A gas leak in Russian pipelines to Europe caused a sabotage investigation

  • Polish Prime Minister Blames Sabotage, Without Citing Evidence
  • Russia says the leaks threaten energy security in Europe
  • The footage shows gas bubbles rippling the surface of the sea
  • Worker says damage to Nord Stream 1 is ‘unprecedented’
  • The Russian gas crisis caused prices to rise

STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Europe is investigating major leaks in two Russian pipelines that released gas into the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, as Sweden launched a preliminary investigation into potential infrastructure sabotage amid an energy crisis.

But it is not yet clear who might be behind any sinister game, if proven, on the Nord Stream pipelines that Russia and European partners have spent billions of dollars on building.

“We have developed a report and classify the crime as serious vandalism,” a Swedish National Police spokesman said.

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The Polish prime minister blamed sabotage for the leaks without citing evidence. The Danish prime minister said that could not be ruled out.

Russia, which halted gas deliveries to Europe after the West imposed sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, said sabotage was a possibility and that the leaks undermined the continent’s energy security.

Meanwhile, a senior Ukrainian official described the incident as a Russian attack to destabilize Europe, without providing evidence.

“We clearly see it as an act of sabotage related to the next step to escalate the situation in Ukraine,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the opening of a new pipeline between Norway and Poland.

Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden recorded powerful explosions in the vicinity of the leaks on Monday, the Swedish National Seismological Center told public station SVT. German geological research center GFZ also said the seismometer on the Danish island of Bornholm recorded twice as high on Monday.

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Nord Stream pipelines have been hot spots in an escalating energy war between capitals in Europe and Moscow that has hurt major Western economies, driven up gas prices and sparked a search for alternative supplies.

On Tuesday, the Danish Armed Forces released a video showing bubbles boiling on the surface of the sea. The armed forces said the largest gas leak caused a surface disturbance more than one kilometer in diameter. Read more

The Swedish Maritime Authority issued a warning about two Nord Stream 1 pipeline leaks the day after a leak was discovered in the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline, prompting Denmark to restrict shipping and impose a small no-fly zone.

European and Moscow leaders say they cannot rule out sabotage. Map of Nord Stream pipelines and locations of reported leaks

Explosion danger

The head of the Danish Energy Agency, Christopher Botzau, said the leaks were so large that it could take up to a week for gas to stop draining from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Ships can lose buoyancy if they enter the area.

“The sea surface is full of methane, which means there is an increased risk of explosions in the area,” Botzau said.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said sabotage could not be ruled out. “We’re talking about three leaks with some distance between them, so it’s hard to imagine that it was a coincidence,” she said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described it as “very disturbing news. In fact, we are talking about some damage of an unclear nature to the pipeline in the economic zone of Denmark.” He said it affected energy security on the continent.

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Neither pipeline was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks were discovered amid the row over the war in Ukraine, but the incidents will thwart any remaining expectations that Europe might receive gas via Nord Stream 1 before winter.

Operator Nord Stream said the damage was “unprecedented”.

Both pipelines contained gas even though they were not running.

Gazprom (GAZP.MM)The Kremlin-controlled company that has a monopoly on Russian gas exports through the pipeline declined to comment.

“There are some indications that this was intentional damage,” a European security source said, adding that it was too early to draw conclusions. “You have to ask: Who wins?”

cutting supplies

Russia cut gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before completely suspending flows in August, blaming Western sanctions for causing technical difficulties. European politicians say this was an excuse to cut off the gas supply.

The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline has not yet entered commercial operations. Germany scrapped a plan to use it to supply gas days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in February.

“Multiple undersea leaks mean that none of the pipelines is likely to deliver any gas to the EU over the next winter, regardless of political developments in the Ukraine war,” Eurasia Group wrote in a note.

European gas prices rose on the news, with the record October price in the Netherlands up nearly 10% on Tuesday. Prices are still below their peak this year but still 200% higher than they were in early September 2021.

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Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority urged oil companies on Monday to be vigilant about unidentified drones seen flying near Norwegian oil and gas platforms, warning of possible attacks.

The Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) said two leaks on Nord Stream 1, one in the Swedish Economic Zone and the other in the Danish Zone, were northeast of Bornholm in Denmark.

“We are monitoring further to make sure that no ship approaches the site,” a SMA spokesperson said.

The Danish authorities asked to raise the level of preparedness in the Danish energy and gas sector after the leaks, a step that requires strict safety measures for energy installations and facilities.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Matthias Williams, Jean Harvey, and Alexander Smith; Editing by Edmund Blair and Emilia Sithole Mataris

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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