Sweden is believed to be searching for a Russian submarine in coastal waters, possibly after the submarine sent out a distress signal.
In a press conference on October 19, Sweden's rear admiral Anders Grenstad said it appeared probable that an unspecified foreign power is involved in “underwater activities” in the coastal waters of the Stockholm archipelago near Sweden's capital.
Grenstad showed a photo taken of a suspicious object taken early on October 19. Grenstad said the unnamed photographer had “seen something on the surface, and after he took the picture it sunk down again,” as quoted by Swedish English-language publication The Local. The photos showed what appeared to be a vessel or large creature breaking the surface before submerging again.
Grenstad said on October 19 that there had been three separate sightings apparently of the same object in waters near Stockholm on October 17 and October 20.
"It could be a submarine, or a smaller submarine," Grenstad said. "It could be divers using some form of moped-like underwater vehicle and it could be divers that don't have any business on our territory."
Sweden's armed forces had issued a statement on October 18 saying that there was a naval search operation underway in the Stockholm archipelago. "At the moment we are conducting an intelligence operation in the archipelago of Stockholm with optical reconnaissance as well as with naval vessels equipped with qualified underwater sensors," armed forces spokesperson Erik Lagersten said in the statement. "The operation is conducted in order for the armed forces to establish if there are or has been foreign underwater activities in the area," he added.
Both Lagersten and rear admiral Grenstad however refused to confirm or deny media reports that Sweden was searching for a Russian submarine, possibly in distress.
Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet said the hunt began after a radio transmission in Russian on an emergency frequency was intercepted, and that further encrypted radio traffic was intercepted after the hunt began. Grenstad denied any knowledge of a distress signal.
Swedish media have also reported that a Russian vessel equipped for submarine search operations is currently heading for Swedish waters.
Christian Allerman, a Swedish naval expert quoted by The Local, said the Swedish navy would be searching for divers or diving vessels, mini-submarines or a small 60-70m conventional submarine, and that Russia is the most likely suspect.
Russia denied that any vessel was involved in an emergency situation. "Russian Navy ships and submarines are fulfilling their duties in the world ocean waters in accordance with the plan," a defence ministry spokesman said, as quoted by Interfax. "There are no extraordinary, let alone emergency, situations involving Russian warships."
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