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Two belated reports of Russian warship interference with Finnish research vessel at sea

Russian warships disrupted the work of the Finnish marine research ship Aranda on two occasions in August and September, trying to prohibit the ship from accessing international waters east of the Swedish island of Gotland. The Finnish Environment Institute reported the incidents well after the fact on Saturday, adding that the ship’s crew felt threatened on both occasions.

Uutta automaattista kauko-ohjattavaa merentutkimuslaitetta testataan merentutkimusalus Arandalla Itämerellä.
Uutta automaattista kauko-ohjattavaa merentutkimuslaitetta testattiin merentutkimusalus Arandalla Itämerellä syyskuussa 2013. Image: Ilmatieteen laitos

The Russian Navy has twice interfered in the movements of the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) marine research vessel Aranda in international waters. According to SYKE, the two incidents occurred in August and September, when Aranda was conducting research for the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute off the coast of Sweden. In both incidents, the Russian warship attempted to prohibit the research vessel from accessing a sampling location in international waters east of the Swedish island of Gotland.

In the first incident on August 2, the Russian warship made radio contact with Aranda and urged it twice to change course. The Aranda initially obeyed the request, but at the second warning, the ship’s crew replied that it would not deter and intended to stop at the research point as planned. At this time, the crew of the Aranda observed a submarine moving along the surface of the water.

The second incident on September 2 saw a Russian helicopter approach Aranda several times. After this, a nearby Russian warship took a course directly towards the ship’s stern, passing the boat in very close proximity. The Aranda maintained its course and speed throughout the incident.

At the time of the incidents, the vessel was manned by a Finnish crew and researchers from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, all of whom felt the situation was highly ominous.

Incidents coincide with airspace violations

The incidents at sea coincide with Russian airspace incursions into Finland, which took place in the same time period. Russian aircraft violated Finnish airspace on August 23, 25 and 28. A fourth suspected airspace incursion in late September was not confirmed by the Finnish Defence Forces, despite Twitter confirmation of Russian planes over the Baltic Sea from the Latvian Defence Forces.

SYKE informed the media about the incidents only this week, after having first confirmed the chain of events with several sources. SYKE also said that all of the necessary authorities were duly informed, but Pertti Savolainen, deputy chair of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Saturday that news of the events came as a surprise to him and that his committee was not told.

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