(Stockholm) Sweden on Friday stopped armored vehicles and dozens of armed soldiers on the streets of the port city of Visby in the Baltic Sea island of Gotland in an unusual move in response to increased “Russian action” in the region. The military said.
Released at 1:54 p.m.
A dozen armored vehicles and dozens of armed soldiers were seen patrolling the streets of Visby.
The move comes amid rising tensions between Russia and NATO member states this week as three Russian landing ships crossed Denmark’s Great Belt Strait into the Baltic Sea.
“The Armed Forces are taking the necessary steps to protect Sweden’s integrity and to demonstrate our ability to defend Sweden’s and Swedish interests,” Defense Minister Peter Hulkwist told AFP in an email.
In a statement late Thursday, the military said it would suspend troops “to strengthen operations in several locations” due to “increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea.”
Mr Hultqvist also told TT News that patrols on the island of Gotland had shown that Sweden was taking the situation seriously and that it would not be “safely captured.”
Michael Clausen, head of operations for the Swedish Armed Forces, told the AFP that the units sent to Wispi came from a garrison already stationed on the island, which he denied was an “expression of force.”
Western nations have accused Russia of possessing large numbers of tanks and tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine in recent weeks, paving the way for a possible NATO invasion.
Russia denies preparing a military offensive and claims its influence is a response to the growing presence of the Atlantic Alliance in the region.
Neighboring Russia, Norway, Denmark and Iceland – all three members of NATO – and Sweden and Finland – non-members of the Atlantic Coalition – are working closely in terms of regional security.
After the end of the Cold War, Stockholm reduced its military spending. But after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Sweden strengthened its defense capabilities.
Sweden, which has not been at war for two centuries, re-established compulsory military service in 2017 and reopened its garrison on the island of Gotland in January 2018.