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18 Sep, 2010 05:17

Baltic Sea swimming with WW2 munitions

Thousands of World War Two mines and missiles still lie on the Baltic seabed and continue to be seen as a risk. Though relatively small in size, the Baltic has around 150,000 munitions hidden among its depths.

Cold, wet, but determined, Eduard Afinogenov from the Emergencies Ministry is a man on a mission, which is to monitor the state of old German munitions.

“The visibility is low – just a couple of meters. There are missiles everywhere. Some are in boxes and tightly packed together. The boat could be from WW2. It's wrecked. Some shells are actually lying on the seabed near the boat,” Afinogenov says.

A German ship found 1.5 kilometers offshore and 17 meters underwater is just one of the many reminders of the Second World War in the Baltic. It has about 10,000 missiles still on board.

The Russian Emergencies ministry lists almost 90 underwater hot spots in one area alone, but only a few have been checked thoroughly. They are all on the Emergencies Ministry's to do list.

Yet with money not readily available, and bureaucracy long and complicated, it is not something that can be dealt with quickly. As a result, local fishermen fear the weapons will still get their chance to fulfill their deadly role while they wait for the seabed to be swept clean.

Indeed, boats have been known to return to port with old torpedoes in their nets.

“These missiles are very dangerous. There are none that have rusted away and become harmless. On the contrary, some that we take out are in a very good working condition,” noted Afinogenov.

In fact, the munitions can still be used. With the current threat of terrorism – any diver can go underwater and get them. If they know the exact location – it can be very serious.

Captain Valery Ermoshin knows only too well the dangers. He says the deeper your net goes, the bigger the trouble it can bring up.

“Once a fisherman from our village had 36 missiles in his net. He was fishing near Taran Cape and brought them all to Baltiysk. They put all the missiles right on the deck; what else could you do? Of course, everybody was afraid. Experts said if the missiles collided, they could have exploded,” Ermoshin warned.