Sweden has increased military patrols in the port of Visby. Eyewitnesses saw heavy military vehicles drive up in the Baltic Sea city. The army confirmed the activities.
In view of increased “Russian activities” in the Baltic Sea, Sweden has sent several armored vehicles onto the streets of the island of Gotland and had soldiers patrol it. Around ten armored combat vehicles and dozens of soldiers were on Friday in the small port town of Visby, the military said. A few days earlier, three ships of the Russian Navy entered the Baltic Sea through the straits of the Great Belt in Denmark.
“The armed forces are taking the necessary measures to protect Sweden’s integrity and demonstrate our ability to protect Sweden and Swedish interests,” Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP.
The increased patrols on Gotland are a sign that Sweden is taking the situation seriously and “will not be taken by surprise,” Hultqvist told the TT news agency. The military said Thursday evening that the units would be deployed “to reinforce operations in multiple locations” as “Russian activities in the Baltic Sea increase.”
The head of operations of the Swedish armed forces, Michael Claesson, however, denied that it was a targeted Swedish “demonstration of power”. He told AFP the units were part of the force already stationed on the island. It is a “natural way to adjust the military presence”.
Although Sweden is not a NATO member, it works closely with the alliance. Russia recently warned the country of “serious consequences” if it joins the alliance. Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, Stockholm has ramped up its defenses again. In 2017, it reintroduced conscription.
In view of a massive Russian troop deployment on the border with Ukraine, the West is concerned that Russia is currently preparing to invade the neighboring country. The Kremlin categorically rejects this.