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NORD STREAM

Russia aggrieved at Germany, Denmark and Sweden over Nord Stream probe

Russia's foreign ministry said Thursday it had summoned envoys of Germany, Denmark and Sweden to express "bewilderment" over Moscow's exclusion from an investigation into leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines.

Russia aggrieved at Germany, Denmark and Sweden over Nord Stream probe
The Nord Stream gas leak in the Baltic Sea photographed from Swedish Coast Guard aircraft on September 22nd. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

Multiple leaks were discovered on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines connecting Russia to Germany, further raising political tensions already sky high since the Kremlin invaded Ukraine in February. All four leaks were located near Danish island Bornholm.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the leaks were an act of “international terrorism” that would benefit the United States, Poland and Ukraine.

Both Moscow and Washington have denied responsibility for the leaks, which were discovered in late September. Germany, Sweden and Denmark have formed a joint investigation unit to probe the apparent sabotage.

“The heads of the diplomatic missions of Germany, Denmark and Sweden in Moscow have been summoned to the Russian foreign ministry in recent days,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it “expressed bewilderment” over the lack of an official response to a request from Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to involve Russian energy giant Gazprom and “representatives of the competent departments” from Russia in the investigation conducted by Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

The envoys were told that if Russian experts are not involved “Moscow will proceed from the fact that the named countries have something to hide or they are covering for the perpetrators of these terrorist acts”, the ministry said.

It added that Russia will not recognise any “pseudo-results” of an investigation without its experts.

A spokesman for the German federal prosecutor’s office said earlier this week that it was investigating “against persons unknown” on suspicion of “intentionally causing an explosive blast” and “sabotage” linked to the leaks.

Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office typically only opens investigations into cases involving national security such as terror attacks.

Sweden on Monday said it would not allow Russia to join the ongoing probe of the pipeline leaks but added that Moscow could carry out its own inspections.

Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson’s statement followed earlier requests from Russia to be included in investigations into the alleged sabotage.

“In Sweden, preliminary investigations are confidential, and this is of course also true in this case,” Andersson told a press conference.

Since the leaks occurred in international waters, albeit in the Swedish exclusive economic zone, Russia would be able to approach the site of the leaks., she said

“Now we have lifted the block and then it is also possible for other ships to be in the area, those are the rules,” she told reporters.

However, Andersson noted that in addition to the Swedish investigation, there be a “joint investigation team” under an EU framework.

READ ALSO: Sweden’s Nord Stream site inspection ‘strengthened sabotage suspicions’

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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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