Sweden Says It Wins Upper Hand as Foreign Vessel Hunt Expands

Sweden said there’s little doubt its waters have been infiltrated by a foreign vessel as the navy said it was gaining the upper hand in its hunt.

“Time is on our side,” Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad, deputy chief of operations at the Swedish Armed Forces, said yesterday at a press conference in Stockholm. The evidence suggests it’s “very likely” a foreign vessel is hiding in Swedish waters. “It’s like Jesus -- everyone knows who he is but no one has seen him,” he said.

As local media speculate that the vessel is a damaged Russian submarine, the navy has refrained from commenting on its provenance. The search follows reports of airspace violations by Russian jets in Sweden, Finland and the Baltic countries as tensions across former Cold War fronts intensify.

“In the last few years, not least in connection to Russian military reform and Russian leadership,” a period of stabilization “has changed,” Armed Forces Supreme Commander Sverker Goeransson said at a separate press briefing yesterday. The development has been “obvious during this current year. There’s logic and a connection to intelligence operations, both toward us and others.”

Two more sightings of the vessel or vessels bring the total to five as the army searches both in the water and on land “for something or someone,” Grenstad said. The Armed Forces has moved its operation into open water, deploying more than 200 personnel on corvettes, minesweepers and helicopters to look for the vessel.

Newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported yesterday that the army “has made contact” with something underwater. Airspace above the area has been closed for civilian traffic.

A 27-year-old Swede who spotted and photographed the vessel told newspaper Aftonbladet there could be no doubt it was a submarine. The photo has since been published by the Armed Forces.

Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet over the weekend said Swedish authorities had intercepted communications from a struggling Russian vessel. Russia has denied any involvement.

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