Finnish ship hijacked in Swedish waters

A Finnish ship was hijacked off the Swedish island of Öland in the early hours of last Friday.

A group of black-clad masked men boarded the ship and, claiming to be police officers, searched the Maltese-registered vessel which was laden with timber bound for Algeria.

The vessel’s Russian crew were bound and gagged for the duration of their 12 hour ordeal which began at around 3am on Friday July 24th.

The Swedish National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen) have stated that the men were not police, neither were they representatives from any other authority.

“It is the first time I have ever heard of such a thing in Swedish waters,” Ingemar Isaksson at the board said to the TT news agency.

The Swedish police were informed of the hijacking via the Russian authorities through which the 15-man crew had contacted the Russian embassy in Stockholm.

The Swedish police have launched an investigation into the hijacking amid allegations that the crew were assaulted with rifle butts.

Exactly what the hijackers, who spoke English, were looking for remains unclear. Reports indicate that they said something about a “drug enforcement control” and that they were looking for narcotics.

The Swedish police are in possession of information forwarded by the shipping company to the Finnish police but have not yet managed to contact the vessel.

Police are now making attempts to contact the vessel and are also appealing for information from any recreational sailors who may have seen anything.

The hijackers are reported to have been travelling in a high-speed inflatable boat. After the attack the vessel continued on its journey.

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Sweden steps up Baltic defence in ‘signal’ to Russia

Sweden's defence minister has said his country is carrying out military exercises in the Baltic Sea to 'send a signal' to countries including Russia.

Sweden steps up Baltic defence in 'signal' to Russia
Swedish troops on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. Photo: Joel Thungren/Försvarsmakten/TT

The so-called “high readiness action” means the Swedish army, navy and air force are currently more visible in the southeastern and southern Baltic Sea and on the island of Gotland.

No details have been disclosed about the number of troops involved in the action.

Sweden is “sending a signal both to our Western partners and to the Russian side that we are prepared to defend Sweden's sovereignty,” Hultqvist told news agency TT.

Ground troops on Gotland. Photo: Bezhav Mahmoud/Försvarsmakten/TT

“There is currently extensive military activity in the Baltic Sea, conducted by Russian as well as Western players, on a scale the likes of which have not been seen since the Cold War,” the Swedish Armed Forces' Commander of Joint Operations, Jan Thörnqvist, said in a statement.

“The exercise activities are more complex and have arisen more rapidly than before. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has caused global anxiety and uncertainty. Over all, the situation is more unstable and more difficult to predict,” Thörnqvist said.

A Visby-class corvette and two Jas Gripen jets in the air. Photo: Antonia Sehlstedt/Försvarsmakten/TT

Hultqvist said Sweden was also monitoring developments in Belarus “very closely”.

Non-Nato member Sweden, which has not been to war in two centuries and which slashed military spending at the end of the Cold War, reopened a garrison on Gotland in January 2018 amid concerns about Russian intentions in Europe and the Baltic.