NATO minesweepers set off on Baltic deployment

KIEL, Germany — Five NATO mine-hunting ships have set off on a deployment in the Baltic Sea — part of the alliance’s efforts to strengthen its presence in Europe’s ex-communist east as members there worry about Russia’s intentions in Ukraine.

The ships — two from Norway and one each from the Netherlands, Belgium and Estonia — left the German port of Kiel Tuesday. The exercise, under Norwegian command, is to continue until the end of May, with the ships visiting several ports.

Commodore Arian Minderhoud, the NATO Allied Maritime Command’s deputy chief of staff for operations, says the exercise “is part of the whole package of ... actions to show NATO’s resolve, to show NATO’s preparedness.”

NATO said last week it was strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border.