The Times: Russia may have bombed Nord Stream pipeline with underwater drone, weeks of preparations

The European Union and NATO have described the large explosions in the Baltic Sea as a “deliberate act of sabotage”, while Poland and Ukraine have named Russia as the culprit, although the investigation continues.

Concrete and steel pipelines were damaged by underwater explosions the size of a small earthquake, causing three major gas leaks east of the Danish island of Bornholm. The explosions occurred in international waters, just outside the territories of Denmark and Norway, and the shock waves were recorded even more than 1,200 km away.

The most likely scenario, according to a UK source, is that Russia secretly delivered an autonomous underwater vehicle with cargo to separate locations on pipelines built to transport Russian natural gas to Europe.

According to the source, the underwater vehicle may have been launched from a small vessel, such as a fishing boat, several months ago, and then the explosive devices were dropped near the pipeline.

“They could have been standing there for months waiting to be given the command to blow themselves up,” the source said. The device could then be primed, they said, possibly using a noise source of a certain frequency that could be dropped into the water at a time of Russia’s choosing.

Bjorn Lund, a member of the Swedish Seismic Research Network, told state broadcaster SVT that he believed more than 100kg of dynamite or TNT would be needed to trigger such large explosions.

The severe damage to both pipelines has resulted in gas flowing into the Baltic Sea, dashing any remaining hopes that Nord Stream 1 could start operating this winter, and both pipelines could be out of action indefinitely.

Cover Images/Scanpix photo/Nord Stream gas leak

“If it’s them [rusai], I think they unleashed a hogwash. Russia has absolutely no influence on the West, except for this one gift – gas,” the source added.

But the Kremlin today insisted it was “stupid and absurd” to blame Russia after Ukraine condemned Moscow’s “terrorist attack”.

“It’s quite predictable and also predictably stupid to give voice to such narratives – predictably stupid and absurd,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, told reporters.

D. Peskov added that the gas leakage and damage to the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines, which cost 21 billion pounds sterling and are the only direct routes for Russian gas exports to Germany, would be “quite problematic” for Moscow.

Scanpix/AP Photo/Nord Stream 1

“Both branches were filled with gas, ready to be pumped, and this gas is very expensive. Now this gas disappears into the air,” D. Peskov said.

“I want to urge everyone to think before making any statements, to wait for the results of the investigation,” he added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said late on Tuesday that the gas leak was the result of sabotage and warned of the “strongest possible response” if Europe’s active energy infrastructure was attacked.

Denmark’s defense minister said Wednesday after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels that there is reason to worry about broader security in the Baltic region.

“Despite military efforts in Ukraine, Russia has a large military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect it to continue sabotage,” Morten Bodskov said in a statement.

He added that it could take a week or more for the gas leak to subside and the seas to calm enough to fully investigate the cause.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not directly blame Russia, but said that “no one would be interested” in sabotaging the Nord Stream lines.

The pipelines are surrounded by a 27-41 mm thick steel casing, followed by a 60-110 mm thick concrete cover. It would take a large explosive to penetrate them, analysts said.


AFP/ “Scanpix” photo/Gas drain

But military experts have ruled out the use of conventional submarines, saying the waters of the Baltic Sea are not deep enough to deploy large submarines with specialized reconnaissance capabilities.

HISutton, an independent defense analyst, also questioned the idea that the Russians could have used submarines from the General Directorate of Deep Sea Research, known by its Russian acronym GUGI. GUGI is responsible for the deployment of specialized submarines capable of carrying deep-sea apparatus used for covert missions on the seabed.

“They could damage the pipe in the Baltic Sea. But it looks incredible,” HISutton said on Twitter.

He said that Russia’s relevant capabilities may involve divers and underwater drones, rather than “sophisticated submarines”. But none of these options would be easy.

Tom Sharp, who spent 25 years in the Royal Navy and commanded four warships, said using a fishing boat to deploy a drone would be a “very clever” way to carry out covert sabotage.

“It could have been done a long time ago and they were just waiting for the right time.” [jį susprogdinti]”, he said.

German security services fear that the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will become permanently unusable after major leaks from Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 into the Baltic Sea, German newspaper Tagesspiegel reported, citing government sources.
If the leaks in both lines of Nord Stream 1 are not fixed soon, large amounts of salt water will enter the pipelines and cause corrosion, the newspaper quoted the sources as saying.

The first signs of the leak appeared early Monday morning, when Swedish seismographs recorded shocks of magnitude 2.3. Ships east of Bornholm noticed bubbles rising in the sea.

German news website Der Spiegel reported late Tuesday that the CIA warned Germany of a possible Russian attack on the pipelines in the summer. Separately, British military commanders have warned for several years that Russia could try to disrupt submarine communications cables.

Security and defense analyst Professor Michael Clarke said that if Russia was behind it, the explosions could represent an escalation of Moscow’s conflict in Ukraine.

“This is not a random act of terrorism, it has to be governments.” [darbas], he said. – Privately, everyone is convinced that this is sabotage inspired by the Kremlin… This opens a new war front. This means that the war in Ukraine is now moving to the Baltic countries.”

Gas prices rose further last night on growing fears that Russia may be preparing to cut one of its two last functioning pipeline links to Europe through Ukraine, as Gazprom escalated its dispute with Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz.

Professor M. Clarke said that while the Russians may want to “create a sense of insecurity” and put pressure on gas supplies, “this is a strategic self-interest because, while it increases the sense of isolation that there will be no Russian gas coming to Europe this winter, in reality it completely destroys Russia’s credibility in the eyes of European consumers for the next couple of generations.”

The article is in Lithuanian

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