Newspaper article International New York Times

Sweden Solves Mystery of a Sunken Russian Sub

Newspaper article International New York Times

Sweden Solves Mystery of a Sunken Russian Sub

Article excerpt

The authorities said that it was an imperial submersible that probably sank after colliding with another vessel in 1916, during World War I.

The mystery vessel was found off the Swedish coast last week lying on the seafloor, its hatches closed. Cyrillic letters on the hull suggested it was Russian.

In Sweden, where memories of the Cold War run deep, speculation swirled about whether the unidentified craft was a Russian submarine that had sunk while on a secret mission. Its age was not immediately obvious, and the Swedish authorities were unsure how long it had lain there, submerged and undetected.

This week, the Swedish authorities said they had solved the mystery: The vessel was an imperial submarine -- nicknamed a Catfish -- that probably sank after colliding with a Swedish vessel in 1916, during World War I.

The Swedish news media reported that the submarine had been part of the Imperial Russian Navy and that it had sunk with its crew of 18 in May 1916.

"We have seen the wreck and we can confirm that the vessel is from the czarist era and that it is a submarine that collided with another ship," Lubna El-Shanti, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Armed Forces, said on Wednesday by telephone from Stockholm. "It is a very old vessel. It is from before the time of the Soviet Union."

The discovery of the vessel came at a time of tense East-West relations, with anxiety in the region fanned by Russia's annexation of Crimea and by the conflict in Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian rebels.

In October, the sighting of a mysterious vessel off the Stockholm archipelago led Sweden to undertake its largest mobilization since the end of the Cold War. The discovery, including unsubstantiated reports of a man in black wading near the craft, prompted speculation that a Russian spy had been sent to infiltrate the country. A month later, Swedish officials confirmed that its territorial waters had been violated by a foreign submarine. The Kremlin insisted that the vessel did not belong to Russia.

Referring to the latest discovery, Ms. Shanti stressed that while Sweden was always on the lookout for foreign vessels entering its waters without permission, the imperial submarine was a remnant of the past and had no relation to contemporary geopolitics. …

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