Europe is investigating leaks in two Russian gas pipelines that were churning the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, raising concerns from Copenhagen to Moscow over possible sabotage of infrastructure at the center of the energy conflict.
Nevertheless, there are no clear clues as to who could be behind any plotif proven, against gas pipelines North Streamwhich cost Russia and its European partners billions of dollars.
The pipelines have been the flashpoint of an escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow that has hit major Western economies, sending gas prices skyrocketing and prompting a search for alternative energy supplies.
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The Polish prime minister attributed the leaks to sabotage, without offering evidence. “Today we have faced an act of sabotage, we do not know all the details of what happened, but we clearly see that this is an act of sabotage, related to the next step in the escalation of the situation in Ukraine”, said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, at the inauguration of a new gas pipeline between Norway and Poland.
For his part, the head of the Danish government said that could not be ruled out.
Russia, which reduced gas deliveries to Europe following sanctions imposed by the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, said sabotage was a possibility and that the incident undermined the continent’s energy security.
A senior Ukrainian official called it Russian attack to destabilize Europewithout providing evidence. “They are nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression against the EU,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podoliak said on Twitter, who also accused Russia of seeking to “provoke a panic before winter.”
The German authorities did not comment on the facts for now. But according to a source close to the government quoted by the German newspaper Taggesspiegel “everything speaks against a coincidence”. The source added: “We cannot imagine a scenario other than a targeted attack.”
“There are some indications that this is deliberate damage,” a European security source said, but added that it was still too early to draw any conclusions. “You have to ask yourself: who would benefit?”.
In that sense, on the one hand, it could be the work of Ukrainian forces or forces related to Ukraine, or it could be a “false flag” operation by Russia to generate more uncertainty and possibly raise the price of gas again, he points out. the post.
The Swedish Maritime Authority issued a warning about two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline the day after one was discovered in the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline, prompting Denmark to restrict shipping and impose a small no-fly zone. .
The Danish armed forces released a video showing bubbles rising to the sea surface. The largest gas leak had caused a surface disturbance more than 1 kilometer in diameter, they said.
Denmark immediately put all its energy infrastructure on alert and deployed two boats in the area, accompanied by helicopters, and Sweden called an emergency meeting.
“Gas pipeline leaks are extremely rare and therefore we see a reason to increase the level of vigilance following these incidents that we have witnessed in the last 24 hours,” said the director of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer. Böttzauw.
Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden recorded on Monday powerful explosions in the areas of the leaks, according to the Swedish National Center for Seismology to the public network SVT.
The Swedish National Seismic Network recorded “two massive energy releases” shortly before and near the site of the gas leaks off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, told the AFP Peter Schmidt, a seismologist for the national network.
“We interpret it as coming, with a very high probability, from some kind of detonation”, indicated Schmidt, who explained that these energy releases were “very sudden”.
“The first occurred at 2:03 am (00:03 GMT) just southeast of Bornholm, with a magnitude of 1.9. We then observed another at 7:04 pm on Monday night, another incident a little further north that appears to have been somewhat more powerful. We calculate a magnitude of 2.3″, indicated the seismologist.
The Norwegian seismic network (NORSAR) also confirmed having recorded “a smaller explosion” in the early hours of Monday, “followed by another more powerful one on Monday afternoon.”
In addition, the German geological research center GFZ also said that a seismograph on the Danish island of Bornholm had detected two peaks on Monday.
The leaks were very large and it could be a week before the gas stops coming out of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, said the director of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Bottzauw.
“The sea surface is full of methane, which means that there is an increased risk of explosions in the areaBottzauw said.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said sabotage could not be ruled out. “We’re talking about three leaks close to each other, and so it’s hard to imagine it being a coincidence,” she said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it “very worrying news” and said that affected the continent’s energy security.
Neither of the two pipelines was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks were detected, in a context of dispute over the war in Ukraine, but the incidents debunk any hope that Europe could receive gas through of Nord Stream 1 before winter
The operator Nord Stream said the damage was “unprecedented”. Both gas pipelines contained gas although they were not in operation.
Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled company that has a monopoly on Russian pipeline gas exports, declined to comment.
Russia cut gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before totally halting flows in August, blaming Western sanctions for causing technical difficulties. European politicians say that was a pretext to stop supplying gas.
The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline had not yet entered commercial operation. The plan to use it to supply gas was scrapped by Germany days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine in February in what Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
“The multiple underwater leaks mean that neither of the two pipelines is likely to supply gas to the EU during the coming winter, regardless of political developments in the Ukraine war,” the Eurasia Group wrote.
(With information from Reuters and AFP)
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