Europe investigates ‘attacks’ on Russian gas pipelines to Europe
- German minister says ‘targeted attacks’ caused leaks
- Russia says leaks threaten Europe’s energy security
- Images show bubbles of gas bubbling on the surface of the sea
- Operator says damage to Nord Stream 1 ‘unprecedented’
- Russian gas crisis sends prices skyrocketing
STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Europe was on Tuesday investigating what Germany, Denmark and Sweden said were attacks that caused major leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian gas pipelines in the center of an energy impasse.
But it’s far from clear who might be behind the leaks that were first reported on Monday or any foul play, if proven, on the Nord Stream pipelines that Russia and its European partners have spent billions dollars to build.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told business leaders that the leaks were due to targeted attacks on infrastructure and that Berlin now knew for sure “that they were not caused by events or natural events or by the fatigue of materials”.
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The Swedish and Danish prime ministers said the leaks were clearly caused by deliberate actions, with information suggesting likely sabotage, while the Polish prime minister blamed sabotage, without citing evidence.
Russia, which cut gas supplies to Europe after the West imposed sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, also said sabotage was a possibility and leaks jeopardized security. energy of the continent.
A senior Ukrainian official called the incident a Russian attack to destabilize Europe, without giving evidence.
“We clearly see that this is an act of sabotage, linked to the next stage of the escalation of the situation in Ukraine,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the opening of a new pipeline between Norway and Poland.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference that two explosions had been detected in connection with the leaks and while this did not represent an attack on Sweden, her government was in close contact with partners such as NATO and neighbors such as Denmark and Germany regarding developments.
Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden said they recorded two powerful explosions near the leaks on Monday.
“The signals do not look like signals from earthquakes. They look like signals typically recorded from explosions,” the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) said.
And seismologists from Sweden’s Uppsala University, which cooperates with GEUS, said the second, larger explosion “corresponded to more than 100 kilos (kg) of dynamite”, adding that the explosions occurred in the water and not under the seabed.
Nord Stream pipelines have been flashpoints in a growing energy war between European capitals and Moscow that has damaged major Western economies, sent gas prices skyrocketing and sparked a hunt for alternative supplies.
“Germany is a country that knows how to defend itself. And Europe is a continent that can protect its energy infrastructure,” said German Habeck, adding that the energy supply of Europe’s largest economy does not was unaffected.
The Danish Armed Forces said the largest gas leak caused a surface disturbance more than 1 km (0.6 miles) in diameter.
‘RISK OF EXPLOSION’
The leaks were very large and it could take perhaps a week for gas to stop flowing from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, said the head of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Bottzauw.
Ships could 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,” Bottzauw said.
The Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) said two leaks on Nord Stream 1, one in the Swedish economic zone and another in the Danish zone, were northeast of Bornholm in Denmark.
“We are providing additional monitoring to ensure that no vessel comes too close to the site,” an SMA spokesperson said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it “very worrying news. Indeed, we are talking about damage of an unclear nature on the pipeline in the economic zone of Denmark.” He said this affected the continent’s energy security.
Neither pipeline was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks were discovered, but the incidents will dash any remaining expectations that Europe could receive fuel via Nord Stream 1 before winter.
Operator Nord Stream said the damage was “unprecedented”.
Gazprom (GAZP.MM), the Kremlin-controlled company that has a monopoly on Russian gas exports via pipeline, declined to comment.
“There are indications that this is deliberate damage,” said a European security source, adding that it was still too early to draw conclusions. “You have to ask yourself: who would benefit? »
Norway, meanwhile, has said it will tighten security at its oil and gas facilities following leaks and reports of drone activity in the North Sea, Energy Minister Terje Aasland said. , in a press release.
The Danish authorities have requested that the level of preparedness in its electricity and gas sector be raised, a step which would require increased security for electrical installations and installations.
Russia cut gas deliveries to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before completely suspending flows in August, blaming Western sanctions for causing technical difficulties. European politicians say it was a pretext to cut off the gas supply.
The new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline had not yet entered into commercial operation. Plans to use it to supply gas were scrapped by Germany days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in February.
“The multiple undersea leaks mean that none of the pipelines is likely to deliver gas to the EU over the next winter, regardless of political developments in the war in Ukraine,” Eurasia Group wrote in a note. .
Gas prices in Europe rose on the news, with the Dutch October benchmark price climbing almost 10% on Tuesday. Prices are still below this year’s highs but remain more than 200% above those of early September 2021.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Matthias Williams, Jan Harvey and Alexander Smith; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Marguerita Choy and Chris Reese
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