December 5, 2023

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Russia: Nord Stream likely affected by state-backed ‘terrorism’

Russia: Nord Stream likely affected by state-backed 'terrorism'
  • The Kremlin: The damage to the pipelines resembles terrorism
  • EU official says leaks change nature of conflict in Ukraine
  • European officials say Russian ships were seen near CNN

MOSCOW/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday that a gas leak in the Baltic Sea from pipelines destined for Germany was apparently the result of state-sponsored “terrorism”, with an EU official saying the incident had fundamentally changed the nature of the conflict in Ukraine. .

The European Union is investigating the cause of the leaks in Gazprom, which it leads (GAZP.MM) Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines and he said he suspected sabotage was behind the damage off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden.

Four days after the leaks were first discovered, it is still unclear who might be behind any attack on the pipelines that Russia and its European partners have spent billions of dollars on building.

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“It seems that this is a terrorist act, possibly at the state level,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, adding: “It is very difficult to imagine that such a terrorist act could have taken place without the involvement of a state of some kind.”

Russia also said the United States would profit in a war of words with the West over who was responsible. Moscow had earlier said that the leaks took place in an area “under the full control” of the US intelligence services.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news conference that Washington would be able to increase sales of liquefied natural gas if pipelines were stopped.

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But the US news channel CNN, citing three sources, reported that European security officials have observed ships and submarines supporting the Russian Navy not far from the leaks.

In response to a request for comment on the CNN report, Peskov said there was a greater NATO presence in the region.

Zakharova called for the EU investigation to be “objective” and said Washington should “explain itself” — referring to President Joe Biden’s comment in February that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “there will be no Nord Stream 2”.

The White House denied Russian allegations that it was responsible for damage to Nord Stream’s network and Biden’s comments were in reference to efforts at the time to secure certification for the introduction of Nord Stream 2 for commercial use.

The pipeline operator told Reuters that leaks from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline are likely to stop on Monday.

But a Nord Stream AG spokesperson said it was not possible to give any predictions about the pipeline’s future operation until the damage was assessed.

Russia has halted deliveries via Nord Stream 1, saying Western sanctions have hampered operations.

While neither pipeline was supplying gas to Europe when the leaks were first discovered, both contained gas.

European and Moscow leaders say they cannot rule out sabotage. Map of Nord Stream pipelines and locations of reported leaks

strong response

An EU official said EU leaders would discuss the implications of the damage next week at a summit in Prague.

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“The strategic infrastructure of the entire EU must be protected,” said the EU official in Brussels.

“This fundamentally changes the nature of the conflict as we’ve seen so far, just like mobilization … and possible annexation,” the EU official said, referring to Russia’s mobilization of more troops for the war and the expectations of President Vladimir Putin. It will include the Ukrainian regions.

Russia’s war with Ukraine, and the resulting energy crisis between Moscow and Europe, which has left the European Union scrambling to find alternative gas supplies, is set to dominate an EU summit on October 7.

The European Union on Wednesday warned of a “strong and united response” in the event of more attacks and stressed the need to protect energy infrastructure, but EU officials avoided pointing any number directly at potential perpetrators.

Next week, EU leaders will discuss the eighth package of sanctions against Russia proposed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, including tougher trade restrictions, more blacklists, and a cap on oil prices for third countries.

The European official said he expected the 27-nation bloc to agree to parts of the sanctions package before the summit, such as blacklisting additional individuals and some trade restrictions regarding steel and technology.

He added that other issues such as the ceiling of oil prices or the punishment of banks may not be resolved before the summit.

European Union countries need unanimity to impose sanctions, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been a vocal critic, saying the sanctions were “counterproductive”, driving up energy prices and dealing a blow to European economies.

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Written by Alexander Smith. Editing by Eileen Hardcastle and Edmund Blair

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.