By Tom Sullivan, AFP
STOCKHOLM, Sweden–Mystery deepened Sunday over a Swedish military operation triggered by ��foreign underwater activity�� off the coast of Stockholm, amid an unconfirmed report of a hunt for a damaged Russian submarine. Late Saturday, Swedish armed forces stepped up an operation �X involving more than 200 men, stealth ships, minesweepers and helicopters �X in an area about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the Swedish capital. The maneuvers were initiated Friday after the armed forces said they had been informed of a ��man made object�� in the water. Officials denied they were ��submarine hunting,�� calling the mobilization �X one of the biggest, barring purely training exercises, since the Cold War �X an ��intelligence operation��. Russia also denied on Sunday that any of its submarines were involved. ��There have been no irregular situations and, even less so, accidents involving Russian naval vessels,�� the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. But the respected Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet reported that a damaged Russian submarine was at the center of the mystery. Russian Emergency Transmission
The report said that Swedish military intelligence had intercepted radio signals between an area off the coast of Stockholm and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad �X home to much of Russia’s Baltic Sea naval fleet.
��It was transmitted on a special frequency, used by Russia in emergency situations,�� the newspaper wrote, citing Swedish military sources involved in the search. Sweden’s armed forces remained tight-lipped, but did say its focus was on ��underwater activities.�� ��The Swedish Armed Forces are not in a position to deny or verify media news or speculations recently published about a missing foreign submarine,�� spokesman Erik Lagersten said. ��At the moment we are conducting an intelligence operation in the archipelago of Stockholm with optical reconnaissance as well as with naval vessels equipped with qualified underwater sensors… to establish if there are or has been foreign underwater activities in the area.�� Anonymous military sources told Svenska Dagbladet that the emergency signal in Russian was intercepted on Thursday evening, and that further encrypted signals were sent on Friday after Swedish armed forces began combing the area.