Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Finland fires warning shots at 'foreign submarine' near Helsinki
Finland has fired warning shots at a suspected foreign submarine off the coast of Helsinki in the early hours of Tuesday morning, amid growing military tensions with neighbouring Russia.
Carl Haglund, Finland's defence minister, did not say whether Russia was involved, but the incident was reminiscent of a Swedish hunt for a foreign submarine in its waters last October that many thought to be Russian.
Mr Haglund told Finnish media that the target has likely left the area, adding that Finland has rarely used such warning charges.
"We strongly suspect that there has been underwater activity that does not belong there. Of course it is always serious if our territorial waters have been violated," Mr Haglund told Finnish news agency STT.
"The bombs are not intended to damage the target, the purpose is to let the target know that it has been noticed," Commodore Olavi Jantunen told Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.
The navy said it noticed an underwater target on Monday and again on Tuesday morning and dropped depth charges the size of grenades.
"During surveillance of [Finland's] territorial integrity, the navy detected a possible underwater object at midday (0900 GMT) on April 27, 2015, within Finland's territorial waters close to the border outside Helsinki," the defence ministry said in a statement.
A second sighting was made during the night and "a warning was given with light depth charges at three in the morning," the ministry added.
No further sightings were reported after the warning shots and no details have been given of the type of vessel that was detected.
The incident comes during an spike in Russian military activity in the Baltic which has prompted non-aligned Finland to announce closer military cooperation with its Nordic neighbours - including Nato members Norway and Denmark.
Regional tensions were reflected earlier in April after an unprecedented hawkish joint statement by Nordic countries - Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland - that directly cited the Russian "challenge" as grounds to increase defence cooperation.
Moscow retorted immediately, saying moves by Finland and Sweden towards closer ties with NATO were of "special concern".
Finland shares a 830-mile border with Russia, and has aimed to maintain good relations with its powerful neighbour since the end of World War II.
In October, Sweden's armed forces hunted unsuccessfully for a week for what they believed to be a foreign submarine in waters close to the capital Stockholm, after several observations were made.
Credit to The Telegraph