Sweden sends tanks and soldiers to Baltic island in the face of Russian threat

“AThe Armed Forces are taking the necessary measures to protect the integrity of Sweden and demonstrate our ability to protect Sweden and the interests of Swedes,” Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP via ‘e- mail’.

The move comes after three Russian landing ships sailed the Baltic Sea across the Great Belt Strait off Denmark this week, as tensions between Russia and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states mount.

In a statement released on Thursday, the military said troops would be deployed to “strengthen operations in many locations” due to “increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea”.

Hutqvist also told TT news agency that patrols on the island of Gotland show that Sweden is taking the situation seriously and that “it will not be taken by surprise”.

Swedish Armed Forces operations leader Michael Claesson told AFP that the units sent to Visby come from a garrison already deployed on the island, denying it was a “show of force”.

Western countries accuse Russia of having accumulated tanks and dozens of soldiers on the border with Ukraine in recent weeks, a prelude, according to NATO, to a possible invasion.

Russia denies that it is preparing a military offensive and says it is a response to the growing presence of the Atlantic Alliance in its sphere of influence.

In the middle of today, the Swedish Armed Forces said they had detected a growing Russian activity in the Baltic Sea, indicating the existence of “elements that deviate from the normal framework” and decided to strengthen military preparation in the Scandinavian country.

“From today, we will be more visible and we will be in important strategic places of a civilian nature,” SVT Tomas Angshammar, spokesman for the Gotland regiment, told public television, referring to the port and airport of Sweden’s largest island in the Baltic Sea. .

The reason lies in the “increasing activity” in areas close to Sweden, and the importance of “demonstrating to the inhabitants of Gotland and other countries that we have an active defense that adapts according to the situation”.

The Swedish Defense considers, however, that the risk of attack on the Scandinavian country is “low”.

Tension between Sweden and Russia has increased in recent years, coinciding with the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, with mutual denunciations of airspace violations, in particular by the Swedish side.

The most serious incident took place in 2014, when Stockholm referred to a violation of its territory by an alleged foreign submarine, indirectly blaming Russia, but the main evidence, several photos made available by civilians, was abandoned a few months later.

In recent years, Sweden has intensified its collaboration with NATO, with which it has an association agreement, and has approved several measures to increase the Defense budget.

The Stockholm Government also decided to send a permanent detachment to Gotland, re-establish compulsory military service, allow the presence of NATO troops in Swedish territory and reissue a guide with information on how to act in the event of an emergency or military invasion.

In 2018, the Swedish Armed Forces called up the 22,000-strong National Guard, a permanent corps of volunteer reservists, to prove their ability to mobilize, a measure that had not been adopted since 1975.

Read Also: Sweden strengthens military preparedness in the face of Russian activity, rules out threat

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