TALLINN – The Swedish defense forces transported more military equipment on the ferry Estonia than has been made public to date, Postimees reported, citing Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper.
The information emerged when the Swedish accident investigation authority, SHK, which is investigating the ferry disaster in Sweden, interviewed members of the country's defense forces.
Jonas Backstrand, head of SHK, told Aftonbladet that defense personnel were asked a number of questions to get answers to questions that have been up for decades. Some of them concerned the transport of military equipment on the Estonia.
Previously, the Swedish defense forces have said that military equipment was transported on the Estonia on two occasions: on Sept. 14 and 20. Now the SHK learned that, in fact, there were more occasions.
"We conducted interviews with representatives of the defense forces -- both those who are still in the corps and those who are no longer in the defense forces. The information we have shows that there were several other occasions of shipment in the past, and they admit this," Backstrand told Aftonbladet.
The Swedish defense forces said in response to a question from the country's news agency TT that in addition to the transports already known, a "handful" of transports took place onboard the Estonia at an unspecified time, but not in September or on the night of the accident. Col. Anders Stach said he cannot talk about more accurate numbers or time periods.
Stach said that technical equipment with documents was transported of the ferry, but no weapons or ammunition. SHK learned that the equipment was transported by civilian vehicles. Stach told TT that he cannot talk about the reasons for this, nor about why the Swedish defense forces waited so long to tell the public about the shipments. He also said that the customs at the time only examined the import of equipment to a limited extent.
Backstrand noted that the new information is important for understanding the overall picture, but does not affect the investigation in substance at this point.
"During the course of the investigation, we are looking at the ship and the damage. There's nothing there that says it didn't happen the way the investigation carried out in 1997 said," Backstrand added.