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NATO to Conduct Mine Clearing Drills off Estonia Coast

RIA Novosti

02:41 14/05/2012 TALLINN, May 14 (RIA Novosti) - NATO will begin its Open Spirit 2012 mine clearing exercises in Estonia’s territorial waters on Monday, the country’s defense authorities said.

The annual drills will brings together 19 ships from ten countries, including nine NATO member states – Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the United States, and Canada. Sweden will also join the drills.

The exercises, aimed at discovering and defusing WWI and WWII-era mines, will run until May 25 in the Baltic Sea off Estonia’s coast.

Some 150,000 mines have been laid in the Baltic Sea during the two wars, including about 80,000 in the Gulf of Finland. Since 1994, some 700 mines and other explosive devises have been discovered off the coast of Estonia.

The Open Spirit drills have been held annually since 1997 in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s coastal waters.

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