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Bubbles of gas near the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines

‘This was not an accident’ European investigators believe ‘unprecedented’ damage to Nord Stream pipelines is the work of either Russia or Ukraine

Source: Meduza
Bubbles of gas near the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines
Bubbles of gas near the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines
Danish Defense Command / AP / Scanpix / LETA

Nord Stream AG, the operator of the Nord Stream pipeline network, announced Monday evening that three offshore strings of the pipeline system had sustained damage. The strings in question are part of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, both of which pass through the Baltic Sea to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany. According to the company, the incident, which occurred near the Danish island of Bornholm, involved an “unprecedented” level of damage.

Swedish seismologists detected two explosions near the damage site. Björn Lund‬, director of the Swedish National Seismic Network at Uppsala University, told the news network SVT that the first blast occurred on September 26 at about 2:00 am local time and the second came at about 7:00 pm that evening. One of the explosions was powerful enough (2.3 magnitude) to be detected by seismic stations across Sweden. Soon after the second blast, people on passing ships noticed bubbles of gas on the surface of the water in the area.

The Swedish, Danish, and German authorities have launched investigations. According to Kristoffer Bottzauw, the head of Denmark’s energy agency, the pipelines were seriously damaged. “This isn’t a small crack. It’s really a large hole,” he said, adding that bubbles were surfacing across a radius of over 50 meters (164 feet). In addition, the leaks have created choppy conditions in the sea, making the area unsafe for ships. According to Bottzauw, it could be as long as a week before the pipes stop leaking.

Bubbles of gas coming from one of the leak sites. Video by the Danish Armed Forces

Danish authorities are assessing the incident as an intentional attack. “It is now the clear assessment by authorities that these are deliberate actions. It was not an accident,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov also said that the damage could have been done deliberately, calling the incident an “unprecedented situation” that had the Kremlin “extremely concerned.” Later on Tuesday, Swedish police went further, calling the leaks the result of “gross sabotage.”

The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported that the damage could have been caused by divers or submarines, citing a source close to the ongoing investigation. According to the outlet, investigators are considering two possibilities. The first is that Ukraine or pro-Ukrainian actors are responsible for the damage. The second is that the leaks are the work of Russia. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak called the incident a “terrorist attack planned by Russia” with the goal of “destabilizing the economic situation in Europe and causing panic before the winter.”

The Nord Stream pipelines have not been active in recent weeks. Nord Stream 2, which was built in 2021, never began operating; Germany suspended the certification process shortly before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Nord Stream 1 operated from 2012 until the start of September 2022, when it was suspended by Russia after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the body would implement a price cap on Russian gas. Russia’s official reason for stopping the flow was difficulties with maintaining equipment resulting from sanctions, but EU officials believe the stoppage is an intentional attempt to put pressure on European countries for their support of Ukraine.

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