Russia accuses Sweden of escalating tension in Baltic Sea
The Russian Defense Ministry believes the military operation in the Baltic conducted by Sweden in search of possible "foreign underwater activity" can only lead to undermining stability and escalate tension in the region.
"Such unfounded actions of the Swedish Defense Department, fuelled by the Cold War-style rhetoric, are only leading today to escalation of tension in the region," Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told journalists on Friday.
"It might result not in strengthening of a particular country's security, but in undermining the principles of the naval economic activity in the Baltic Sea," he added.
Konashenkov said Russian military officials were anticipating "the culmination of the exciting operation" accompanied by "never-ceasing speculations by the Swedish over detecting a 'Russian submarine' in the region of the Stockholm archipelago."
Sweden started its largest since the Cold War military operation in the Baltic a week ago, explaining that the troops were engaged in search of a possible "foreign underwater activity."
The Swedish media alleged the operation could be the hunt for a "damaged Russian submarine" in the area.
Moscow has long denied any of its vessels have been damaged. Konashenkov on Friday once again ruled out any possibility of the Swedish military ever finding a Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago.
The Swedish military announced on Friday it is curtailing the search operation.
"This means the bulk of ships and amphibious forces have returned to port," the armed forces said in a statement, cited by Reuters. The military have however said the area would still be monitored by smaller forces.
That's a U-turn from Thursday's statement by Swedish Armed Forces spokesman Erik Lagersten, who said that the operation was not scaling down, but was entering a "new phase."
"The intelligence-gathering operation is continuing just as before," Lagersten said, according to the Local. "We still believe there is underwater activity."
On Tuesday, Sweden announced it was ready to use force if it detects any foreign submarine in the waters of the Stockholm Archipelago.
Stockholm has chosen not to prolong the program for military exchange with Moscow, citing Russia's alleged "challenging" activity in the Baltic Sea, according to Sweden's draft budget, made public on Thursday.
"This means that Defense Forces' cooperation with Russia is suspended until further notice," the text of the budget says.
The draft budget says Sweden has to boost its security. According to the document, Stockholm plans to increase its military spending for 2015 by 680 million kronas (US$93.7 million).