COPENHAGEN: The two Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia and Europe have been hit by unexplained leaks, Scandinavian authorities said on Tuesday, raising suspicions of sabotage.
The pipelines have been at the center of geopolitical tensions in recent months as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.
While the pipelines, which are operated by a consortium majority-owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, are not currently in operation, they both still contain gas, but the environmental impact appeared limited so far.
One of the leaks on Nord Stream 1 occurred in the Danish economic zone and the other in its Swedish counterpart, while the Nord Stream 2 leak was in the Danish zone.
A leak was first reported on Nord Stream 2 on Monday.
“Authorities have now been informed that there have been another two leaks on Nord Stream 1, which likewise is not in operation, but contains gas,” Dan Jorgensen, head of the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in a statement on Tuesday. “It is too early to say anything about the causes of the incidents.”
The ministry has, however, called for “higher levels of preparedness in the electricity and gas sector” in the country, he said.
Russia said it was “extremely concerned” about the situation.
Asked by reporters whether it could be an act of sabotage, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that, at the moment, “it is impossible to exclude any option.”
The Danish Energy Agency said only the area where the gas plume was located would be affected by the leak, but methane escaping into the atmosphere has a “climate-damaging effect,” the Ritzau news agency said.
“Gas pipeline leaks are extremely rare, and we therefore see a reason to increase the level of preparedness following the incidents we have witnessed over the past 24 hours,” agency director Kristoffer Bottzauw said in a statement.
“We want to ensure thorough monitoring of Denmark's critical infrastructure in order to strengthen security of supply in the future,” he added.
Ola Westberg, spokesman for the Swedish Energy Agency, told AFP that no decision was taken yet and that they “were in dialogue with Denmark.”
Built in parallel to Nord Stream 1, Nord Stream 2 was intended to double the capacity for Russian gas imports to Germany.
But Berlin blocked the just-completed Nord Stream 2 days before the war in Ukraine began.
Germany, which has been highly dependent on imports of fossil fuels from Russia to meet its energy needs, has since come under acute stress as Moscow has dwindled supplies.
Gazprom progressively reduced the volumes of gas being delivered via Nord Stream 1 until it shut the pipeline completely at the end of August, blaming Western sanctions for the delay of necessary repairs to the pipeline.
Meanwhile, German daily Tagesspiegel reported that “the Nord Stream pipelines may have been damaged by targeted attacks and leaked as a result.”
A source1 close to the government and relevant authorities was quoted in the newspaper as saying: “Everything speaks against a coincidence. We cannot imagine a scenario that is not a targeted attack.”
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