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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.

Nord stream leak site
One of the Nord Stream leak sites photographed by the Swedish coast guard. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

“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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COVID-19

Sweden introduces testing requirement for travellers from China

Sweden's health minister Jakob Forssmed and head of department at the Public Health Agency Sara Byfors on Thursday announced a negative test requirement for travellers arriving in Sweden from China, in effect from January 7th.

Sweden introduces testing requirement for travellers from China

Citing a high level of Covid-19 infection in China and reduced restrictions in the country, Jakob Forssmed announced that the Swedish government has made the decision to introduce temporary travel restrictions for travellers to Sweden from China, which will apply to so-called “third country citizens”, (i.e. non-Swedish, non-EU citizens), upon arrival.

“This morning, the Swedish government has made the decision to introduce temporary travel restrictions upon entry to Sweden from China,” he said.

“This is being done, among other things, to lower the risk of a new variant of the virus causing Covid-19 entering Sweden or spreading to other countries. This decision is based on the proposal recently submitted to the government by the Public Health Agency,” he said.

Forssmed also said that the test requirement is intended to reduce strain on Swedish healthcare by delaying the introduction of a potential new variant to Sweden.

He stated that travel restrictions will apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals arriving in Sweden from China, as well as adults and children over the age of 12.

“Travel restrictions do not apply to Swedish citizens,” he added, “and there are some other exemptions, such as people with residency permits in Sweden, people with long-term EU residency, and other EU/EES citizens.”

The test requirement will come into force on January 7th and will apply for three weeks.

“This means that [restrictions] will apply at the time of the next flight from China,” he said.

Finally, Forssmed encouraged the public to help limit the spread of infection.

“I would like to underline the importance us all helping each other to limit the spread of infection by following the advice and recommendations on Covid-19 which are in place. That means: show consideration, stay at home if you have symptoms or are unwell, and get vaccinated,” he said.

Byfors, head of department at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, said that a temporary test requirement is a “possible relevant measure in the current situation,” adding that the Agency is “well aware” that travel restrictions “cannot stop the spread of a new variant of the virus, as shown throughout the pandemic”.

“However, a coordinated EU response could potentially delay the introduction of a new variant of the virus, and even a slight delay is valuable in the difficult situation healthcare is under currently and has been under for a long time,” she added.

She said that the epidemiological situation in China is “difficult to assess”, with “very limited information” on which variants of the virus are present in the country compared to elsewhere in the world.

“The data we have suggest that it is the same variants of the virus that we have here, but we can also still see that we need more information.”

She added that, despite a high level of infection in Sweden, the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine has limited the impact of this on Swedish healthcare.

“However, healthcare is highly strained, not least due to the strain of RS-virus, influenza and Covid-19, and we believe this will continue throughout the winter.”

Byfors added that the Agency is also looking at the effects the Covid-19 situation in China could potentially have on Sweden and will issue a report next Wednesday.

She also echoed Forssmed’s statement to follow current advice and recommendation regarding the virus.

“Vaccinate yourself according to the current recommendations. Vaccinations are still the best way to protect yourself against the risk of serious illness,” she said.

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