A possible Russian spy was photographed by a private invidividual in Sweden, and the Swedish intelligence service is now on the hunt for the mystery man in black, who may have been waiting to be picked up by the alleged Russian submarine now the target of Sweden's largest military operation since the Cold War.
The Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter published a grainy photo of the unidentified man on Sunday. The photo and several others were since removed from the social media site where Dagens Nyheter reporters first saw them.
The photo reproduced by the Swedish paper shows a man said to be dressed in black and wearing a backpack wading in waters near Sandön, a desolate island inhabited only by wildlife off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea.
The private individual who snapped the eerie photo of the possible Russian spy was interrogated by Sweden's Military Intelligence and Security Service, known as MUST, the paper reported — but Swedish defense authorities are remaining tight-lipped about the man in the photo.
Sweden's internal security service, SAPO, also grilled the amateur photographer. SAPO is charged with Sweden's domestic counter-espionage and counter-terrorism duties.
"We cannot say anything about it," said Mattias Robertson, a spokesperson for Sweden's Defense Forces, when Dagens Nyheter asked if the Swedish military believed the shadowy figure in the photo was indeed a Russian spy.
But Swedish armed forces and police searched the area where the mystery "spy" was spotted, and are reported to be taking the sighting of the man in the photograph extremely seriously.
On Friday and Saturday, Sweden's Navy — which is among the most sophisticated naval forces in the world, even though the country remains officially "neutral" and is not a member of NATO — staged an all-out search for what is widely believed to be a Russian submarine off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic sea.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a vessel briefly surface then dive again in the area of the Stockholm archipelago, the same area where the mystery man and alleged Russian spy was photographed.
On Sunday, before seeing the photo of the supposed Russian spy, the Swedish Defense Ministry released an equally grainy photo of what it said may have been a foreign vessel, suspected of being a Russian submarine.
The two similar photos have led to speculation that the mission of the alleged Russian submarine was pick up a spy — presumably the man pictured in the second photo — as he made his escape from Sweden.
If indeed the man was a Russian spy, his mission in Sweden remains a total mystery.