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Suspecting Nord Stream sabotage, EU vows ‘robust’ response to energy network attacks

Foreign policy chief Borrel says deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure utterly unacceptable; European Council says gas line damage is attempt at destabilization

A large disturbance in the sea can be observed off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, following a series of unusual leaks on two natural gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany have triggered concerns about possible sabotage, Sept. 27, 2022. (Danish Defence Command via AP)
A large disturbance in the sea can be observed off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, following a series of unusual leaks on two natural gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany have triggered concerns about possible sabotage, Sept. 27, 2022. (Danish Defence Command via AP)

BRUSSELS — The European Union suspects that damage to two underwater natural gas pipelines was sabotage and is warning of retaliation for any attack on Europe’s energy networks, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday.

“All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the 27 EU member countries. “Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.”

Seismologists reported Tuesday that explosions rattled the Baltic Sea before unusual leaks were discovered on two underwater natural gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany.

Some European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage given the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine. The three leaks were reported on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which are filled with natural gas but are not delivering the fuel to Europe.

The damage means that the pipelines are unlikely to be able to carry any gas to Europe this winter even if the political will to bring them online emerged, according to analysts.

Borrell said the EU will support any investigation into the damage, and “will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security.”

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaks to reporters after a high level Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine, at United Nations headquarters, Sept. 22, 2022. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that “Nord Stream sabotage acts appear to be an attempt to further destabilize energy supply to EU.”

He added: “Those responsible will be held fully accountable and made to pay.”

Sweden and Poland have already said sabotage was the most likely cause of the leaks from the pipelines in the Baltic Sea, with Warsaw suggesting Russia was probably the culprit, to escalate the war in Ukraine.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines are strategic infrastructure linking Russia to Europe. The leaks sent bubbling to the surface in Sweden and Denmark’s economic zones.

Swedish seismologists detected “massive releases of energy” just before the leaks, with one telling AFP “there isn’t much else than a blast that could cause it.”

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said that “it is the authorities’ clear assessment that these are deliberate actions — not accidents.”

But she said “there is no information indicating who could be behind it.”

Frederiksen rejected the suggestion that the incident was an attack on Denmark, saying the leaks occurred in international waters.

Denmark’s defense minister, Morten Bodskov, was meeting Wednesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

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