Swedish military tight-lipped over ‘submarine’ spotted near capital

Swedish politicians are seeking answers after reports emerged of the sighting of a submarine in Stockholm waters in June, which the military did not tell parliament’s defence committee about.

Newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported late on Thursday that three teenage instructors and children at a sailing camp in the suburb of Lidingö had spotted the mystery vessel on 28 June. For about 20 minutes, they observed what they believed to be a dark grey or black submarine near the surface and watched it sail away from where they were sailing dinghies.

The teenagers took photographs and a short video of the object, which Dagens Nyheter published on its website.

The Swedish military learned of the incident several days later by word of mouth, and sent two officers to question the teenagers, aged 17 and 18, on 4 July.

“We are confident about the measures we took when we received this information. But I can’t go into which measures were taken nor which conclusions were drawn,” said armed forces spokesman Jesper Tengroth.

“The military does not share Dagens Nyheter’s view that this was a foreign submarine,” Tengroth later told the newspaper. But he refused to say whether the military had identified the object, and if so, what it was.

Dagens Nyheter said neither the Swedish military nor civilian submarines were active in the area at the time of the sighting.

Swedish politicians expressed surprise that they had not been told of the possible incursion. “We haven’t been informed of this previously. They’ve been sitting on this [information] for several months. They should have sorted out what this is all about,” Liberal Peoples party MP Allan Widman, a member of parliament’s defence committee, told Dagens Nyheter.

“We are of course going to make sure we get this information as soon as possible. Observations like this should be taken seriously,” conservative Moderate party MP Beatrice Ask told news agency TT.

Tengroth said the military would inform Swedish lawmakers “relatively soon”.

Reports of sightings of submarines are not uncommon in Sweden. In October 2014, Sweden launched a massive hunt for a foreign submarine, suspected to be Russian, in the Stockholm archipelago over an eight-day period. The military subsequently confirmed that “a mini submarine” had violated its territorial waters, but was never able to establish the vessel’s nationality.

After years of massive military cutbacks in the post-cold war period, Swedenhas in recent years raised its defence spending, much of it focused on upgrading its capacity to detect and intercept submarines.

A non-Nato country, Sweden has also stepped up its military capabilities and exercises with the alliance, including the current Trident Juncture 18 exercises, amid signs of more assertive Russian behaviour in the Baltic region.