Kremlin in Moscow on April 20, 2022. (Photo by Mikhail Tereshchenko / Sputnik / AFP) (Photo by MIKHAIL TERESHCHENKO/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Russia issued fresh threats to Sweden and Finland on Wednesday over the possibility of joining Nato. (Getty)

A growing majority of Swedes are now in favour of joining Nato despite threats of retribution from Russia, new polling has revealed.

On Wednesday, research by Demoskop and commissioned by the Aftonbladet newspaper showed 57% of Swedes now favoured Nato membership, up from 51% in March.

Sweden, along with neighbouring Finland, has moved towards dropping decades of military neutrality in the face of Putin's bloody invasion of Ukraine.

The March poll was the first to show a majority of Swedes in favour of joining the alliance. In January, a month before the invasion, just 37% were in favour of Nato membership.

Prompted by Putin's attack on Ukraine, Sweden is currently in the midst of a review into its security policy, which will conclude at the end of May.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson gives a press conference with the Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin prior to a meeting on whether to seek NATO membership, in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 13, 2022. - Rattled by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Finland will kickstart a debate that could lead to seeking NATO membership, a move that would infuriate Moscow. - Sweden OUT (Photo by Paul WENNERHOLM / TT News Agency / AFP) / Sweden OUT (Photo by PAUL WENNERHOLM/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson speaks in Stockholm as her nation increases its support to join Nato. (Getty)

Some reports have suggested Sweden's prime minister Magdalena Andersson wants the country to join the transatlantic alliance by June.

Momentum has also been growing in Finland, which shares an 830-mile land border with Russia, with the country expected to apply for Nato membership at a similar time to Sweden.

On Wednesday, Finland inched closer to joining the alliance, after the country's major parliamentary groups all expressed support for some form of military alliance.

Read more: Putin officials 'increasingly worried' he could unleash limited nuclear weapon

The move came during a debate in the Finnish parliament, discussing the possibility of Nato membership.

Prime minister Sanna Marin's Social Democrat party voiced support for a military alliance, but stopped short of directly mentioning Nato.

"It is evident that Russia's actions have brought Finland several steps closer to military alignment being necessary," Social Democrat group leader Antti Lindtman said.

Putin has spent decades viewing Nato as a threat, and Moscow has been clear that it opposes any chance for the alliance to get larger.

Click on this image to see all Yahoo News UK's latest content on the Ukraine crisi
Click on this image to see all Yahoo News UK's latest content on the Ukraine crisi

The Kremlin issued a fresh threat to Finland and Sweden on Wednesday.

Maria Zakharova, spokesman for Russia's foreign ministry, said both nations have been informed "what it will lead to" if they abandon their neutrality agreements.

"We have issued all our warnings both publicly and through bilateral channels," she told the Rossiya 24 state media channel.

"They know about it, they will have nothing to be surprised about, they were informed about everything."

Watch: Russia's nuclear capability 'concerning' - as Putin launched invasion to 'stay in power'

Finland has been officially neutral since signing a pact with Russia in 1948, agreeing to never join a military alliance hostile to Russia, or allowing its territory to be in an attack against Russia.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said last week Nato allies would welcome Finland and Sweden into the alliance if they decided to join.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has previously said that joining the alliance would not bring any further security to Europe.

He said the bloc "is not that kind of alliance which ensures peace and stability, and its further expansion will not bring additional security to the European continent".

Sweden has not been at war since the time of Napoleon and has built its security policy on "non-participation in military alliances".

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (L) and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin walk prior to a meeting on whether to seek NATO membership in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 13, 2022. - Rattled by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Finland will kickstart a debate that could lead to seeking NATO membership, a move that would infuriate Moscow. - Sweden OUT (Photo by Paul WENNERHOLM / TT News Agency / AFP) / Sweden OUT (Photo by PAUL WENNERHOLM/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson and Finnish PM Sanna Marin pictured in Stockholm. (Getty)

But like Finland, the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special military operation", has forced a radical rethink.

Both countries are now seen as highly likely to join the 30-nation alliance.

Putin's troops continued their assault on Eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, with fighting intensifying in the southeastern Donbas region.

Ukrainian forces clung on to the besieged city of Mariupol, where a Russian ultimatum to to surrender or die expired on Wednesday afternoon with no mass capitulation.

More than five million people have now fled Ukraine since the start of the conflict, the United Nations refugee agency said.

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