Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Baltic Mine-Clearing Set for Late August

Naval forces from 10 countries, including Russia, will conduct a joint mine-clearing operation in the Baltic Sea Aug. 27-Sept. 8.

The governments of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on Aug. 15 approved Operation Open Spirit 2010, which will focus on clearing a range of mines, most laid by Russia and Germany on the Baltic Sea floor during World Wars I and II. The largest concentration of mines are in Lithuanian territorial waters.

Open Spirit 2010 will involve 16 mine-sweeping and clearance vessels and 800 personnel from the navies of Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Russia.

"We estimate that there are over 1,000 mines in Lithuanian waters alone that were mainly left by Germany during World War II," said Lt. Commander Giedrius Premeneckas, head of the Lithuanian Navy, which is hosting the operation and providing three mine-clearing and support vessels.

A joint survey conducted by the navies of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in 2008 estimated that there are some 80,000 mines lying on the Baltic seabed. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 were laid by the former Soviet Union in the postwar era.

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