Washington – European officials say sabotage of the two Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea is suspected.
“There are three leaks, so it’s hard to imagine that it could be accidental,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday.
“We clearly see that this is sabotage – an act that likely means another step in the escalation of the situation in Ukraine,” agreed Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Frederkisen and Morawiecki were speaking in Gloeniow, Poland, at the opening ceremony of the Baltic Pipe, part of a Polish plan to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. The line will connect Poland to Norwegian gas fields through Denmark.
“We have drawn up a report and the crime classification is gross sabotage,” the Swedish National Police said on Tuesday, announcing a preliminary investigation into possible sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
“No option can be ruled out at this time,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, regarding the possibility of sabotage, adding that the leaks are a cause for concern.
Nord Stream 1 has until recently been an important source of gas for Germany. Nord Stream 2 has not yet entered commercial operation.
Map of Europe with gas pipeline network from Russia
Russia shut down Nord Stream 1 earlier this month, ostensibly for maintenance work.
The majority owner of the grid’s operator, Nord Stream AG, is Gazprom, a Russian state energy company.
“The destruction that occurred on the same day simultaneously on three strands of the offshore gas pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented,” NordStream AG said in a statement. “It is not yet possible to estimate the timing of the restoration of the gas transportation infrastructure.”
According to a statement from the Danish Defense Forces, which included photographs of the leaks off the island of Bornholm, the largest leak is the spread of bubbles that are just over a kilometer in diameter. The smallest creates a circle with a diameter of about 200 meters.
Scientists in Europe say seismographs on Monday recorded powerful explosions in the Baltic Sea, the same day the two gas pipelines decompressed.
“It was a spike and then normal sound. We can’t say if it could be gas coming out,” said Josef Zens, spokesman for the German Geological Research Center GFZ.
A reading from a seismograph on the Danish island of Bornholm shows two peaks, at 0003 and 1700 GMT, followed by a lower-level “hiss” on the day the Nord Stream 1 and 2 Baltic gas pipelines sprang a leak. (German Center for Georesearch/handout via Reuters)
‘Once is a coincidence. Twice is coincidence. The third time it is the action of the enemy,’ wrote Bloomberg Opinion columnist Javier Blasquoting the late British author Ian Fleming.
“The leaks are more likely a message: Russia is opening a new front in its energy war against Europe. First, it weaponized gas supplies, stopping transport, including via the Nord Stream pipeline. Now it can attack the energy infrastructure it once used to send its energy, says Blas, author of The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources.
Amid much speculation on social media about who may have sabotaged Nord Stream, there is no credible evidence of a likely perpetrator or motive. Analysts and amateurs on Twitter claim that the Russians may have deployed divers or unmanned submersible vehicles to puncture the pipelines.
The leaks are the result of a “terrorist attack” and “an act of aggression” against the EU, explained Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office.
Some anonymous accounts on Twitter declared that the US president had ordered an attack, and circulated a video of Joe Biden from early February promising to “put an end” to the Nord Stream 2 project if Russia invaded Ukraine.
“I’m not going to speculate on the cause at this time and I know our European partners are investigating. We stand ready to support their efforts,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson told VOA on Tuesday. “This just shows the importance of our efforts to work together to bring alternative gas supplies to Europe and to support efforts to reduce gas consumption and accelerate real energy independence by moving to a clean energy economy.”
The Kremlin has said that if Western Europe wants Russian gas, it should end sanctions against Moscow imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seven months ago.
While the consequences for Europe ahead of winter as a result of the loss of the pipelines remain to be seen, the trio of leaks pose an immediate danger to wildlife and shipping.
The gas can suffocate animals and is an explosive threat to passing ships, according to environmental groups.
Patsy Widakuswara at the White House contributed to this report. Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.