MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused the West of sabotaging Russian-built natural gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea to Germany, an accusation vehemently denied by the United States and its allies. The Nordic nations said the underwater explosions that damaged pipelines this week and have led to huge methane leaks included hundreds of pounds of explosives.
Clashes between the US and Russia later continued at an emergency UN Security Council meeting in New York was called by Russia over the attacks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, and when Norwegian researchers released a map predicting a huge plume of methane from the damaged pipelines will pour across much of the Nordic region. Speaking in Moscow on Friday at a ceremony to annex four regions of Ukraine to Russia, Putin claimed that the “Anglo-Saxons” in the west had gone from imposing sanctions on Russia to “terrorist attacks” and sabotaging the Nord Stream 1 2 pipelines in what he described as an attempt to “destroy Europe’s energy infrastructure”.
He added that “those who benefit from it did it,” without naming a specific country. In Washington, US President Joe Biden dismissed Putin’s pipeline claims as outlandish. “It was a deliberate act of sabotage. And now the Russians are spreading disinformation and lies. We will work with our allies to find out exactly what happened,” Biden promised, adding that divers would be sent down to inspect the pipelines. “Just don’t listen to what Putin says. We know what he says is not true.”
US officials said the Putin claim was trying to divert attention from his annexation of parts of Ukraine on Friday. “We will not allow Russia’s disinformation to distract us or the world from its patently fraudulent attempt to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on Friday. At the UN, Sergey Kupriyanov, spokesman for Russian state-owned Gazprom, which is Nord Stream’s majority shareholder, told the council that data on the sudden pressure drop in the pipeline and the gas leak “makes it possible”. say with certainty that the leaks in the pipelines were caused by physical damage.”
Kupriyanov said in a video briefing that Gazprom has started looking for possible solutions to get the Nord Stream system operational again. There’s no estimate of how long it will take, he said, “but we can say with certainty that the task will be very daunting from a technical perspective.” United States in sabotage, including that it would benefit the U.S. gas industry . He then asked if the US representative wouldn’t engage in “morbid fantasies about Russia and confirm that the United States is “not involved and has nothing to do with this sabotage”?” US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills accused Nebenzia the dissemination of “conspiracy theories and disinformation” and with “inflammatory rhetoric”. “Let me answer his question. Let me be clear: the United States categorically denies any involvement in this incident and we deny any claims to the contrary,” Mills said. Moscow says it wants a thorough international investigation to assess damage to the pipelines, which were filled with gas but failed to deliver it to Europe. Putin’s spokesman said: “It looks like a terrorist attack that was probably carried out at the state level.” which benefits from the chaos on the energy markets and rising energy prices. The US has long opposed the two pipelines, repeatedly urging Germany to stop them, saying they would have increased Europe’s energy dependency on Russia and reduced its security. Since the war in Ukraine began in February, Russia has cut back supplies of natural gas, which is sent to Europe to heat homes, generate electricity and power factories. European leaders have accused Putin of using “energy blackmail” to divide their strong support for Ukraine. Russia earlier this month halted gas flow through the 1,224-kilometer (760-mile) Nord Stream 1, blaming technical problems, while the parallel Nord Stream 2 pipeline never opened.
Denmark and Sweden, meanwhile, said on Friday that the blasts that rocked the Baltic Sea ahead of the huge spills of methane from the pipelines “were likely equivalent to an explosive charge weighing several hundred kilos (pounds).” The leaks occurred in international waters and “allowed plumes of gas to rise to the surface,” the two Scandinavian countries wrote in a letter to the United Nations. NATO has warned that it would retaliate for any attack on its 30 member countries’ critical infrastructure, and has joined other Western officials in citing sabotage as a likely cause of the damage.
Denmark is a member of NATO and Sweden is in the process of joining the military alliance. Both say the pipelines were deliberately attacked. At the United Nations, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, while neither Sweden nor Denmark will be represented at Friday’s session as they are not members. The Integrated Carbon Observation System, a European research alliance, said that “an enormous amount of methane gas was released into the atmosphere” from the damaged pipelines, about the amount of an entire year’s methane emissions for a city the size of Paris or a country like Denmark . “We assume that the wind in the leak area blew the methane emissions north to the Finnish archipelago and then (the emissions) were deflected to Sweden and Norway,” he said Stephen Platt, Professor at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, part of the group.
Data were collected from ground-based observations in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Experts say these methane levels are not dangerous to public health but are a powerful source of global warming. The alleged sabotage has caused two methane leaks off Sweden, including a large one over Nord Stream 1 and a smaller one over Nord Stream 2, as well as two leaks off Denmark. The Nord Stream 2 leak “has diminished but is still ongoing,” the Swedish Coast Guard said, stepping up its warnings for ships to stay 7 nautical miles (13 kilometers, 8 miles) from the blast areas. Nordic seismologists registered explosions ahead of the leaks. A first explosion was registered early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm. A second, more powerful blast northeast of the island arrived that night and was equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake. Denmark and Sweden also said they were concerned about the “possible impact of the blasts on maritime life in the Baltic Sea”.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she will travel to London to discuss the gas leaks with British Prime Minister Liz Truss. She will then travel to Brussels to raise the issue with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and EU Council President Charles Michel.
The attacks on the pipelines have prompted energy companies and European governments to tighten security around energy infrastructure.
Fears of further damage to Europe’s energy infrastructure have added pressure on already high natural gas prices and caused widespread economic problems across the continent. Authorities in Norway, a major oil and gas producer, have reported at least six drone sightings near offshore installations in the North Sea, prompting Petroleum Safety Authority Norway to urge “increased vigilance”. Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet said a drone was sighted Wednesday near a Danish offshore oil and gas installation in the North Sea. Sweden has also strengthened security around its three nuclear power plants.