Russian officer denies Swedish dumping report

The former commander of the Russian navy's Baltic fleet denied on Friday that Russia dumped radioactive and chemical waste into Swedish waters in the Baltic Sea in the early 1990s.

“This is complete nonsense and a clear provocation, propagated at an international level,” Admiral Vladimir Yegorov, who commanded the Baltic fleet from 1991 to 2000, told the Interfax news agency.

No official comment had been made by the Russian government on Friday afternoon. But Anatoly Kargopolov, spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Stockholm told The Local that it was most unlikely that Russia would have dumped such hazardous waste in the Baltic:

“We are not suicidal – it would not be in our interests to dump such waste in a sea that we share with Sweden.”

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Thursday called for the previous governments to explain a television report that Russia dumped chemical weapons and radioactive waste off the shores of the island of Gotland.

According to the television report on the SVT network on Wednesday, the waste dumped in Swedish waters between 1991 and 1994 came from the giant Karosta naval base in the Latvian port city of Liepaja.

“The naval forces that were pulling out of the Liepaja naval base in Latvia in the early 1990s did not have chemical weapons, radioactive materials and waste,” Yegorov insisted.

He added that the Russian naval forces were monitored by Latvia as they pulled out of the port and that the naval command acted “strictly within the framework of Russian and Latvian agreements.”

A summit of heads of states of countries bordering the Baltic Sea is due to take place in Helsinki on Wednesday to try to solve the problems of one of the world’s most polluted seas.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is due to attend.

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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.