By Associated Press
The Swedish national seismic network says it detected two explosions close to unusual leaks on two Russian natural gas pipelines running under Baltic Sea to to Germany.
The network said Tuesday that it registered one blast early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm and a slightly larger one later that night northeast of the island.
It says the latter explosion was equivalent to a magnitude-2.3 earthquake.
Leaders of Poland and Denmark and experts have raised concerns that the leaks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipeline were sabotage.
Experts say Russia could be to blame as a way to further shake up natural gas markets amid an energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.
A Kremlin spokesman says the development was worrisome and needed urgent investigation.
The series of unusual leaks on the two natural gas pipelines triggered concerns about sabotage earlier Tuesday, overshadowing the inauguration of a long-awaited pipeline that will bring Norwegian gas to Poland in efforts to bolster Europe’s energy independence from Moscow.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the events “an act of sabotage,” while Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she could not rule it out after three leaks were detected over the past day on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which are filled with gas but not delivering the fuel to Europe. An energy standoff over Russia’s war in Ukraine halted flows on Nord Stream 1 and prevented them from ever starting in the parallel Nord Stream 2.
Frederiksen, Morawiecki and Polish President Andrzej Duda symbolically opened a valve of a yellow pipe belonging to the Baltic Pipe, a new system that will bring Norway’s gas across Denmark and the Baltic Sea to Poland.
“The era of Russian domination in the gas sphere is coming to an end,” Morawiecki declared. “An era that was marked by blackmail, threats and extortion.”
No official presented evidence of what caused the Nord Stream problems, but in central Europe, where distrust of Russia runs high, there were fears Moscow sabotaged its own infrastructure out of spite or to warn that all pipelines are vulnerable to attack.
The leaks emerged off the coast of Denmark and Sweden, raising the stakes on whether energy infrastructure in European waters was being targeted and leading to a small bump in natural gas prices.
“We can clearly see that this is an act of sabotage, an act that probably means a next step of escalation in the situation that we are dealing with in Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.
Anders Puck Nielsen, a researcher with the Center for Maritime Operations at the Royal Danish Defence College, said the timing of the leaks was “conspicuous” given the ceremony for the Baltic Pipe. He said perhaps someone sought “to send a signal that something could happen to the Norwegian gas.”
“The arrow points in the direction of Russia,” Puck Nielsen said. “No one in the West is interested in having any kind of instability in the energy market.”
The extent of the damage means the Nord Stream pipelines are unlikely to be able to carry any gas to Europe this winter even if there was political will to bring them online, analysts at the Eurasia Group said.