Four Russian fighter jets today violated Swedish airspace east of the Baltic island of Gotland, the military said, at a time when tensions are rising between Russia and the West over the invasion of Ukraine.
“Two Sukhoi Su-27 and two Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft violated Swedish airspace,” the Swedish military said in a statement.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reignited the debate over Sweden’s membership in NATO.
In January, Sweden sent tanks and dozens of armed soldiers into the streets of Visby, a port city on the Baltic island of Gotland, in an unusual move taken in response to increased “Russian activity” in the area.
On some occasions, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP via “w-mail” that “the armed forces are taking the necessary measures to protect the safety of Sweden and to demonstrate our ability to protect Sweden and the interests of the Swedes.”
The move came after three Russian ships sailed into the Baltic Sea crossing the Great Belt Strait in Denmark.
In a statement, the military said the troops would be deployed to “enhance operations in several locations” due to “increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea.”
Hotkvist also told TT news agency that patrols on the island of Gotland showed that Sweden was taking the situation seriously and would not be “surprised”.
The Swedish armed forces said they had detected increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea, indicating the presence of “elements out of the norm” and decided to step up military readiness in the Scandinavian country.
But the Swedish defense considered that the risk of an attack on the Scandinavian country was “low”.
Tensions between Sweden and Russia have increased in recent years, coinciding with the onset of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, with airspace violations mutually denouncing, particularly from the Swedish side.
The most serious incident occurred in 2014, when Stockholm indicated the violation of its territory by an alleged foreign submarine, indirectly blaming Russia, but the main evidence, several photographs made available by civilians, were abandoned after a few months.
In recent years, Sweden has intensified its cooperation with NATO, with which it concluded an association agreement, and agreed to several measures to increase the defense budget.
The Stockholm government also decided to send a permanent detachment to Jutland, re-establish compulsory military service, allow the presence of NATO forces on Swedish soil and reissue a manual containing 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 demonstrate their ability to mobilize, a measure not adopted since 1975.
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