(CNSNews.com) – Seismic monitors in Sweden said Tuesday they had detected two explosions under the Baltic Sea a day earlier, and operators of key Russia-to-Europe natural gas pipelines reported gas leaks leading to “significant pressure drop.”
The Swedish National Seismic Network reported that Monday's explosions, near a Danish island in the Baltic Sea and within Danish and Swedish maritime zones, were the equivalent of 1.8 and 2.3 magnitude earthquakes respectively.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters that authorities assessed the three leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were “not an accident,” adding that there was no information yet available pointing to the culprit.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken both spoke by phone to their Danish counterparts about “the apparent sabotage” of the pipelines.
“The U.S. is supporting efforts to investigate and we will continue our work to safeguard Europe’s energy security,” tweeted Sullivan.
(From some quarters came suggestions that the U.S. government may itself have been responsible for the explosions – among them a former Polish foreign minister and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.)
The Nord Stream AG consortium said in a brief update, “The significant pressure drop caused by the gas leak on both lines of the gas pipeline registered yesterday leads to a strong assumption of the pipeline physical damage.”
It said the company was mobilizing the necessary resources for a damage assessment in cooperation with the relevant authorities, but could not estimate a timeframe for restoring operations.
Nord Stream 1 is one of the most important pipelines carrying gas from Russia to Western Europe, and has already been affected by “maintenance” and other restrictions and stoppages linked to the rift between Moscow and Europe over the war in Ukraine.
Nord Stream 2 was the ambitious project designed to double the amount of Russian gas being piped to Germany and western Europe. It was completed in late 2021 but suspended indefinitely by the German government in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although it was never made operational, it was pressurized in September last year.
Maritime authorities in Denmark and Sweden issued navigational warnings and established no-sail zones extending five nautical miles from the affected areas, which the Danish agency described as “dangerous for naval traffic.”
Denmark’s climate minister said the leaking was expected to continue for at least a week.
The country’s armed forces released aerial footage showing the roiling ocean surface above the leaks.
Europe is already bracing for a hard winter, with Moscow warning openly and in heavy hints that Western sanctions and military support for Ukraine will carry a heavy cost for a region long deeply reliant on Russian energy supplies.
Ukraine accused Russia of sabotaging the pipelines in a move aimed at deepening uncertainty and worsening the European energy crisis.
“The large-scale ‘gas leak’ from Nord Stream 1 is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the E.U.,” tweeted Mikhaylo Podolyak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“[Russia] wants to destabilize economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said sabotage could not be ruled out while investigations were still being conducted, telling reporters, “certainly, this is an issue related to the energy security of the entire continent.”
Russia’s embassy in Copenhagen called for an investigation, and in a statement also underlined the possible implications of the incident, “especially in the context of the start of the heating season.”
Asked about the sabotage concerns, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to “speculate on the cause” of the incidents.
“I know our European partners are investigating this, so we stand ready to provide – to provide support to their efforts once they have completed their investigation,” she told a briefing.
Jean-Pierre said that Nord Stream 2 had never become operational and that Nord Stream 1 “has not been operational for weeks because Putin has weaponized energy.”
“This just drives home the importance of our efforts to work together to get alternative gas supplies to Europe, and to support efforts to reduce gas consumption and accelerate true energy independence by moving to a clean energy economy,” she said.
Blinken earlier in the day said that if sabotage was confirmed “that’s clearly in no one’s interest.”
He told reporters at the State Department that it was his understanding the leaks would “not have a significant impact on Europe’s energy resilience.”
“And what’s critical is that we are working day in, day out, both on a short-term basis and a long-term basis, to address energy security for Europe and, for that matter, around the world,” Blinken said.
The European Union is working to wean the continent off Russian energy by finding alternative sources and suppliers, a process expected to take several years. Among the initiatives aimed at helping to achieve that is the soon-to-open Baltic Pipe, a project to pipe Norwegian natural gas from the North Sea via Denmark to Poland.
Putin Responds to G7 Oil Price Cap Plan: Europe Will ‘Freeze’ This Winter Without Russian Energy (Sept. 8, 2022)
Russian State Gas Giant Releases Video Showing Europe Freezing Without Russian Gas (Sept. 6, 2022)
Germans Laughed When Trump Warned Against Reliance on Russian Energy; ‘They’re Not Laughing Now’ (Aug. 8, 2022)