The Finnish military has banned a Russian cadet training ship from putting into port in the demilitarized Åland Islands in September.
The story was first reported in the Swedish-language daily newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet HBL.
The Kruzenstern was due to arrive in Mariehamn with 164 military cadets on board. But the visit could have come at the same time as Russia’s ‘Zapad’ war games.
Tomas Ries, Associate Professor in Strategy and Security Policy at the Swedish Defence College tells HBL that the timing of the planned visit would not have been a coincidence.
“This is carefully calculated and thought out” Ries says. “It is likely that from the Russian side, they want to test Finland and try to push the limits of Finland can accept. My assessment is that the Chief of Staff is pointing out, that this is something Finland cannot agree to [by banning Kruzenstern’s visit].”
According to Ries, a worst case scenario is that the Kruzenstern would act like a naval ‘Trojan horse’.
He cites a ‘horror’ cenario that the cadets on board Kruzenstern could in fact be spetznaz soldiers.
“A couple of hundred people in Mariehamn could quickly take over Åland by securing the airport and the ports before heavy forces land ashore” Ries tells HBL. “This is a theoretical and unlikely scenario, but something that Russia might want to practice within the scope of the Zapad exercise”.
The Kruzenstern is a four-masted tall ship built in Germany in 1926. It was given to the USSR after World War II as part of Germany’s war reparations payments. It is now owned by Russia’s state fisheries academy, with a home port of Kaliningrad.
The ship visited Kotka and Turku this summer as part of the Tall Ships Races.