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The Guardian: Damage to the gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia could not have been an accident

10-10-2023 |

Extensive damage to an undersea gas pipeline and communications cable connecting Finland and Estonia “could not have occurred by accident” and appears to be the result of a “deliberate … external act”, Finnish authorities have said.

“It is likely that the damage to both the gas pipeline and the communication cable is the result of external activity,” the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, said on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday, adding that the cause of the damage was not yet clear.

Local media cited unnamed government sources as saying Russian sabotage was suspected, while regional security experts said a Russian survey vessel had recently been observed making repeated visits to the vicinity of the Balticconnector pipeline.

Petteri Orpo, the Finnish prime minister, told a press conference in Helsinki that a preliminary assessment suggested that “the observed damage could not have been caused by normal use of the pipeline or by pressure fluctuations”.

Asked directly about the likelihood of Russian involvement, Orpo said he did not want to speculate on potential perpetrators before the investigation was complete. “It’s important … not to jump to conclusions at this stage,” he said.

Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the transatlantic military alliance was “ready to share information about the destruction of Finnish and Estonian underwater infrastructure” and to “support its allies”.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, condemned the attack, saying: “Our pipelines and underwater cables connect citizens and companies across Europe and to the rest of the world. They are lifelines of financial markets and global trade.”

Timo Kilpeläinen, of the Finnish national bureau of investigation, told reporters that the extent of the damage, in Finland’s exclusive economic area, meant “it could not have occurred by accident. The size category is such that it is a deliberate act”.

The incident happened just over a year after a series of underwater blasts burst three of the four pipelines that make up Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 – a major conduit for Russian fossil gas exports to western Europe – spewing gas into the Baltic Sea.

Because the leaks occurred in their exclusive economic zones, Denmark and Sweden opened investigations into the attack, as did Germany. All three countries have since kept a tight lid on their inquiries.

Source: The Guardian