2 Blasts Were Detected Before Baltic Pipeline Leaks

Authorities say it was sabotage, but it's not clear who was behind it
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 27, 2022 5:33 PM CDT
Leaders Blame Sabotage for Baltic Pipeline Leaks
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, left, Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, center, and President of Poland Andrzej Duda, right, take part in an opening ceremony of the Baltic Pipe in Budno, Poland, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.   (AP Photo)

Denmark said Tuesday it believed "deliberate actions" by unknown perpetrators were behind big leaks, which seismologists said followed powerful explosions, in two natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage amid the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine, the AP reports. Although filled with gas, neither pipeline is currently supplying it to Europe. "It is the authorities’ clear assessment that these are deliberate actions—not accidents," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. But she added that "there is no information indicating who could be behind it."

The incident overshadowed the inauguration of a long-awaited pipeline that will bring Norwegian gas to Poland to bolster the continent’s energy independence from Moscow. The first explosion was recorded early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, said Bjorn Lund, director of the Swedish National Seismic Network. A second, stronger blast northeast of the island that night was equivalent to a magnitude-2.3 earthquake. Seismic stations in Denmark, Norway, and Finland also registered the explosions. "There's no doubt, this is not an earthquake," Lund said. On Wednesday, Danish defense minister Morten Bødskov will travel to Brussels to discuss the leaks with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the events “an act of sabotage." During a ceremony in northwestern Poland, Morawiecki, Denmark's Frederiksen and Polish President Andrzej Duda symbolically opened the valve of a yellow pipe belonging to the Baltic Pipe, a new system sending Norwegian gas across Denmark to Poland. "The era of Russian domination in the gas sphere is coming to an end," Morawiecki declared. "An era that was marked by blackmail, threats, and extortion." No official presented evidence of what caused the leaks, but with distrust of Russia running high, some feared Moscow sabotaged its own infrastructure out of spite or to warn that pipelines are vulnerable to attack.

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The leaks raised the stakes on whether energy infrastructure was being targeted and led to a small bump in natural gas prices. Anders Puck Nielsen, a researcher with the Center for Maritime Operations at the Royal Danish Defence College, said the timing of the leaks was "conspicuous" given the ceremony for the Baltic Pipe. He said perhaps someone sought "to send a signal that something could happen to the Norwegian gas." The extent of the damage means the Nord Stream pipelines are unlikely to be able to carry any gas to Europe this winter even if there was political will to bring them online, analysts at the Eurasia Group said.

(More pipelines stories.)

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