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Sweden calls off search for sub

October 24, 2014

Sweden has called off a weeklong search for a suspected foreign submarine in waters off the coast of Stockholm. The hunt was launched after a report of "foreign underwater activity."

Sweden's navy boats search for a foreign sub
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Frederik Sandberg

The Swedish military said on Friday that naval and amphibious forces deployed to scour the Baltic Sea coast near Stockholm had been ordered to head back to dock.

Since last Friday, more than 200 troops, stealth ships, minesweepers and helicopters had been looking for the source of "foreign underwater activity," thought to be a Russian sub, about 50 kilometers east of the capital.

"The bulk of ships and amphibious forces have returned to port," the armed forces said in a statement, adding that some ground forces would remain in the area.

The search was launched after the military received what it described as "credible" reports of activity by foreign submarines or divers using an underwater vessel.

Swedish officials didn't reveal more details about the intrusion, or which country it believed was responsible, but defense analysts have speculated Russian involvement. The search operation constitutes Sweden's biggest anti-submarine mobilization since the Cold War.

Region on edge

Sweden built up an anti-submarine force after a Soviet sub with nuclear weapons ran aground off its southern shores in 1981. Toward the end of the Cold War, the Nordic country sought to destroy suspected Soviet U-boats and the Swedish navy periodically carried out searches in its waters. But since then, its anti-submarine program has gradually been dismantled.

This latest incident has heightened tensions in the region, where Baltic countries are increasingly concerned over the Ukraine crisis and the potential of Russia's renewed assertiveness.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently was quoted as saying, "if I wanted, Russian troops could not only be in Kyiv in two days, but in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw or Bucharest, too."

Last month two Russian warplanes allegedly entered Swedish airspace. Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt called it "the most serious aerial incursion by the Russians" in nearly 10 years.

In another incident on Tuesday, NATO and Swedish fighter jets intercepted a Russian surveillance aircraft that entered Estonia's airspace. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has formally protested to Russia.

nm/rg (Reuters, AP)