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Sweden rolls out tanks on Baltic island over Russia tensions

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – In an unusual move, Sweden deployed armoured combat vehicles and armed soldiers to patrol streets on the island of Gotland on Friday in response to increased “Russian activity” in the region, the military said.

Some 10 armoured combat vehicles and dozens of armed personnel could be seen patrolling the small port town of Visby on the strategically located island. The move came after three Russian landing ships sailed into the Baltic Sea through the Great Belt Strait in Denmark this week, and amid increased tensions between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“The armed forces are taking the necessary measures to safeguard Sweden’s integrity and to demonstrate our ability to protect Sweden and Swedish interests,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP in emailed remarks.

In a statement late on Thursday, the military said troops would be deployed “to reinforce operations in multiple locations” due to “increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea”.

Sweden has flexed its military muscle in the past during exercises, but rarely as a direct response to current events.

Soldiers from Gotland’s regiment patrol in Visby harbour. PHOTO: AFP
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