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TALLINN, May 14 (Itar-Tass) — "Open Spirit-2012" international exercises of mine-clearing forces begin in Estonia's sector of the Baltic Sea on Monday. Captain 2nd Rank Juri Saska of Estonia, who is in charge of operation arrangements, says naval ships and diver units of twelve countries have arrived in Estonia to participate in the ten-day operation.
"Nineteen ships from Belgium, Germany, France, Sweden, and the Baltics, in cooperation with scuba diver units from the United States, Canada, Estonia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands, will be busy clearing the Baltic from ordnance and explosives that plummeted to the seabed during World Wars," Captain Saska pointed out.
Special attention will be devoted to the Gulf of Finland which is reckoned one of the water areas that is studded most heavily with sea mines. Expert estimate is that 150,00 sea mines were planted in the Baltic Sea during the World Wars and 80,000 of them have been down there in the Gulf of Finland.
Mine-clearing operations have been held in the Baltic alternately in the territorial waters of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 1996 on the initiative of Sweden. Since 2002, mine-clearing operation arrangements have been assumed by the Baltics. The exercises will continue until May 25.