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NORD STREAM

Russia says it should be part of Nord Stream leaks probe

Moscow said on Wednesday it should be part of the probe into leaks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, after Sweden blocked off the area around the pipelines pending an investigation.

Russia says it should be part of Nord Stream leaks probe
(FILES) This file photo taken on February 23, 2021 shows pipes for the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline stacked at Houstrup Strand, near Noerre Nebel, Jutland, Denmark. Photo: John Randeris Hansen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP

“There should really be an investigation. Naturally, with the participation of Russia,” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin said, as quoted by Russian news agencies.

Four leaks were discovered last week on the Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russia to Germany, raising political tensions already sky high since the Kremlin sent troop to Ukraine in February.

On Friday, the UN Security Council held a meeting on the issue. Vershinin told the assembly that “the general opinion was that this was sabotage and that it should be investigated” but that “no decision had been made” on an international probe.

Last Wednesday, Russia launched an “international terrorism” investigation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such a probe “required the cooperation of several countries”.

He denounced an “acute shortage of communications and unwillingness of many countries to contact” Russia.

On Monday, Sweden blocked off the area around the pipeline leaks in the Baltic Sea while the suspected sabotage was being investigated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of being behind the blasts.

Russia’s Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev said Wednesday that “it is clear that the United States is the beneficiary, primarily economic” of the leaks.

Both Moscow and Washington have denied involvement.

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NORD STREAM

Swedish prosecutor confirms Nord Stream pipeline sabotage

Swedish officials confirmed Friday that the September blasts which destroyed sections of the Nord Stream pipelines carrying gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea were acts of sabotage.

Swedish prosecutor confirms Nord Stream pipeline sabotage

“The analyses conducted found traces of explosives on several foreign objects” found at the sites of the blasts, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, who is leading the preliminary investigation, said in a statement.

Ljungqvist added that technical analyses were continuing in order to “draw more reliable conclusions regarding the incident.”

Sweden’s Prosecution Authority said that the “continued investigation will show if anyone can be formally suspected of a crime.”

The four underwater explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea in September this year were caused by a force corresponding to hundreds of kilograms of explosives, a Danish-Swedish report has previously concluded.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Four large gas leaks were discovered on Nord Stream’s two pipelines off the Danish island of Bornholm at the end of September, with seismic institutes recording two underwater explosions just prior.

Investigators had already said preliminary inspections had reinforced suspicions of sabotage.

Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States, have traded bitter barbs over who is responsible for the blasts.

“The analyses conducted found traces of explosives on several foreign objects” at the sites of the blasts, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, who is leading the preliminary investigation, said in a statement on Friday.

Ljungqvist added technical analyses were continuing in order to “draw more reliable conclusions regarding the incident”.

Sweden’s prosecution authority said the “continued investigation will show if anyone can be formally suspected of a crime”.

The Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) — which is conducting the investigation under the prosecutors’ leadership — confirmed the findings in a separate statement but both authorities declined to comment further.

The closely watched investigation has also been supported by Sweden’s coast guard, the Swedish armed forces and the police.

Trading blame

While the leaks were in international waters, two of them were in the Danish exclusive economic zone and two in Sweden’s.

At the end of October, Nord Stream sent a Russian-flagged civilian vessel to inspect the damage in the Swedish zone.

The same week the prosecution authority announced it was conducting a second probe of the damage to complement the first done in early October.

In early November, the operator said roughly 250 metres (820 feet) of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline had been destroyed and that craters with a depth of three to five metres had been found on the seabed.

Although the pipelines were not in operation when the leaks occurred, they both still contained gas which spewed up through the water and into the atmosphere.

Moscow has accused Western countries of being behind the explosions of the pipelines, but has not provided any firm proof.

In early November, the Kremlin accused Britain of “directing and coordinating” the explosions.

The accusation was rejected as “distractions which are part of the Russian playbook” by a spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Ukraine and some Western countries have meanwhile pointed the finger at Russia.

In mid-October, Russia said it was ready to resume deliveries of gas through the parts of the pipeline not affected by the leaks, with President Vladimir Putin saying “the ball was in the EU’s court”.

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