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Swedish Navy Chief Warns of Russian 'Shadow Fleet' Espionage in Baltic Sea

The head of the Swedish Navy Ewa Skoog Haslum suggests that Russia’s “shadow fleet” of oil tankers might be engaged in espionage activities in the Baltic Sea, while also aiding in evading sanctions on Russian oil trade. Ewa Skoog Haslum made these remarks in an interview with SVT public broadcaster, published on April 22.

The term “shadow fleet” refers to older, largely uninsured oil tankers used by Russia to transport oil above the price cap of $60 per barrel, which was imposed by the EU, the U.S., and the G7 countries in December 2022 to reduce Moscow’s fossil fuel revenue.

Haslum noted that some ships from this fleet have been found equipped with communication and signaling devices uncommon for cargo vessels, raising concerns about their potential involvement in “hybrid operations.” Such equipment could be utilized for intercepting communications or conducting espionage activities, she added.

Apart from their role in circumventing sanctions and potential espionage, there are worries about the environmental impact of the shadow fleet. The Financial Times reported in November 2023 that Denmark might begin inspecting and possibly obstructing the transit of Russian oil tankers in its waters if they lack Western insurance. It is unclear if Denmark has made any progress in implementing the plan.

Haslum reiterated concerns regarding the Baltic Sea, warning that the shadow fleet poses both security and environmental risks, potentially leading to a significant crisis.

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