Gas pouring out of Nord Stream pipeline leaks, accusations of sabotage
European leaders have said that sabotage is the most likely cause of the leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines between Russia and Germany, but have stopped short of directly accusing Russia. Seismologists detected two large blasts before the leaks began.
“Deliberate acts”: Speculation Baltic Sea leaks caused by explosions
“The clear advice from the authorities is that they were deliberate acts. We are not talking about an accident,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We don’t have information yet about those responsible.” Danish Energy and Climate Minister Dan Jørgensen added that the holes through which the gas was escaping were “too big” to be accidental.
A total of four leaks have been discovered in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines after a dramatic loss of pressure was recorded on Monday. While Nord Stream 1 has not been transporting gas since supply was shut off in early September (and Nord Stream 2 has never gone into operation), both pipelines were full of gas.
On Tuesday, seismologists said that instruments had picked up two large explosions before the leaks began on Monday. “With energy releases this big, there isn’t much else than a blast that can cause it,” seismologist Peter Schmidt, from the University of Uppsala, told AFP. “You can see that they are quite sudden… It’s not a slow collapse of something."
The three gas leaks were visible in the water off the coast of Denmark, with authorities saying they were creating areas of bubbling between 200 metres and 1 kilometre in diameter. Experts said that it could take “at least a week” for the methane leaking out of the pipes to finally run out, and have warned that the leak could present an “unprecedented” environmental disaster.
Europe reacts to Nord Stream gas leaks
As early as Tuesday morning, leaders from Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany were speaking about an attack on European gas infrastructure. The head of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, described the incident on Twitter as “sabotage action” and promised severe consequences for the perpetrators: “Any deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure is unacceptable and will lead to the strongest possible response,” she said.
The German federal government said that three out of the four Baltic Sea pipelines are currently damaged, and speculated that it could be the result of an attack designed to provoke uncertainty in the European gas market. It has previously accused Russia of using energy as a weapon, but did not go so far as to point the finger in this instance.
The Tagesspiegel quotes a government source as saying, “Everything speaks against a coincidence. We cannot imagine a scenario that is not a targeted attack.” A spokesperson for Nord Stream 2 added that the pipelines had been laid in such a way that it was highly unlikely that damage could be sustained in three places instantaneously, for instance by a shipping accident.
Poland and Ukraine accuse Russia
Only leaders from Poland and Ukraine were more forthright in their responses. Poland’s Foreign Minister, Marcin Przydacz, lamented that “our eastern partner is constantly pursuing an aggressive political course.” According to The Guardian, a senior Ukrainian official also described it as a “Russian attack to destabilise Europe”, although they did not give proof.
Russia, however, expressed concern. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that it was not ruling out any options as to what could have caused the leaks, including sabotage. On Wednesday the Kremlin dismissed speculation about Russian involvement in the damage as "stupid and absurd".
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nord Stream announced on Tuesday that it had begun an investigation with local authorities to determine the cause of the incident and the extent of the damage. It’s not currently known how long it will take to repair the pipelines.