Calls for Strong Response as EU Suspects Sabotage of Baltic Pipelines

A large disturbance in the sea off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 following a series of unusual leaks on two natural gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany. (Danish Defence Command via AP)

BRUSSELS (Dpa/TNS) — The European Union believes sabotage is the likely cause of leaks from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines and is threatening countermeasures, its top diplomat said on Wednesday.

“The European Union is deeply concerned about damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines that has resulted in leaks in the international waters of the Baltic Sea,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

“These incidents are not a coincidence and affect us all,” his statement read.

He said that all of the available information indicated that the leaks were the result of a deliberate act.

“We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why, and will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security,” he said.

Borrell said that any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is unacceptable and would be met with a “robust and united response.”

Three leaks were found in the pipelines that carry gas from Russia to Europe via the Baltic Sea, in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden off the Danish island of Bornholm.

The Swedish Coastguard said the gas from the suspicious leaks is continuing to spew into the Baltic Sea.

“Unfortunately, the gas cannot be captured or combated,” a coastguard spokesman told dpa. He could not give any estimate on how much has escaped so far.

Pipe systems and shut-off devices at the gas receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 in Lubmin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept.28, 2022. (Stefan Sauer/dpa via AP)

The operator of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline said repairing the leak was an option but the damage had to be assessed first.

Nord Stream 2 AG spokesman Ulrich Lissek said that “no one can seriously say at the moment what the situation is down there,” but that “the structural integrity of the pipeline must be massively damaged.”

The pipelines had been filled with Russian natural gas, but neither was actually delivering any gas to the terminals in Germany. Gas through Nord Stream 1 stopped flowing after Russia carried out maintenance work; Nord Stream 2 was never put into operation due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

As the gas continues to spill into the sea, the focus in Europe has turned to who or what might be responsible for the blasts that caused the leaks.

The Kremlin rejected any accusations that it was responsible.

“It is quite predictable and predictably stupid and absurd to make such assumptions,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, according to the Interfax news agency.

Peskov said that it was necessary to wait for investigations at the leaks and to determine whether it had been an explosion or not.

German security sources told dpa the cause of the incidents had not been clarified, but there were indications of sabotage. Only a state actor could mount such an intervention due to its technical complexity, the sources said.

“There can be no natural cause for this incident,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in Berlin on Wednesday.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics described leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines as “deliberate attacks” in a tweet on Wednesday that seemed to reference – but did not mention – the war in Ukraine.

“The sabotage of the Nordstream I and II pipelines must be classified as the most serious security and environmental incident in the Baltic Sea,” Rinkevics wrote. “It seems we are entering a new phase of hybrid war.”

NATO and the EU should “respond accordingly,” he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also described the three leaks found in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea as “sabotage” on Twitter after a meeting with the Danish defence minister in Brussels.

Stoltenberg said the duo “discussed the sabotage on the North Stream [sic] pipelines … We addressed the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries.”

Norway, another NATO member in the region, said its own oil and gas facilities were not at risk due to the leaks and did not require support for the moment from the Western military alliance.

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