- EU diplomats believe sabotage probably caused leaks
- Danish defense minister concerned about Baltic security
- Danish Defense Minister Meets with NATO Chief in Brussels
BERLIN/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The European Union said on Thursday it suspected sabotage behind a gas leak discovered this week in a Russian undersea pipeline to Europe, after an energy He promised a “resolute” response to the deliberate disruption of infrastructure.
As gas erupted under the Baltic Sea three days after it was first detected, it remains to be seen who is responsible for sabotaging the Nord Stream pipeline, which Russian and European partners have spent billions of dollars building. It wasn’t obvious.
Russia, which cut gas supplies to Europe after Western countries imposed sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, also said it could be sabotaged.
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“The deliberate disruption of Europe’s energy infrastructure is totally unacceptable and requires a strong and united response,” said Josep Borrell, the EU’s head of foreign policy.
Reflecting the views of Germany, Denmark and Sweden, he said sabotage was likely, but the EU did not name potential perpetrators or suggest motives. Washington, which has spearheaded efforts to punish Moscow, believes it is too early to conclude that there has been sabotage, a senior US military official said.
“The jury is out yet,” an official told reporters. “I think many of our partners have decided or believed it was sabotage. I’m just not at the stage where I can tell you one way or the other.” Asked if U.S. involvement could be ruled out, a U.S. military official said, “We weren’t involved at all.”
The UN Security Council will convene on Friday at Russia’s request to discuss damage to the pipeline, the UN mission in France, which chairs the September 15-member council, said.
The Russian embassy in Denmark said any sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline would be an attack on Russia’s and Europe’s energy security.
The Nord Stream pipeline has become the flashpoint of an escalating energy war between Europe and the capital of Moscow, damaging the economies of major Western countries and driving up gas prices.
The Danish Defense Minister said he had reason to worry about the security situation in the region after meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic region and we expect them to continue to use force,” Morten Bozkov said in a statement.
The Norwegian prime minister said Wednesday that troops will be deployed near oil and gas facilities while Denmark raises its level of preparedness.
“The military will become more visible at Norwegian oil and gas facilities,” Norwegian Jonas Gar Stole told a news conference.
In the Baltic, gas was still bubbling from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the Swedish Coast Guard said in an email.
More than half of the damaged pipeline’s gas is coming out of the pipes, with the remainder expected to be gone by Sunday, the Danish Energy Agency said.
Jens Schumann, managing director of gas pipeline network company Gasunie Deutschland, said he was “relatively optimistic” that the damage could be repaired.
“We have the right team in place to deal with pipeline incidents, we have emergency pipe inventories and onshore and offshore experts,” Schumann said.
But German security officials fear Nord Stream 1 will be rendered unusable if too much salt water seeps into the pipes and causes corrosion, German newspaper Tagesspiegel reported, citing government sources.
The Danish military said the largest gas leak had caused a surface disturbance over a kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter as authorities alerted ships.
After Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Tuesday that two explosions had been detected, Swedish prosecutors said they would review materials from the police investigation and decide on further action.
This did not imply an attack on Sweden, but Stockholm was in close contact with partners such as NATO and neighboring countries such as Denmark and Germany, Anderson said.
Danish and Swedish seismologists recorded two powerful blasts near the leak on Monday, saying the explosions occurred underwater rather than on the ocean floor.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed Washington’s support in a phone call with his Danish counterpart on Wednesday, a senior US defense official said. The State Department said it is sharing information about the blast with allies.
Operator Nord Stream called the damage “unprecedented” and Russia-controlled Gazprom (GAZP.MM), which has a monopoly on pipeline gas exports, declined to comment.
Neither pipeline was delivering gas to Europe at the time, but the incident ruined any remaining hopes that Europe could receive fuel via Nord Stream 1 before winter.
ING Research analysts said, “Developments that could have a more direct impact on gas supplies to Europe could lead to Russia imposing sanctions on Ukraine’s Naftogaz due to ongoing arbitration,” said an analyst from Gazprom. It was a warning.
Naftogaz’s CEO said Wednesday that the Ukrainian energy company will continue arbitration proceedings against Gazprom over Russian natural gas transiting Ukraine.
Gazprom said earlier in the week that it would reject all of Naftogaz’s claims in the arbitration, but could introduce sanctions against the company if it went ahead with the lawsuit.
European gas prices rose on news of the leak. His October Dutch price in the benchmark was €204.50/MWh on Wednesday, where he rose 11%. While prices are still below this year’s peak, he remains more than 200% higher than in early September 2021.
Russia cut gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before completely shutting it down in August, before accusing Western sanctions of causing technical problems. European politicians say it was an excuse to cut off gas supplies.
The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline had not yet entered commercial operation. Plans to use it for gas supply were scrapped by Germany days before Russia launched what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine in late February.
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Reported by a Reuters bureau. By Alexander Smith. Edited by Louise Heavens, Elaine Hardcastle and David Evans
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