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Sweden: Russian warships in the Baltic 'worrying'

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Sweden: Russian warships in the Baltic 'worrying'
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT
12:23 CEST+02:00
Sweden's Defence Minister has called Russia's movement of two warships carrying long range missiles 'worrying', after the ships took an unexpected turn into the Baltic Sea past Denmark.

It was thought that the two ships would stay put in the Mediterranean where they were previously, but instead they moved through the North Sea and then, on Tuesday evening, passed through the Great Belt around Denmark and into the Baltic Sea.

The ships are believed to be on their way to Russia's Baltic enclave Kaliningrad. Eyebrows have been raised as they are equipped with long-range missiles with a far greater range than the Iskander missiles that were recently transferred to the Baltic territory.

“This is worrying and it doesn't do much to help relax things in the region. It impacts all of the countries around the Baltic,” Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told news agency TT.

“We have information and are following the development, which is a change in our local area. I receive rolling information in things like this,” Hultqvist added.

According to a military strategy expert at the Swedish National Defence College, the move can be seen as posturing from Russia.

“You can see it as a political marker. Putin is very much aware that this will gain attention. It is a demonstration of power,” Tomas Ries said.

“In military terms it means they can hit targets over the whole of the Nordic region and that they have a high standard of weapons to challenge other ships up here,” he added.

In September Sweden stationed a permanent garrison of 150 soldiers on Baltic island Gotland, though Prime Minister Stefan Löfven denied at the time that Russian maneuvering was behind the move.

“I've said it before and it remains unchanged: there is no direct military threat to Sweden,” Löfven said.

And Russia has previously made light of Swedish concerns over their intentions in the region. The country's embassy in Stockholm even mocked Sweden for peddling James Bond-style conspiracy theories earlier this year.

Last week Russia moved an aircraft carrier, nuclear-powered battleship and six other vessels past Norwegian island Andøya en route to Syria, a development Norwegian newspaper VG called “the biggest demonstration of Russian military power in the Norwegian Sea for several years”.

The aircraft carrier in question looked less than high-tech when Norway's Lockheed P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft captured a picture of it however. In fact, the Admiral Kuznetsov ship was first launched over 30 years ago in 1985.

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