Swedish Navy Chief Warns Of Russian ‘Shadow Fleet’ Conducting Espionage In Baltic Sea

Shadow Fleet
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Russia’s “shadow fleet” of oil tankers is possibly conducting espionage in the Baltic Sea.

Ewa Skoog Haslum, the Swedish Navy chief, informed the SVT on April 22 that the vessels could also help circumvent the sanctions on the trade of Russia’s oil.

The shadow fleet refers to ageing and largely uninsured oil tankers Russia uses to transport oil above the price cap of $60 per barrel.

The price cap was imposed by the EU, the U.S., and the Group of Seven (G7) nations in December 2022 as part of an effort to reduce Moscow’s revenue from fossil fuels.

Haslum said some of the vessels in the shadow fleet have communications and signals equipment that are not typically associated with cargo vessels.

This has led to increasing concerns around such vessels using the equipment in certain “hybrid operations.”

She added that the equipment might be used for intercepting communications or conducting other acts of espionage.

Beyond using sanctions to bypass and conduct espionage, there is a concern that this shadow fleet could pose a potential environmental risk.

The Financial Times reported in November last year that Denmark can start scanning and blocking the transit of Russia’s oil tankers, especially those operating in the waters without Western insurance.

As Western insurance carriers do not cover vessels violating the price cap, the move would substantially impact the transit of oil through the Baltic Sea.

However, it is not yet clear if Denmark has made progress in implementing the strategy.

Haslum echoed concerns about the probable impact on the Baltic Sea, saying that the shadow fleet could become a security and environmental tragedy.

Due to Vladimir Putin’s intention to invade Ukraine in February of 2022, tensions between NATO and Moscow are on the rise.

Officials from the Kremlin have charged Washington of orchestrating a new world war in concert with allies.

The Washington, D.C.-based think group Institute for the Study of War issued a warning in February suggesting that Russia might be preparing for conflict with NATO.

It stated that Putin seemed to be preparing for a possible confrontation with the military alliance, as evidenced by a recent military decree reestablishing the Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts.

The think tank reported that the re-creation of the Moscow Military and Leningrad Military Districts supports parallel targets of consolidating control over Russia’s operations in Ukraine in the short-to-medium term and preparing for a possible conventional large-scale war against NATO in the long run.

Russia’s military analyst, Yuri Fedorov, told Russia’s investigative site Agentstvo that the move suggests Russia is now gearing up for conflicts with NATO and the Baltic states.

Reference: News Week

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