After two new sightings of an alleged Russian submarine off the coast of Sweden, a frustrated top-ranking official in the Swedish Navy has described the elusive submarine as "like Jesus."
The reason for the unusual choice of comparison?
"Everyone knows who he is, but no one has seen him," according to Sweden's Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad.
More accurately, a few individuals believe they have, in fact, spotted the submarine which is widely believed to Russian and has been reported as Russian in the media.
The Swedish military has never actually described the phantom submarine as Russian.
Russia has consistently denied sending a sub to the area of the Stockholm archipelago. But a grainy photograph of a mystery "man in black" wading in shallow waters off an island in that Baltic Sea cluster, published in a Swedish newspaper Sunday, has led to speculation that the man was a Russian spy and the mission of the submarine was to retrieve him.
By Tuesday, Swedish authorities had reported five sightings of the unidentified underwater vessel, and the country's military said it was prepared to use force to bring the sub to the surface, if the "foreign" vessel can actually be located.
"Our aim now is to force whatever it is up to the surface... with armed force, if necessary," Swedish military Supreme Commander General Sverker Goeranson said Tuesday.During the Cold War period, up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, Russian submarines sailed close to the Swedish coastline on a regular basis. Recent tensions between Russia and the West, sparked by the conflict in Ukraine, have brought about a return to those long-ago days of tension.
"In the last few years, not least in connection to Russian military reform and Russian leadership, this has changed and been very obvious during this current year," Goeranson said. "There's logic and a connection to intelligence operations, both toward us and others."
Russia has claimed that the vessel, which appears to a small submarine or "U-Boat," is actually not Russian, but Dutch. However, military officials in the Netherlands dismissed the Russian claim out of hand.
A Dutch sub had recently joined its Swedish counterparts in military exercises, but Dutch officials said that vessel docked well before the sighting of the alleged Russian submarine.
Goeranson warned the public, however, not to get its hopes up about achieving results from the submarine search.During the Cold War, the Swedish military searched for one Russian submarine after another, but never found a single one — except for one sub that accidentally ran aground on its own.
"We never succeeded in the past — and no one else has either," Goeranson said.