FOURTH leak is uncovered in Nord Stream pipes after 'Russian sabotage'

FOURTH leak is uncovered in Nord Stream pipes after 'Russian sabotage'

FOURTH leak is uncovered in Nord Stream pipes after ‘sabotage’ as Europe scrambles to protect its ‘vulnerable’ gas links and data cables amid warnings of recession or stock market crash if they are hit

  • Fourth leak has been uncovered in Nord Stream pipes after sabotage attack widely suspected to be Russia 
  • Hole discovered in Nord Stream 2 in Swedish waters, meaning there are two holes in each Nord Stream line   
  • European officials said today that Russian ships and submarines were spotted near the lines in the last week 
  • Leaders are scrambling to protect ‘vulnerable’ undersea infrastructure, amid warning of recession or stock market crash if other energy lines or data cables are targeted 

A fourth leak has been uncovered in the Nord Stream gas pipes which are thought to have been blown up in an act of Russian sabotage earlier this week.  

The newest leak has been located in the Nord Stream 2 pipe, close to a larger hole discovered in Nord Stream 1 a few days ago. It means there are now two holes in each pipe, two of which are located in Swedish waters and two in Danish waters, Sweden’s coastguard said today. 

Emergency crews are continuing to inspect the gas lines ahead of a mission below the waves to try and stop them leaking thousands of tons of gas into the Baltic Sea and work out what exactly happened – though that is unlikely to happen before next week. Finding answers will take longer still.

Heavy early suspicion has fallen on Russia, bolstered today by sightings of Kremlin ships and submarines in and around the area of the blasts over the last week, CNN reports. European security officials said it is as-yet unclear whether any of those craft were involved, but say the possibility is being investigated. 

There is little doubt among European diplomats or NATO allies that Russia is responsible, according to reports, but without hard evidence none except Ukraine has ventured to say so out loud. In the absence of facts, conspiracy theories have proliferated. 

Taken at face value, it seems unlikely that Russia would attack its own multi-billion dollar pipes – but those familiar with Moscow’s ‘hybrid’ style of warfare say it is likely Kremlin mind game to sow uncertainty and a warning to back off Ukraine.  ‘It’s all part of the Russian style of political warfare,’ Bryan Clark, a former US navy strategic planner now at the Hudson Institute think tank, said. ‘It’s about sowing doubt, creating just enough fog of uncertainty.’

European leaders are now rushing to shore up defences around their own undersea pipes and data cables, amid fears they are also vulnerable to attack. A renewed energy crisis, recession, or financial crash could all result if those crucial networks were disrupted, experts and analysts warned.

Russia is widely suspected to be behind the Nord Stream gas explosions which caught the West off – guard, as experts rush to try and explain how Putin might have done it. Explanations range from divers to spy subs, and underwater drones

Norway has deployed the military to protect its gas and oil fields amid fears Russia is preparing attacks, suggesting that the UK – which has two major pipes linked to Norway and dozens of offshore rigs nearby – is also at risk

Gas ‘sabotage’ could show Putin is readying for ‘global war’, expert says 

Putin’s motivation for allegedly targeting his own pipelines could be to cause an all-out global war, an academic has claimed.

Dr Stepan Stepanenko, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, told MailOnline it shows the Kremlin wants to stop offering energy to its potential enemies.

He said: ‘Although the Kremlin has not taken responsibility for Nord Stream, the global finger of blame is pointing firmly in one direction. 

‘At first glance, this act equates to cutting one’s nose off to spite the face, as Putin severs gas supply in the onset of a cold winter, he also cuts the revenue stream from it, harming his war effort.

‘However, to understand why Russia would do this, we have to look at it in the context of the sham referenda taking place in Ukraine. 

‘Putin is fast running out of options, he needs to end the conflict with a tangible territorial gain before Russians twig what the rest of the world already knows, he lost the war.

‘By conducting these sham referenda and moving the boarder to make these regions Russian territory, he is backing the West into an ultimatum; liberate these regions and you are directly attacking Russia. 

‘In this context, if Nord Stream was indeed targeted by Moscow then we can’t avoid seeing it as Putin’s preparing for a global war, in which supplying gas to Europe would be directly aiding his enemy.’

Professor Damien Ernst, an energy systems researcher at the University of Liège in Belgium, told The Times: ‘Our infrastructure is not very well protected and it is extremely difficult to secure them over thousands of kilometres.  

‘If gas supplies from Norway to Europe were cut off, we would see a terrible recession. We would not even be able to heat ourselves and produce electricity. 

‘The fears are very serious and well-founded. Europe has no more room for manoeuvre and we cannot exclude that things will deteriorate very significantly in the coming months.’

An IT security source who spoke to MailOnline added that ‘pretty much all forms of communication’ would be at risk if data cables were attacked, including those that allow business and banking to run smoothly.

The source added: ‘Trading stocks between regions relies heavily on very low latency responses to requests – we’re talking milliseconds. If enough cables were cut and that latency started to creep up, which it would, there’s a possibility trading would have to pause until that was fixed. That could cause huge damage to the global economy.’

Military analysts meanwhile speculated about what exactly could have caused two explosions that were detected by seismologists before the pipes burst.

While Russia does possess a large fleet of nuclear-powered spy submarines that are designed to sabotage underwater networks, a direct attack on the pipes has been largely ruled out based on the assumption that it would have been spotted taking place. 

