Nord Stream: A 4th leak, NATO denounces “irresponsible” sabotage

STOCKHOLM: A fourth leak was revealed Thursday on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, targeted according to NATO by “irresponsible” acts of sabotage, Moscow hiding behind the need for an “investigation.

During a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Russian president “gave his point of view on this unprecedented act of sabotage, in reality an act of international terrorism”, affirmed in the evening the Kremlin in a communicated.

The damage caused to these strategic installations between Russia and Germany, against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine and tensions between Russia and the West, must be the focus of a meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday in New York, claimed on Wednesday precisely by Russia, at the very moment when it was the subject of all suspicions.

Without waiting, NATO on Thursday denounced “deliberate and irresponsible” sabotage, and revealed its suspicions by asserting its desire to defend itself against any “hybrid” attack using the “lever of energy”.

Russia, which insisted on Wednesday the hostility displayed by the United States to Nord Stream, observed that the sabotage presupposed “the involvement of a State”, and affirmed that it wanted an “urgent investigation”.

The fourth leak, in the Swedish area, revealed by the Swedish coastguard, adds to the three already known in this part of the Baltic, two on the Danish side and one on the Swedish side, which cause significant boiling on the surface.

Following suspicious explosions on Monday, the leaks are in international waters off the Danish island of Bornholm but within the respective exclusive economic zones of the two Scandinavian countries.

The Swedish coastguard could not immediately clarify why the reporting of this new leak was late, but they did say that the two leaks on the Swedish side were located “in close proximity” to each other. .

However, they were unable to confirm reports from Swedish media that this new leak was located above the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

“Hybrid” war

NATO denounced “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible” acts of sabotage, and assured that the Atlantic Alliance would defend itself “against the use, for coercive purposes, of the lever of energy or any other hybrid process by state or non-state actors.

Formulations that can be considered as implicit accusations against Russia, accused since the beginning of the war in Ukraine of seeking to use Europe’s dependence on its gas supplies.

Moscow on Wednesday challenged “stupid and absurd” allegations of its responsibility, and implicitly accused the United States by asking for “answers” from US President Joe Biden on his country’s involvement, referring to his statements hostile to the gas pipeline.

The White House retorted that it was “ridiculous” to insinuate that the United States could have committed these sabotages, and denounced a Russian “disinformation” operation.

In the immediate future, following Germany and Norway in particular, Sweden and Finland announced Thursday to strengthen the surveillance of their strategic installations.

Increased vigilance

Particular attention is paid to the Finnish electricity grid, said the country’s finance minister, Annika Saarikko.

In Sweden, it is the two main nuclear power plants in the country, located in Forsmark (center-east) and Ringhals (south-west), which have gone into “increased vigilance” regime.

The Security Council meeting, chaired by France, will be held on Friday at Russia’s request, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said.

Sweden and Denmark have been tasked with briefing council members on the leaks in their exclusive economic zones, she said.

According to the Danish authorities, more than half of the gas contained in the two gas pipelines has already escaped into the atmosphere with these leaks, and the rest could be gone by Sunday.

The two gas pipelines, long at the center of geopolitical tensions aggravated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are operated by a consortium combining the Russian giant Gazprom with Western groups, including Germany’s Wintershall and E.ON and France’s Engie.

The gas pipelines are not operational due to the war in Ukraine, but both were filled with gas.

The vast leaks cause significant marine bubbling several hundred meters wide on the surface.

The consortium said in a statement on Thursday evening that it could “begin to assess the damage caused to the gas pipeline as soon as it has received the necessary official authorizations”, i.e. “when the pressure in the gas pipeline has stabilized and the gas leak will have ceased”.

“Until the damage assessment is complete, it is not possible to predict the timeline for infrastructure restoration,” continued Nord Stream, headquartered in Switzerland.

Nord Stream 2, completed in 2021, was originally intended to double the capacity to import Russian gas into Germany. Its commissioning was suspended in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Nord Stream: A 4th leak, NATO denounces “irresponsible” sabotage