Russian pipeline sparks security fears on Swedish island

'The Government must put its foot down.. local politicians cannot make decisions about security'

Gabriel Samuels
Sunday 11 December 2016 19:24
Gotland re-militarised an old Cold War base in early 2016 following tensions between Sweden and Russia
Gotland re-militarised an old Cold War base in early 2016 following tensions between Sweden and Russia

An island off the coast of Sweden has raised national security concerns about a Russian gas provider building pipelines under the Baltic Sea, as tensions linger between the two nations.

Officials on Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, have been discussing whether Russian company Nord Stream should be allowed to construct pipes in the area around Apotekskajen harbour in Slite, which is seen to be a strategically significant site.

The project, which would cost up to 60 million Swedish kronor (£5.1 million) to build, cannot go ahead as planned unless the lease on the harbour is granted.

Politicians from Sweden’s major parties said they have reservations about the plans, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the gradual militarisation of the Baltic region.

"The Government must put its foot down and acknowledge that this harbour is of strategic importance and should therefore not be used in this way,” Eva Nypelius, a senior member of the Gotland regional assembly, said.

“Local politicians cannot make such decisions about security."

Tensions have been high between Russia and Sweden since the Russian ambassador Viktor Tatarinstev said the Government in Moscow would take military “countermeasures” if Sweden were to join Nato.

In October 2014, Russian fighter jets entered Swedish airspace over the Baltic Sea, exacerbating tensions between the governments of the two nations.

In February this year, Sweden re-militarised an old Cold War frontier base on Gotland, in response to perceived aggression from Russia.

However, Bjorn Jansson of the Social Democrat party said the lease could raise funds for the municipality, and dismissed security fears.

“This is a commercial company that wants to hire our port. We have no other view of it. It has worked out fine in the past and we are prepared to do it again this time," he said in a statement.

A final decision on the future of the Nord Stream project will be made in February next year.

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