Mystery over the "sabotage" of the Nord Stream gas pipeline

The gas leaks in the two Nord Stream gas pipelines, which connect Russia with Germany through the Baltic Sea, detected by Denmark and Sweden in the waters of their exclusive economic zone, have raised suspicions of sabotage and generated added alarm in a Europe anguished by the energy crisis.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
27 September 2022 Tuesday 17:31
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Mystery over the "sabotage" of the Nord Stream gas pipeline

The gas leaks in the two Nord Stream gas pipelines, which connect Russia with Germany through the Baltic Sea, detected by Denmark and Sweden in the waters of their exclusive economic zone, have raised suspicions of sabotage and generated added alarm in a Europe anguished by the energy crisis.

The double infrastructure, designed to transport Russian natural gas to the European market, was not operational due to the conflict between Vladimir Putin and the West over the war in Ukraine, but it still contains gas. Nord Stream 2 never came online due to a German decision weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, while Nord Stream 1 continued to pump gas until, after several tense phases, Putin turned off the tap in early September.

In this scenario of absolute distrust towards Russia, the Swedish Maritime Authority (SMA) warned yesterday of two leaks in Nord Stream 1, one in its economic zone and the other in the Danish economic zone, northeast of the Danish island of Bornholm . On Monday, Denmark had warned of a leak in Nord Stream 2 southeast of Bornholm.

Each gas pipeline has two pipes, and the leaks detected affect three of them. The operator of the gas pipelines, Nord Stream AG, an international consortium of companies in which Russia's Gazprom owns 51% of the shares, based in Switzerland, said that the damage "is unprecedented" and that it is impossible to predict when they will be able to be repaired

Several voices speak of sabotage or do not rule it out. At a press conference last night in Copenhagen, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that the gas leaks "were caused by deliberate acts and could not be the result of accidents." Shortly after, the acting Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, appeared in Stockholm to corroborate that "Swedish and Danish information suggests that it is probably a deliberate act." Both Denmark and Sweden stressed that they do not consider what happened a military attack against their territory.

In Germany, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said last night in a meeting with businessmen that the leaks were due to attacks on infrastructure and that the German government now knows for sure "that they were not caused by natural events or worker fatigue." materials". None of the three countries explicitly accused Russia of sabotage.

Hours earlier, the Kremlin had also been "extremely concerned" about the damage. "No version can be ruled out," said the spokesman for the Russian Presidency, Dmitri Peskov, in his daily telephone press conference when asked if it was sabotage, reports AFP. "Until we have the results of the investigation, we cannot rule anything out," the Russian said, adding emphatically that "this affects the continent's energy security."

Poland and Ukraine, although without providing concrete evidence, pointed to Russia as responsible. “We are facing an act of sabotage; We do not know all the details of what happened, but we clearly see that it is an act of sabotage, related to the next step in the escalation of the situation in Ukraine," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the opening ceremony yesterday. of the new Baltic Pipe gas pipeline, which will carry gas from Norway to Poland via Denmark.

The Baltic Pipe, a strategic infrastructure with which Poland seeks to diversify energy providers away from Russia, crosses the Nord Stream on its route. "The era of Russian dominance in the gas sphere is coming to an end," Morawiecki said. A time that was marked by blackmail, threats and extortion.”

Ukraine also sees the Russian hand in the leaks. “The large-scale gas leak from Nord Stream 1 is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression against the European Union,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter.

The anomalous ingredients follow one another. The Swedish Seismological Institute recorded two underwater explosions before the leaks, and a Bornholm seismograph noted two earth tremors in the Baltic Sea that fit the times and locations of the events. Bjorn Lund, a seismologist at Uppsala University who is part of the Swedish seismic monitoring network, told the Ap agency: “We are very sure that they were explosions; this was not an earthquake or a landslide.”

The leaks are of magnitude and, according to the director of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Böttzauw, it could take a week for the gas to stop coming out. "The sea surface is full of methane, which means there is a higher risk of explosions in the area," said Böttzauw. Ships could lose buoyancy, which is why Denmark banned sailing in a five-nautical-mile zone around the damaged pipeline.

At a press conference last night, the Danish emergency agency assured that the measurement of air quality on the island of Bornholm shows that gas leaks "represent little or no risk to public health." Regarding the consequences for the sea, the German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe explained that natural gas, containing mostly methane, partially dissolves in water and is not toxic, and that the greater the depth it is released, the greater the proportion of gas that dissolves in water without much risk.

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