"With hindsight...", say both Lars Kallsäby (C) and Staffan Jansson (S), when they talk about when they sat on the building committee and handled the building permit for the Russian Orthodox church at Hässlö. They are critical of the handling and wish they had been less gullible. For example, it would have been better to let the matter take longer, instead of trying to be service-oriented and let Chairman Kallsäby alone make the decision.

"What we did, and for which we have been criticised, had not changed anything in substance," he says.

Parking is the big issue

Västerås municipality has received criticism in an external review for the decision. But it concerns the construction matter itself. Allowing the congregation to build on Hässlö was not considered problematic, Lars Kallsäby recalls.

The congregation had been active in the city for several years and rented premises from both the municipality and the Church of Sweden. The site at Hässlö was planned for a church for Jehovah's Witnesses that did not come to fruition, so the committee thought it was a suitable location. The big stumbling block was parking spaces, that's why the decision was delayed.

"Done more checks"

It was with the VLT's review of the church construction that the issues of the parish's independence in relation to Moscow came to the table. At the time, it was also questioned whether politicians had been biased. According to Lars Kallsäby, a member had reported a conflict of interest, his wife was a member of the congregation, but this is not noted in the minutes.

Another member later turned out to be a member of the Assembly. None of them are active in politics anymore. Lars Kallsäby doesn't think it's strange that two people from the congregation sat on the building committee at the same time as the matter was on the agenda.

"A municipality isn't that big. It wasn't something we reacted to at the time.

Both politicians believe that they would have been more questioning today.

"Today, we should have carried out more thorough checks," says Staffan Jansson.

SVT has tried to contact representatives of the congregation without success.

60 Seconds: Bribery Allegations and Concern – The Twists and Turns Behind the Church Construction

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The construction of a Russian Orthodox church in Västerås has raised questions about the impact from Russia and security risks. Here are the tours summarizing in one minute. Photo: Robert Gustavsson/SVT