Last Updated on September 27, 2022
The governments of both Denmark and Sweden strongly believe that “unprecedented” damage to both Nord Stream pipelines was the result of a “deliberate act” of sabotage. Not long after a leak was first reported to be affecting the idle Nord Stream 2 pipeline on Tuesday morning, the Swedish government announced that two leaks had been detected on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The Danish Energy Agency expects the leaks from the pipelines, both full of gas, to last “at least a week.”
Deliberate sabotage was expected not long after the leaks were detected on Monday. Germany — who is the primary recipient of Russian-exported fuel via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — announced that sabotage was expected not long after the leaks. Nord Stream 1 had been operating at 20% capacity since July, and it was recently shut off entirely as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and subsequent E.U. sanctions on Russian energy.
Nord stream 2 was never completed, and the project was halted altogether just days before the Russian invasion.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson later confirmed that the damage was “deliberate” and not accidental in nature. Frederiksen told reporters that there was “no information yet to indicate who may be behind this action.”
When asked if the actions constituted an attack, Frederiksen said no, as the pipelines officially lay in international waters.
In addition, Swedish Prime Minister told reporters that intelligence from Sweden neighboring Denmark pointed in the same direction. “We have Swedish intelligence, but we have also received information in our contacts with Denmark, and based on this concluded that this is probably a deliberate act. It is probably a matter of sabotage,” Andersson said.
Like Frederiksen, Andersson said the actions did not constitute an attack, Deutsche Welle reported. “It is not a matter of an attack on Swedish or Danish territory. But that said, the government is taking what happened very seriously, not least in light of the current security situation on our close proximity,” she said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen later said it was “paramount to now investigate the incidents.”
“Any deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure is unacceptable and will lead to the strongest possible response,” von der Leyen wrote in a tweet.
Both nations, along with their continental allies, are still investigating the cause and timeline of Tuesday’s events.
Officials said a pressure drop was detected in the Nord Stream 1 undersea pipe soon after a similar dip was detected in its sister pipeline, Nord Stream 2. Both of Nord Stream 1’s two lines are affected, while one of Nord Stream 2’s pipelines showed a drop in pressure, Deutsche Welle reported.
The Danish government identified a leak southeast of the island of Bornholm as the likely factor behind Nord Stream 2’s issues. Officials warned of potential hazards to ships in the area and have asked vessels to steer clear for the time being.
Just hours later, Swedish officials detected two leaks affecting Nord Stream 1 — one in the Danish maritime economic zone and the other in Sweden’s. The two leaks were reported to be very close to one another.
Seismologists from Sweden’s National Seismology Center (SNSN) told public broadcaster SVT that powerful blasts were recorded in the area not long before the leaks were detected. “There is no doubt that these were explosions,” SNSN seismologist Bjorn Lund said.
While the Nord Stream pipelines were not operating at the time of the incidents, the issue is expected to exacerbate European energy woes. Both of the pipelines were built to carry natural gas from Russia to Europe, although the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was never activated. The German government opted not to certify its completion and later announced that the project would be indefinitely halted as a Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent in February.
Nord Stream 1 had been transporting fuel to Germany at 20% capacity until July, but Russian energy giant Gazprom eventually opted to halt the flow unless sanctions were lifted.
Like their E.U. counterparts in Sweden and Denmark, the German government strongly suspects sabotage. “Our imagination no longer allows for a scenario in which this is not a targeted attack,” a German intelligence official told the Berlin-based newspaper Tagesspiegel.
The Russian government has denied any responsibility for the disturbances and has called for an investigation. When asked if sabotage could have led to the leaks, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “no option can be ruled out right now,” according to a report from Reuters.
“This is a very concerning news. Indeed, we are talking about some damage of an unclear nature to the pipeline in Denmark’s economic zone,” Peskov said. “This is an issue related to the energy security of the entire continent.”
Ukraine blamed the leaks on Moscow and urged European allies to take further action. “The large-scale ‘gas leak’ from Nord Stream 1 is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU,” Ukraine’s presidential advisor Mikhaylo Podolyak wrote in a tweet. Podolyak further accused Russia of seeking to “destabilize the economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic.”