NATO spy planes equipped with extremely sensitive radar and sensors have been flying near-constant missions over the Baltic since war broke out in Ukraine, and there is no indication they saw anything suspicious.

That leaves the possibility that some kind of explosive device was either laid next to the pipe well in advance – perhaps dropped by special forces on a disguised boat – and then remotely activated, or else inserted into the pipe from the Russian end.

Yves D’Eer, and emergency planning coordinator, speculated online that a device called a ‘pipeline integrity gauge’ – a robot that can be inserted into a gas line to inspect them from the inside – could have been laden with explosives and then sent down Nord Stream before being detonated when it arrived in the right spot.

Mystery surrounding how exactly the attack was pulled off has spooked European governments who now face the daunting task of defending their own infrastructure from an unknown threat.  

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was in Denmark yesterday for talks which he said ‘addressed the protection of critical infrastructure’. Jonas Gahr Stoere, Norway’s prime minister, said the military would be visibly deployed around oil and gas rigs to protect them. 

That suggests the UK – connected to Norway via two major pipelines which carry a third of this country’s gas – is also at risk. Britain’s largest oil and gas fields, which are dotted with dozens of rigs and criss-crossed by pipes, also sit close to Norwegian waters. 

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘We constantly observe our areas of responsibility and interest, this includes protecting critical infrastructure such as underwater cables and offshore structures.’

Mark Galeotti – a Russia expert, former adviser to the foreign office, and now at the Council on Geostrategy – told MailOnline that Putin is ‘likely’ behind the Nord Stream attack and intended it ‘as a warning’. ‘They blow up their own pipeline to remind the West that if it really pushes Putin into a corner, amongst his options are attacks on infrastructure,’ he said.

‘A pipeline from Norway to Poland has just been inaugurated, after all. Just as seriously, he could target undersea internet cables, which would not ‘break’ the internet but would certainly degrade it.’ 

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the explosions, dismissing the suggestion as ‘stupid ‘. But Russia does have the capacity to carry out such an attack. 

Putin commands the world’s largest fleet of spy submarines including one – the Belgorod – that was specifically designed to attack undersea cables, and has easy access to the Baltic via Kaliningrad and St Petersberg, where its newly-developed fleet of underwater drones is also based. 

It comes as the despot digs in his heels in Ukraine by illegally annexing occupied territory while trying to warn off the West with nukes and – it would seem – new threats to energy and information networks. 

As Dr Stepan Stepanenko, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, told MailOnline: ‘At first glance, this act equates to cutting one’s nose off to spite the face [but] to understand why Russia would do this, we have to look at it in the context of the sham referenda taking place in Ukraine. 

‘Putin is fast running out of options, he needs to end the conflict with a tangible territorial gain before Russians twig what the rest of the world already knows: He lost the war. 

‘By conducting these sham referenda and moving the border to make these regions Russian territory, he is backing the West into an ultimatum; liberate these regions and you are directly attacking Russia. 

‘In this context, if Nord Stream was indeed targeted by Moscow then we can’t avoid seeing it as Putin preparing for a global war, in which supplying gas to Europe would be directly aiding his enemy.’

Lieutenant Colonel Geir Hågen Karlsen, one of Norway’s leading military officers, warned that his country – which is now Europe’s most-important gas supplier after Russia was sanctioned – needs to take the threat serious, particularly after unidentified drones were seen flying low over rigs in recent days.

‘Norway’s gas supply is probably the biggest and most strategically important target for sabotage in all of Europe right now,’ he told national broadcaster NRK.

Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, speaker of Lithuania’s parliament, added: ‘These incidents show that energy infrastructure is not safe . . . It can be interpreted as a warning.’

It came as German officials warned that Nord Stream has been so badly damaged by the blasts that it will likely never work again.

German security services said the explosions left three of four undersea tubes so severely damaged they are now beyond repair, Tagesspiegel reported.

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU Commission, this morning vowed the ‘strongest possible response’ to what she called ‘sabotage’ of the pipelines – but stopped short of directly blaming Russia.

Charles Michel, the EU Council President, added: ‘Nord Stream sabotage acts appear to be an attempt to further destabilise energy supply to [the] EU.’ 

Gas is now leaking into the Baltic from three holes, scientists have confirmed, with safety concerns leading to a five-mile exclusion zone being imposed around the affected area.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said her government believes the leaks were caused by ‘deliberate actions’, adding that the gas supply pipeline will be out of action for around a week.

She said on Tuesday evening: ‘It is now the clear assessment by authorities that these are deliberate actions. It was not an accident. There is no information yet to indicate who may be behind this action.’ 

Her Energy Minister Dan Jorgensen also said the size of the holes in the pipelines indicate that the leaks could not have been caused by an accident such as getting hit by an anchor. The damaged pipelines are at a depth of 70-90 meters below sea level, he added.

The remarks were backed by Sweden’s PM Magdalena Andersson, who has said informations suggests the blasts were likely sabotage.

She said her government was in close contact with partners such as Nato and neighbours such as Denmark and Germany concerning the developments.

Ms Andersson continued: ‘We have Swedish intelligence, but we have also received information in our contacts with Denmark, and based on this concluded that this is probably a deliberate act. It is probably a matter of sabotage.

‘It is not a matter of an attack on Swedish or Danish territory. But that said, the government is taking what happened very seriously, not the least in light of the current security situation on our close proximity.’

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