UK Royal Marines taking part in NATO naval exercises called Baltic Protector, aimed at counteracting an "increased threat" from Russia, scribbled a Nazi swastika across a comrade's chest, the Daily Mail reported.
The incident, which was supposedly filmed aboard HMS Albion and seen by the media outlet, is said to have taken place two weeks ago and involved Marines from the Future Commando Force (FCF), set up to lead future amphibious operations.
This has reportedly caused top brass to consider banning Royal Marines units from taking part in similar drills overseas, with troops being warned that they would be disciplined if anyone was found spreading the video.
"The Commandant General Royal Marines has directed that anyone with the recent from Ex BP [Exercise Baltic Protector] is to delete it immediately. Anyone found forwarding it, particularly to public forums, will face disciplinary action. It includes booze, s*** and swastikas. If it reaches social media we can kiss goodby to any additional responsibilities as well as runs ashore [Navy slang for social privileges]. Talk of it may kill FCF dead", a senior officer's message to the troops read, per the Daily Mail.
According to the British newspaper, the first part of the video features an "apparently disorientated" man sitting on a toilet with a swastika scrawled on his chest, while the remainder of the footage shows a series of "disgusting acts" in the vessel's corridors and sleeping quarters.
"No wonder senior officers were desperate to destroy all the evidence that this Nazi ritual took place. Exercise Baltic Protector was supposed to send President [Vladimir] Putin a message that we've got the amphibious capavility to defend Baltic and Scandinavian states. This wasn't a time to get drunk, daub swastikas on each other and do other unthinkable acts", one commando was cited as saying.
The source added that top brass might expect it to happen back home, "but never on a ship sailing near Russian waters", and described the Marines' acts as "unprofessional": "It will have very serious consequences for those involved and the FCF".
The Daily Mail noted that it had obtained a comment from the Ministry of Defence, which admitted that it's aware of the video and condemned the behaviour as "unacceptable": "A formal investigation is underway and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment further".
The UK-led Baltic Protector exercise runs from 24 May to 9 July and involves thousands of military personnel and 17 vessels from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
The multinational war games are being spearheaded by the UK's Amphibious Task Force, including flagship HMS Albion, a helicopter support vessel, a frigate and a military ferry.
Over the past few years, NATO has significantly ramped up its presence in the Baltic region, with the UK and France dispatching troops, tanks, and helicopters to the Baltics as part of their rotating deployment and drills on Russia's doorstep.
Moscow has, for its part, expressed concerns over NATO's growing presence along Russia's borders, warning that it would watch closely the bloc's military operations in the Baltics and that the alliance's build-up could provoke an accidental escalation.