MOSCOW, October 20 (RIA Novosti) - Swedish authorities have declared a safety distance of 10,000 meters (5.4 nautical miles) from all military vessels taking part in the search for an alleged foreign submarine in the Stockholm archipelago, local media reported Monday.
According to the Swedish Expressen newspaper, air traffic over the search area has been suspended. Such a large area of Swedish airspace has not been cordoned off since the '80s, the newspaper added. The fly ban will not affect passenger flights.
In addition, Swedish Navy vessels have reportedly sealed off a channel between Nynashamn and the island of Nattaro south of Stockholm. A large number of military vessels and helicopters are reported to be moving southward.
The Swedish Armed Forces first launched a major operation off the coast of Stockholm on Friday after receiving information, reportedly from a civilian, about the presence of an unknown underwater object in the region.
According to the Swedish Armed Forces, there have been three "very credible sightings" of an unknown object off the Swedish coast, suspected to be "foreign underwater activity." Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven stressed Monday that the ongoing operation is "not a submarine hunt," but an "underwater investigation."
Earlier on Monday, a Russian Defense Ministry source told RIA Novosti that the unidentified object in Sweden could be a submarine belonging to the Dutch Navy.
A spokesperson for the Royal Netherlands Navy told RIA Novosti that a Dutch submarine had recently visited Stockholm, but stated that it was no longer in Swedish waters when the "suspicious object" was first observed in the Stockholm archipelago.
Earlier media reports suggested that the object sought by Sweden could be a damaged Russian submarine. A spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry denied the claims Sunday, stating that "there have been no extraordinary, let alone emergency situations involving Russian military vessels."