Gas leak in Russian pipeline to Europe sparks sabotage probe

  • Polish PM accuses vandalism, but cites no evidence
  • Russia says leak threatens European energy security
  • Picture shows bubbles churning the sea
  • Operators call disruption to Nord Stream 1 ‘unprecedented’
  • Russian gas crisis sends prices soaring

STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Europe is investigating a major leak in two Russian pipelines that dumped gas into the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, as infrastructure at the center of Sweden’s energy standoff could be damaged A preliminary investigation was carried out.

But it is unclear who may be behind the multibillion-dollar construction of the Nord Stream pipeline by Russian and European partners, if confirmed.

“We have established a report that the crime classification is severely disrupted,” a spokesman for the Swedish National Police said.

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Poland’s prime minister blamed the leaks on sabotage, but did not cite evidence. The Danish Prime Minister said it could not be ruled out.

Russia has slashed gas supplies to Europe following Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and Russia has also signaled the potential for sabotage, with leaks undermining the continent’s energy security.

Meanwhile, a senior Ukrainian official said the incident was a Russian attack to destabilize Europe, but offered no evidence.

“We see clearly that this is an act of sabotage related to the next escalation of the situation in Ukraine,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the opening of the new pipeline between Norway and Poland.

Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden recorded a powerful explosion near the spill on Monday, Sweden’s National Seismological Center told public broadcaster SVT. The German geological research center GFZ also said that a seismometer on the Danish island of Bornholm recorded two peaks on Monday.

The Nord Stream pipeline has been a flashpoint in an escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow that has hurt major Western economies, sent gas prices soaring and sparked a hunt for alternative supplies.

The Danish Armed Forces released a video on Tuesday showing bubbles boiling to the surface. The Armed Forces said the largest gas leak caused a surface disturbance more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in more

The Swedish Maritime Administration issued a warning about two leaks from the nearby Nord Stream 1 pipeline a day after the leak was discovered in the nearby Nord Stream 1 pipeline, prompting Denmark to restrict shipping and impose a small no-fly zone.

European leaders and Moscow say they cannot rule out sabotage. Nord Stream pipeline maps and reported leak locations

“Explosion Risk”

The head of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Bottzauw, said the leak was so large that it could take a week for natural gas to stop flowing from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

If boats enter the area, they may lose their buoyancy.

“The sea is full of methane, which means there is an increased risk of explosions in the area,” Bottzauw said.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said sabotage could not be ruled out. “We’re talking about three leaks, and there’s some distance between them, which is why it’s hard to imagine it’s a coincidence,” she said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it “very worrying news. In fact, we are talking about some unspecified damage to pipelines in the Danish economic zone.” He said it affected Africa Continental energy security.

Neither pipeline was delivering gas to Europe when the leak was discovered amid the Ukrainian war controversy, but the events would undermine any remaining expectations that Europe could get gas via Nord Stream 1 by winter.

Operator Nord Stream said the damage was “unprecedented”.

Both pipelines contain natural gas, although neither is running.

The Kremlin-controlled Gazprom (GAZP.MM), which has a monopoly on Russia’s pipeline gas exports, declined to comment.

“There are some signs of sabotage,” a European security source said, adding that it was too early to draw conclusions. “You have to ask: Who will benefit?”

cutting supplies

Russia reduced gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before suspending it entirely in August, blaming Western sanctions for causing technical difficulties. European politicians say this is an excuse to stop gas supplies.

The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline has not yet entered commercial operation. Plans to use it to supply gas were canceled by Germany just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February, in what Moscow called a “special military operation.”

“Multiple undersea leaks mean that, regardless of the political developments of the war in Ukraine, it is unlikely that either pipeline will deliver any gas to the EU in the coming winter,” Eurasia Group wrote in a report.

European gas prices rose on the news, with benchmark Dutch prices for October rising nearly 10% on Tuesday. Prices are still below this year’s peak, but still more than 200% higher than in early September 2021.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) on Monday urged oil companies to be on alert for unidentified drones flying near oil and gas platforms offshore Norway, warning of possible attacks.

The Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) said there were two leaks from Nord Stream 1, one in the Swedish economic zone and the other in the Danish zone, northeast of Bornholm, Denmark.

An SMA spokesman said: “We are closely monitoring to ensure that no vessel has come too close to the scene.”

Danish authorities have called for an increased level of preparedness in the Danish electricity and gas sector following a spill, which requires enhanced safety procedures for electrical installations and facilities.

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Reporting at Reuters bureau; Writing by Matthias Williams, Jan Harvey and Alexander Smith; Editing by Edmund Blair and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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