Moscow says it is “extremely concerned” about recent damage sustained by the two Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia and Europe in the Baltic Sea.
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines were hit by unexplained leaks on Monday. The Nord Stream 1 leaks were first spotted on Monday evening, hours after a drop in pressure was reported in Nord Stream 2, according to the Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA).
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that pressure in the gas pipeline had dropped significantly as a result of the three leaks.
“Yesterday, information appeared both from Gazprom and from the operating company,” Peskov said.
He said, “This is very disturbing news. Indeed, we are talking about some destruction to the pipeline, it is not yet clear what kind.”
“This is a completely unprecedented situation that requires urgent investigation. We are extremely concerned about this news,” Peskov added.
The damage to the 1,200-kilometer Nord Stream pipeline took place in the Danish economic zone.
The pipelines, operated by Russian gas giant Gazprom, are not currently in operation, but they both still contain gas.
According to reports, environmental impact appeared to have been limited so far.
The Eurasia Group said the pipelines “are designed to avert accidental damage,” pointing out that they consisted of concrete-coated thick steel pipes that lie on the seabed.
“Given both lines were still pressured and each has the capacity to pipe around 165mn cubic meters of methane-heavy gas per day, leaks of this size are a severe safety and environmental hazard,” said Henning Gloystein, at the group.
Nord Stream, the pipelines’ Swiss-based operator, however, said the incidents were “unprecedented,” but suggested most of the leaking methane would dissolve in the water.
Gazprom progressively reduced the volumes of gas being delivered via Nord Stream 1 until it shut the pipeline completely at the end of August, blaming Western sanctions for the delay of necessary repairs to the pipeline.
The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline had yet to enter commercial operations, but it contained gas under pressure.
Europe to investigate ‘possible sabotage’
Europe, which has been experiencing a worsening energy crisis, has signaled that suspicious leaks on the pipelines are highly likely to be the result of sabotage.
“It is too early to conclude yet, but it is an extraordinary situation,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
“There are three leaks, and therefore it is difficult to imagine that it could be accidental,” she added.
German officials also said there was concern in Berlin the sudden loss of pressure in both pipelines could be the result of a “targeted attack” on Europe’s gas infrastructure.
German daily Tagesspiegel reported that “the Nord Stream pipelines may have been damaged by targeted attacks and leaked as a result.” According to a source close to the government and relevant authorities quoted in the newspaper, “everything speaks against a coincidence.”
“We cannot imagine a scenario that is not a targeted attack,” the source said.
Germany has previously accused Russia of wielding energy as a weapon amid tensions over the war in Ukraine. Russia denies the accusations and blames the West for gas shortages in Europe.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also said, that, “We see clearly that it’s an act of sabotage, related to the next step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine.”
Kremlin’s spokesman did not rule out an act of sabotage, saying, “What the cause was — before the results of the investigation appear, no version can be excluded.”
Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia in late February, has long opposed the Nord Stream pipelines, arguing they were designed to weaken its position as one of the main conduits for Russian gas into Europe.
According to Eurasia Group, “The multiple undersea leaks mean neither pipeline will likely deliver any gas to the EU over the coming winter, irrespective of political developments in the Ukraine war.”
“Depending on the scale of the damage, the leaks could even mean a permanent closure of both lines.”
Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘terrorist attack’
Kiev accused Moscow of carrying out a “terrorist attack” on the gas pipelines.
“The large-scale ‘gas leak’ from Nord Stream 1 is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhaylo Podolyak said on Twitter.
Podolyak accused Russia of seeking to “destabilize the economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic.”
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