Leaks in major pipelines built to carry natural gas from Russia to Western Europe have sparked investigations and accusations that sabotage might be at work.
The pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and 2, are supposed to carry the fuel through the Baltic Sea. The flow through Nord Stream 1 was halted for maintenance in early September but has never resumed.
Nord Stream 2 has never gone online because of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
But now both projects are being plagued by “unprecedented” leaks and now European authorities are looking into whether foul play might have been involved.
The Nord Stream 2 leak was found on Monday, according to CBS News.
On Tuesday the Swedish Maritime Administration announced that two leaks were found in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, CBS reported.
Meanwhile, Nord Stream 2, completed in September 2021, never had the chance to officially open for operation after German authorities put a temporary hold on certifying it in November amid Russian threats to Ukraine, according to CNBC.
In February, after Russia recognized the independence of two territories in eastern Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz halted certification completely, CNBC reported.
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Denmark’s prime minister, Premier Mette Frederiksen, said that she “cannot rule out” sabotage as a possible contribution to these leaks, the Danish-language news outlet Politiken reported.
“It is hard to imagine that it is accidental. We cannot rule out sabotage, but it is too early to conclude,” Frederiksen told Politiken, according to the eurobserver, an online news outlet based in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed Russia outright.
Podolyak tweeted that the “‘[g]as leak’ from NS-1 is nothing more that a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards EU. wants to destabilize economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic.”
“Gas leak” from NS-1 is nothing more that a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards EU. 🇷🇺 wants to destabilize economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic. The best response and security investment — tanks for 🇺🇦. Especially German ones…
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) September 27, 2022
But Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said the Russian government was very concerned about the pipeline leaks, according to The Washington Post.
“This is very alarming information, there is some damage in the pipe in the Danish economic zone, it is not yet clear what kind. The pressure has dropped considerably. This is an unprecedented situation that needs to be dealt with urgently,” Peskov said, the Post reported.
Disclose TV also tweeted an update showing that the area affected by the leak in Nord Stream 2 was already over 1 kilometer — or about a half-mile — wide.
“UPDATE – The surface area of the largest Nord Stream gas leak shows a “disturbance” of well over 1 kilometer in diameter, according to the Danish armed forces,” the tweet read.
UPDATE – The surface area of the largest Nord Stream gas leak shows a “disturbance” of well over 1 kilometer in diameter, according to the Danish armed forces. pic.twitter.com/u0r4cGjImo
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) September 27, 2022
Both Danish and Swedish authorities warned that if ships sailed into the affected areas they could be damaged, or even cause ignition of the leaked fuel, CBS News reported.
Meanwhile, the question of sabotage remains.
While Europe is looking at Moscow as a possible culprit, Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, also complained over the summer that international sanctions on Russia were prohibiting it from doing important maintenance on the pipeline, CNBC reported.
Nord Stream AG, the company that built and operated the pipelines, called the leaks “unprecedented.”
“The damage that occurred in one day simultaneously at three lines of offshore pipelines of the Nord Stream system are unprecedented,” Nord Stream AG said in a statement that was issued to Russian news agencies and reported by The Washington Post.
The Nord Stream pipelines have become the center of the energy battle between Russia and Europe.
European nations condemned and sanctioned Russia for its war on Ukraine but were also largely dependent on Russia’s gas and energy supply, particularly through the Nord Stream pipeline.
As tensions between Europe and Russia escalated, not only did Germany shutter Nord Stream 2, but on Russia’s end, Gazprom announced during the summer that there would be some stoppage in the flow of gas from Russia to Europe.
Gazprom said that necessary maintenance was the cause of these interruptions, but some analysts evaluated that it was also Russia’s way of pressuring Europe to reverse sanctions, CNBC reported.
Then the flow of gas stopped completely in Nord Stream 1.
This has left Europe scrambling to find energy supplies as winter approaches.
“A drop in Russian gas supplies has caused energy prices to soar, causing pain for many across Europe, creating fears about the coming winter and putting pressure on governments to help ease the pain of sky-high bills of their citizens,” CBS reported.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has even accused Russia of using energy as “blackmail,” according to The Washington Post.
Russia did not respond to a CNBC request for comment, the network reported.