Four Russian fighter jets violate Swedish airspace over Baltic Sea

Four Russian fighter jets entered Sweden's air space to the east of the island of Gotland on Wednesday evening, the Swedish Armed Forces said in a statement.

Four Russian fighter jets violate Swedish airspace over Baltic Sea
Archive photo of a Russian Su-27 photographed at close quarters by a Swedish signal-tracing jet. Photo: FRA/TT

While Russian incursions of the Nordic nation’s airspace happen fairly regularly, Wednesday’s event was given increased scrutiny given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“Against the background of the current situation we are taking the incident very seriously,” Carl-Johan Edström, Chief of Sweden’s Air Force, told AFP.

According to the Swedish Armed Forces, the violation was brief, but Swedish Jas 39 Gripen jets were scrambled to document and photograph the two Su-24 and two Su-27 fighter jets. 

The violation occurred during the day, at about the same time as a joint Swedish-Finnish military exercise in the Baltic Sea.

Edström told Sweden’s TT newswire that the four Russian fighter jets had flown “a few kilometres” into Swedish airspace, and that two Swedish fighters were sent up to meet them.

“We saw that they were nearing Swedish territory on the eastern side of Gotland, from the north,” he told the newswire. “As we arrived, an airspace and territory violation was carried out by the Russian jets. We were on the scene and could directly confirm that it had been done, and made sure it couldn’t happen again.”

The war in Ukraine has pushed Sweden to up its awareness, and on Tuesday Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced that the government take action to speed up the country’s rearmament.

Defence expert Robert Dalsjö told TT that Wednesday’s violation might be a warning to Sweden against Ukraine’s side. 

“It would be very surprising if it wasn’t a way for Russia to send a message,” he said. “Four planes violating Swedish airspace at the same time looks a lot like a statement, especially now.”

“I would assume it’s a signal that Russia don’t like the fact that we’re on Ukraine’s side and have sent weapons to the country, shown solidarity with the EU and decided to strengthen Swedish defence.” 

After the end of the Cold War, Sweden slashed military spending. It was only after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, that parliament agreed on a turnaround.

Sweden reintroduced mandatory military service in 2017 and reopened its garrison on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea in January 2018.

In October of 2020, it bumped up defence spending by 40 percent with an extra 27 billion Swedish kronor ($2.8 billion, 2.5 billion euros) to be added to the defence budget from 2021 to 2025.

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Swedish institute says underwater ‘blasts’ recorded prior to Nord Stream leaks

Two underwater blasts were recorded prior to the discovery of three leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Europe, a Swedish seismological institute said Tuesday as the unexplained leaks raised suspicions of sabotage.

Swedish institute says underwater 'blasts' recorded prior to Nord Stream leaks

The Swedish National Seismic Network recorded two “massive releases of energy” shortly prior to, and near the location of, the gas leaks off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, Peter Schmidt, an Uppsala University seismologist, told news wire AFP.

“The first happened at 2:03am just southeast of Bornholm with a magnitude of 1.9. Then we also saw one at 7:04pm on Monday night, another event a little further north and that seems to have been a bit bigger. Our calculations show a magnitude of 2.3,” Schmidt said.

“With energy releases this big there isn’t much else than a blast that could cause it,” he added.

WATCH: Baltic Sea foams with gas from broken Nord Stream pipeline

Schmidt explained that since the releases were “very sudden” and not a “slow collapse”, the events were “in all likelihood some type of blasts.”

The Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) also confirmed it had registered “a smaller explosion” in the early hours of Monday, “followed by a more powerful on Monday evening.”

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions in recent months as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.

While the pipelines, which are operated by a consortium majority-owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, are not currently in operation, they both still contain gas which has been leaking out since Monday.

Photos taken by the Danish military on Tuesday showed large masses of bubbles on the surface of the water emanating from the three leaks located in Sweden’s and Denmark’s economic zones, spreading from 200 to 1,000 metres in diameter.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Copenhagen was not ruling out sabotage of the gas pipelines between Russia and Europe.

READ ALSO: Gas leaks cause bubbling up in Baltic Sea as Danish PM says ‘unlikely due to chance’