COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Polish seaman drowned in a harbor in southeastern Sweden where an annual Baltic Sea naval exercise is being held, the Swedish navy said Saturday.
Two Polish seamen fell into the water in Karlskrona late Friday and one of them died, Swedish navy Rear Adm. Jens Nykvist said. Neither was identified and no further details were released.
Sweden’s Blekinge Lans Tidning daily said the other seaman remained hospitalized Saturday. Police said no foul play was suspected.
The seamen were among 5,000 sailors participating in the annual Northern Coasts drill with units from Baltic nations and several NATO countries. This year, Sweden is hosting the naval drill.
The Sept. 8-21 exercise is being staged as non-NATO member Sweden hosts another, larger drill with nearly 20,000 troops from Sweden and several NATO countries. The Aurora 17 drill starts Monday and ends Sept. 29.
The Swedish military said the Aurora 17 exercise was designed “to deter potential attackers, and force them to carefully consider the risks of attacking our country.”
Meanwhile, 25 Swedish and Russian peace activists gathered Saturday on the Finnish archipelago of Aland in the middle of the Baltic Sea to mark their opposition to the Aurora 17 drill.
Politicians and the arms industry “have something to gain from the rattling of arms,” said protester Pelle Sunvission.
The drills are being held amid fears over Russia’s military buildup in the region, which also has also seen several reports of airspace violations by Russian military aircraft.
In recent months, NATO military forces have been deployed into countries bordering Russia after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. That annexation prompted fears that Russia could be eyeing other ex-Soviet republics, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Russia and its neighbor Belarus are also holding joint military exercises that begin Thursday. Those exercises have raised concerns among Belarus’ beleaguered opposition that Russia could use them to establish a permanent military presence in Belarus, which borders Lithuania and Latvia.