HELSINKI (AP) – Finnish police said Wednesday they have opened a criminal investigation into possible sabotage of an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia that was shut down over the weekend following a leak.
Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) begins collecting evidence at the site of the leak after a leak was detected on the Baltic Connector pipeline connecting North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in Finland’s economic zone on Sunday. It was announced that. Communication cables were also damaged.
The aim of the investigation is to determine whether the Baltic Connector pipeline was damaged intentionally or accidentally, and by whom. Finnish authorities have already ruled out an operational accident and blamed the damage on “external activities.”
Noting that the analysis was still in its early stages, the NBI said “signs were detected on the seabed” near the leak site, but did not provide further details.
Outside analysts have speculated that everything from a ship’s anchor hitting the pipeline to an explosion could be the cause. Investigators told reporters Wednesday that an explosion appeared unlikely.
“The damage appears to have been caused by mechanical force, not an explosion,” NBI Chief Inspector Risto Rohi was quoted as saying by Finnish public broadcaster YLE. “At this time, we are determining what happened and (who) was involved. Given the circumstances, we are not speculating, but rather finding and analyzing the facts and drawing conclusions about the cause of the damage.” I will try my best.”
The 77-kilometer (48-mile) Baltic Connector pipeline crosses the Gulf of Finland from the Finnish city of Inko to the Estonian port of Paldiski. It is bidirectional and transports natural gas between Finland and Estonia depending on supply and demand.
The 300 million euro ($318 million) pipeline, primarily funded by the European Union, began commercial operations in early 2020. It was shut down on Sunday after operators noticed a drop in pressure within the pipeline.
The incident occurred more than a year after the incident. nord stream gas pipeline A vehicle traveling between Germany and Russia in the Baltic Sea was damaged in an explosion believed to be an act of sabotage. The case remains unsolved.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that he had discussed the incident with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kalas.
“If this proves to be a deliberate attack on NATO’s critical infrastructure, it would of course be a serious incident, but it would be met by a united and decisive NATO response,” Stoltenberg said.
On Tuesday, Finnish officials did not comment on whether they suspected Russian involvement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the incident “alarming news.”
“We are aware that there is a dangerous precedent for terrorist attacks against critical infrastructure in the Baltic states, namely the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “We look forward to further detailed information.”
Finnish gas transmission system operator Gasgrid Finland estimated that repair work would take at least five months. The company said its liquefied natural gas terminal in Inko has the capacity to supply Finland with the gas it needs.
In Europe, natural gas prices hit record highs last year after Russia cut off most gas supplies during the war in Ukraine. Since then, many European countries have turned to other alternative energies, including LNG, to meet their energy needs.
Europe currently has 97% of its gas storage capacity filled for the winter season, but relies on pipeline gas and LNG transport to secure supply.