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Swedish island likely to reject renting space to Russia

Published:Thursday | December 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

STOCKHOLM (AP):

Officials on Gotland, Sweden's militarily strategic island in the Baltic Sea, said yesterday they will likely turn down a Russian request to rent harbour space after the government warned it could harm the country's defence and political interests.

"Following the information we got from the government, we very likely will say 'no'," Tommy Gardell, head of the island council's technical board, said. "We will align with the government."

Gotland officials were expected to decide today whether to rent space in the ports of Slite and Karlshamn to Russia's energy giant Gazprom, which wants to store pipes there for the Nord Stream 2 undersea natural gas pipeline, which will run from Russia to Germany.

Gazprom and the European Union, which imports a third of its natural gas from Russia, agreed last year on a pipeline to run parallel to an existing twin pipeline, Nord Stream 1. Recently, however, there has been growing opposition to the project amid hesitancy to make Europe more dependent on Russian energy.

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said renting out harbour space on Gotland considered of strategic importance for military control of the Baltic Sea would "negatively affect Sweden's defence and political interests". He did not elaborate, citing security reasons.

Tensions in the region have grown between Baltic NATO members and Moscow, including reports of airspace violations by Russian military aircraft.