Amid Worries Over Russia, Sweden Returns Troops To Baltic Island

Amid worries over Russia, Sweden returns troops to Baltic island

Visby, Sweden, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 17th Apr, 2019 ) :Under an icy rain, camouflage-clad Swedish soldiers crouched behind a log pile, aimed their machine guns towards the Baltic Sea and, at their officers' barked orders, opened fire down the snow-covered range.

A few kilometres away another group wrapped in thick winter jackets, body armour and helmets fired anti-tank missiles, throwing up sprays of ice and snow behind them as instructors watched the orange rockets streak down the range.

It was routine training for the young recruits based on the Baltic island of Gotland, but these troops are at the forefront of Sweden's efforts to bolster its military as Stockholm worries about Russian intentions in Europe and the Baltic.

Following the annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Ukraine, incidents of Russian military jets approaching Swedish aircraft around the Baltic and the 2014 sighting of a mystery sub -- suspected to be Russian, which Moscow denied -- near Stockholm, Sweden has scrambled to beef up a military that was cut back after the end of the Cold War.

The Nordic nation, which has not been to war in two centuries, reintroduced limited conscription in 2017, stepped up defence spending and placed a garrison on Gotland in January 2018.

Taking a break from the target practice by a campfire on the icy ground near the firing ranges, Ida Delin, a young lance-corporal from Gothenburg who is a part of the new garrison, was upbeat about her posting to the island.

"Everybody feels it's very important, what we're doing really matters for Sweden," she said, the collar of her camouflage smock pulled up around her ears to protect against the cold.

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