An inspection of two of the leaks at the Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe has shown signs of sabotage and multiple ‘detonations’, Swedish authorities said Thursday.
‘We can conclude that there have been detonations at Nord Stream 1 and 2 in the Swedish exclusive economic zone that has led to extensive damage to the gas pipelines,’ public prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in a statement.
Ljungqvist added that the ‘crime scene investigation had strengthened the suspicions of aggravated sabotage.’ He said they had seized some material on site that it would now analyse.
Pictured: An aerial photo provided by the Swedish Coast Guard on Sept. 28, 2022 shows a gas leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. An inspection of two of the leaks at the Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe has reinforced suspicions that they were acts of sabotage
‘Pieces of evidence have been gathered at the crime scene and these will now be examined,’ the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor did not disclose details, citing the confidentiality of the investigation and stating that ‘the issue is very sensitive.’
All of the four leaks, which were discovered on Monday last week, are in the Baltic Sea off the Danish island of Bornholm. Two of the leaks were located in the Swedish exclusive economic zone, and the two others in the Danish one.
As Vladimir Putin continues to weaponize Russia’s control over the gas industry to put pressure on western nations to ease sanctions imposed after his invasion of Ukraine, many have accused Moscow of being behind the sabotage. The Kremlin has maintained it was not behind the damage, and has instead blamed the U.S
Initially they were assumed to have been accidental, but opinions rapidly changed with several governments stating that four separate leaks happening almost simultaneously was beyond coincidence.
The governments of Denmark and Sweden previously said they suspected that several hundred pounds of explosives were involved in carrying out a deliberate act of sabotage. The leaks from Nord Stream 1 and 2 discharged large amounts of methane into the air.
On Monday, Sweden’s Prosecution authority said it was blocking off the area around the leaks in the Swedish zone in order to carry out an inspection of the scene.
The authority said Thursday that the restrictions had been lifted following the completion of the inspection.
All of the four leaks, which were discovered on Monday last week, are in the Baltic Sea off the Danish island of Bornholm. Two of the leaks were located in the Swedish exclusive economic zone, and the two others in the Danish one
Pipes for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which are not used, are seen in the harbour of Mukran, Germany, on September 30, 2022
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
While the pipelines are not currently in operation, they both still contained gas before they fell victim to apparent sabotage.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia was informed via diplomatic channels that there were no plans to invite Moscow to join an investigation into Nord Stream gas leaks.
This week, the Nord Stream operators said they were unable to inspect the damaged sections because of restrictions imposed by Danish and Swedish authorities who are cordoning off the area of the leaks that occurred in their exclusive economic zones.
‘We were informed via diplomatic channels that as of now, there are no plans to ask the Russian side to join investigations,’ Peskov said, adding that Russia replied it was not possible to conduct an objective investigation without Moscow’s participation.
As Vladimir Putin continues to weaponize Russia’s control over the gas industry to put pressure on western nations to ease sanctions imposed after his invasion of Ukraine, many have accused Moscow of being behind the sabotage
On Tuesday, Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said that the area of the Nord Stream gas leaks was ‘a Swedish crime scene investigation and Denmark runs a Danish crime scene’.
‘That’s the basic matter. We don’t usually involve foreign powers in our criminal investigations. That’s the basic approach. It is not up for discussion,’ he told a briefing.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said separately on Thursday that Moscow would insist on a ‘comprehensive and open investigation’ that includes Russian officials and Gazprom.
‘Not to allow the owner to the investigating means there is something to hide from him,’ Zakharova said.
While it may not be in Russia’s long-term economic interests to destroy one of its key potential money earners – pipelines supplying gas to Europe – the destructive act could create economic panic in Europe in the short term.
The leaks, were expected to last several days, and raised concerns over environmental damage. They caused a spike in the price of natural resources – a possible Russian motivation for sabotage.