Finnish Defence Ministry Accuses Swedish Vessel of Violating Its Territorial Waters

A Swedish ship is suspected of violating Finnish territorial waters west of the autonomous Åland Islands, Finland’s Defence Ministry has announced as quoted by Yle.

In the first violation of Finnish waters in over a year, as airspace violations have become more frequent, a Swedish Border Guard patrol ship crossed some 200 metres into the Finnish water border near the autonomous and demilitarised Åland archipelago and remained in its territory for about 20 minutes.

The suspected violation occurred around 9 pm on Saturday, Defence Ministry head of communications Niina Hyrsky said, adding that the suspect was a Swedish Border Guard patrol ship. According to a preliminary report, the ship crossed some 200 meters into Finnish waters and remained there for about 20 minutes.

Hyrsky said she had no information on how the case came to light, or any other details. The Border Guard is carrying out a more detailed investigation of the case.

“They will be able to provide more detailed information when the investigation is over,” Hyrsky said, as quoted by the newspaper Åbo Underrättelser.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry tweeted that it had been in contact with the Swedish Embassy in Helsinki, demanding an explanation and asking for an investigation into the suspected violation of territorial waters.

This is the first violation of Finnish waters in over a year, as airspace violations have become more frequent.

In November, a Swedish rescue helicopter breached Finnish airspace near the west-coast city of Vaasa. The incursion lasted about a minute on Friday 20 November over the Kvarken archipelago, located in the narrows over the Sea of Bothnia off Vaasa.

Still, Hyrsky conceded that territorial water violations “do happen to some extent”.

Last year, a German warship was suspected of violating Finnish territorial waters. The incident occurred in the Bay of Bothnia off Raahe. At most, the German warship was some 650 metres into Finnish territory.

According to the ministry, the vessel was carrying out tests when the suspected brief violation occurred off the coast of the municipality of Raahe in western Finland. Hyrsky confirmed to Yle that the vessel was a frigate.

“The vessel travelled a few hundred metres into Finnish waters,” Hyrsky said.

In July 2019, Finland’s Border Guard confirmed that a Russian aircraft entered Finnish airspace over the southern coastal city of Porvoo, which is about 50 km east of Finland’s capital Helsinki.

In April 2019, Portugal’s Air Force confirmed that one of its surveillance aircraft had “inadvertently entered Finland’s airspace” above the Upinniemi peninsula in Kirkkonummi, on Finland’s southern coast.