Sweden said Russia might have been using its “shadow fleets” – uninsured vessels Moscow has been using to export its oil and circumvent Western sanctions – to intercept communications in addition to transporting oil.

Chief of Swedish Navy Ewa Skoog Haslum said Moscow’s hybrid operation is multifaceted, and the communications equipment spotted on some of the “shadow fleet” vessels could indicate their potential espionage usage, as reported by Swedish news outlet SVT on Monday, April 22. 

“We find antennas and masts that may not normally belong to a fishing vessel, for example, so it is clear that we feel that in what moves out at sea, there are sometimes other objectives with their activities,” said Haslum, adding that they could be used for signals intelligence, i.e., interception of communications.


In addition, Haslum said foreign vessels could scout out local port facilities by entering a Swedish port under the guise of seeking an emergency port in connection with an accident, which has happened before.

“According to SVT’s information, during the past year Swedish authorities have had concrete preparations for this in connection with at least one shadow tanker having technical problems outside Gotland,” reads the SVT report.

Russia has been using its shadow fleet to export oil to international buyers. It’s believed that close to half of its total exports were carried out through the Baltic Sea, which would transverse through Swedish water.

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In addition to state treason, he was also charged with inciting a person to engage in terrorism and attempted participation in a terrorist organization.

The shadow fleet has enabled Russia to bypass the $60 per barrel price cap imposed by the G7 nations. The price cap was designed to curb Russian revenue from oil exports without drastically affecting the global energy supply by prohibiting Western shipping and insurance services to tankers shipping Russian oil above the price cap.

However, many have questioned its effectiveness evidenced by the steady income Moscow received from its oil export to finance its war in Ukraine.


According to Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom, the upcoming EU sanction package would target Russia’s “shadow fleet,” though no specifics have been provided as discussions remain at an early stage, as reported by Reuters Monday.

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