STOCKHOLM: Europe was investigating on Tuesday (Sep 28) what Germany, Denmark and Sweden said were attacks which had caused major leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian pipelines at the centre of an energy standoff.
But it remained far from clear who might be behind the leaks that were first reported on Monday or any foul play, if proven, on the Nord Stream pipelines that Russia and European partners spent billions of dollars building.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told business leaders that the leaks were due to targeted attacks on the infrastructure and Berlin now knew for sure “that they were not caused by natural occurrences or events or material fatigue”.
Sweden’s and Denmark’s prime ministers said the leaks were clearly caused by deliberate actions, with information suggesting likely sabotage, while Poland’s premier blamed sabotage, without citing evidence.
Russia, which slashed gas deliveries to Europe after the West imposed sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, also said sabotage was a possibility and that the leaks undermined the continent’s energy security.
A senior Ukrainian official called the incident a Russian attack to destabilise Europe, without giving proof.
“We see clearly that it’s an act of sabotage, related to the next step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the opening of a new pipeline between Norway and Poland.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a news conference that two blasts had been detected in relation to the leaks and though this did not represent an attack on Sweden, her government was in close contact with partners such as NATO and neighbours such as Denmark and Germany concerning the developments.
Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden said they had registered two powerful blasts on Monday in the vicinity of the leaks.
“The signals do not resemble signals from earthquakes. They do resemble the signals typically recorded from blasts,” the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) said.
And seismologists at Sweden’s Uppsala University, which cooperates with GEUS, said the second, bigger explosion “corresponded to more than 100 kilos of dynamite”, adding the blasts were in the water not under the seabed.
The Nord Stream pipelines have been flashpoints in an escalating energy war between capitals in Europe and Moscow that has damaged major Western economies, sent gas prices soaring and sparked a hunt for alternative supplies.
“Germany is a country that knows how to defend itself. And Europe is a continent that can protect its energy infrastructure,” Germany’s Habeck said, adding that the energy supply of Europe’s largest economy was not affected.
Denmark’s armed forces said the largest gas leak had caused a surface disturbance of well over 1km in diameter.