Report: Russia Is Spying With Civilian Boats

Nordic public broadcasters say they've uncovered spying program in the North Sea
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2023 6:10 PM CDT
Report: Russia Is Spying With Civilian Boats
Russian Navy's oceanographic research vessel "Admiral Vladimirsky" takes part in the military parade during the Navy Day celebration in Kronshtadt outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, July 26, 2020.   (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

A joint investigation by the public broadcasters of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland has uncovered a large fleet of Russian spy ships allegedly posing as fishing vessels in the North Sea. The broadcasters—DR in Denmark, NRK in Norway, SVT in Sweden, and Yle in Finland—say about 50 Russian boats have been gathering intelligence in the area over the past decade, focusing on military training locations, oil and gas fields, wind farms, power plants, and underwater cables. Intelligence officers tell the outlets that Russia is likely looking for sabotage targets. Separately, the Danish government released documents Tuesday showing Russian vessels were off its coast days before explosions ruptured the Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia to Germany in the Baltic Sea in September, per the Guardian.

The broadcasters identified dozens of ships that appeared to be fishing boats or scientific research vessels but had turned off their transmitters to conceal their locations in the North Sea, per CNN. One of these ships is Admiral Vladimirsky. Though registered as an expeditionary oceanographic ship, it was found to have kept its location hidden for a month while venturing close to seven windfarms off Britain and Denmark at the end of 2022. A former Royal Navy expert who tracked the ship said it slowed down, then lingered at each of the sites, per the Guardian. The ship is also believed to have sailed close to naval training areas of the Swedish Armed Forces, per CNN. A DR crew that approached the ship photographed a masked man on deck carrying an assault rifle.

A Russian vessel that for years delivered fish to Norway was also found to have traveled toward military bases where naval traffic is banned, as well as the site of a major NATO exercise. The Guardian reports the severing of an underwater data cable off Norway last year may be connected to the Russian spy program, whose ships are reportedly based in the Barents Sea. The reporting has also renewed speculation of Russian involvement in the Nord Stream pipeline bombings, per Politico. "We see it very clearly now. Russia says cooperation with the West is over, now it is confrontation," Nils Andreas Stensønes, head of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, tells NRK, per CNN. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claims the broadcasters are mistaken and "accuse Russia without basis," per AFP. (More Russia stories.)

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