The search for a Russian submarine spotted close to Stockholm widened on Monday as the Swedish military moved up to 200 men and several stealth ships into waters outside the capital.
Late last week and over the weekend there were several sightings of what was believed to be a Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago, a network of rugged islands extending beyond the Swedish capital. The search went on over the weekend and grew even larger on Monday.
The mystery of the Russian submarine also grew a bit stranger on Monday, with reports that Swedish intelligence officials were searching for a man in black with a backpack spotted by locals wading near Sandon island.
While the search grew larger, Russian officials denied that the submarine belonged to them.
“To remove tensions in the waters of the Baltic Sea and to save money of the Swedish taxpayers we would recommend (Sweden) to turn to the naval command of the Netherlands for an explanation,” a Russian defense ministry source told news agencies in Moscow.
The possibility of a Russian submarine within 31 miles of Stockholm has others in the region worried. There has been an increase in tension in the Baltic region, with fears that Russia could intervene in neighboring countries with large ethnic Russian populations as it did in Ukraine.
There have already been some incidents of provocation from Russia, including an incursion into Swedish airspace in September. Earlier this month Russia also moved more than 100 nuclear warheads into northern waters, which Barents Observer noted were headed to two Northern fleet submarines.
Others in the region have taken note of the Russian submarine incident.
“Closely following events in the Swedish territorial waters, may become a game changer of the security in the whole Baltic Sea region,” Edgars Rinkevics, Latvia’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.
Some believe the Russian submarine near Stockholm could be a political maneuver to test Sweden’s new center-left government, elected last month.