An inspection of two of the leaking Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe showed signs of sabotage and multiple “detonations”, Swedish authorities said on Thursday.
“We can conclude that there were explosions at Nord Stream 1 and 2 in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone which caused significant damage to the gas pipelines,” prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in a statement.
Ljungqvist added that “the crime scene investigation strengthened suspicions of aggravated sabotage.” He said they had seized material on site which he would now analyze.
Pictured: An aerial photo provided by the Swedish Coastguard on September 28, 2022 shows a gas leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. An inspection of two of the leaks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia with Europe has strengthened suspicions that these were acts of sabotage
“Evidence has been collected from the crime scene and it will now be examined,” the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor did not release details, citing the confidentiality of the investigation and saying “the matter is very sensitive”.
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 in the Swedish exclusive economic zone, and the other two in the Danish zone.
As Vladimir Putin continues to weaponize Russia’s control over the gas industry to pressure Western countries to ease sanctions imposed after his invasion of Ukraine, many have accused Moscow of being in the dark. origin of sabotage. The Kremlin maintained that it was not responsible for the damage and instead blamed the United States
Initially it was assumed that they were accidental, but opinions quickly changed, with several governments stating that four separate leaks occurring almost simultaneously were beyond chance.
The governments of Denmark and Sweden have previously said they suspect several hundred pounds of explosives were involved in carrying out a deliberate act of sabotage. Nord Stream 1 and 2 leaks released large amounts of methane into the air.
On Monday, the Swedish prosecutor’s office said it was blocking off the area around the leaks in the Swedish area in order to carry out an inspection of the scene.
The authority said on Thursday the restrictions were lifted after the inspection was completed.
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 in the Swedish exclusive economic zone, and the other two in the Danish one
Pipes from the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which are not in use, are seen in the port of Mukran, Germany, September 30, 2022
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, have been at the center of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe in alleged retaliation for Western sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine via Moscow.
Although the pipelines are not currently in service, they both still contained gas before they fell victim to apparent sabotage.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia had been informed through diplomatic channels that there were no plans to invite Moscow to join an investigation into the gas leaks from the North. Stream.
This week, Nord Stream operators said they were unable to inspect the damaged sections due to restrictions imposed by Danish and Swedish authorities who cordon off the area of leaks that occurred in their exclusive economic zones.
“We have been informed through diplomatic channels that at present there are no plans to ask the Russian side to join the investigations,” Peskov said, adding that Russia had replied that it did not. t was not possible to conduct an objective investigation without the participation of Moscow.
As Vladimir Putin continues to weaponize Russia’s control over the gas industry to pressure Western countries to ease sanctions imposed after his invasion of Ukraine, many have accused Moscow of being in the dark. origin of sabotage.
On Tuesday, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said the area of the Nord Stream gas leaks was “a Swedish crime scene investigation and Denmark is running a Danish crime scene”.
‘That’s the basic question. We generally do not involve foreign powers in our criminal investigations. This is the basic approach. It’s 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 “thorough and open investigation” including Russian officials and Gazprom.
“Not allowing the owner to investigate means there is something to hide from him,” Zakharova said.
While it may not be in Russia’s long-term economic interest to destroy one of its major potential sources of revenue – the pipelines supplying gas to Europe – this destructive act could create a economic panic in Europe in the short term.
The leaks were expected to last several days and raised concerns about environmental damage. They caused the price of natural resources to soar – a possible Russian motivation for sabotage.