Sweden says Nord Stream pipeline sabotaged, finds explosive residue

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BRUSSELS – Swedish authorities confirmed on Friday that “gross sabotage” was responsible for the mysterious explosions that disabled Russia’s largest natural gas pipeline to Europe in September, adding that traces of explosives had been found as part of an ongoing investigation.

Prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist and the Swedish Security Service said an inspection of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea documented “extensive damage” and found several “foreign objects” – some containing “remnants of explosives”.

But the statements did not answer the central questions of the months-long mystery: Who is responsible? And how did they do it?

European leaders are blaming Russia’s “sabotage” after the Nord Stream explosions

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“Advanced analysis is still ongoing – the goal is to make clear conclusions about the events in the North Stream,” the Security Service said in a statement. “The investigation is extensive and complex and may ultimately lead to someone who may be suspected and subsequently prosecuted.”

The explosions occurred south of the Swedish mainland, east of the Danish island of Bornholm. Danish and German authorities are also collecting evidence and many investigations are underway.

European officials began using the term “sabotage” hours after the simultaneous bombings in late September. Seismologists said the data pointed to explosions, not natural earthquakes or landslides.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters on September 27: “These are not accidental, but deliberate actions.”

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European leaders have identified Russia as the only actor with the technical capability and motivation to damage the Nord Stream pipelines with underwater explosions.

The damage did not immediately affect Europe’s energy supply. Russia had previously cut off gas flows as relations soured during the war in Ukraine. And countries formerly dependent on Russian gas have long scrambled to build up reserves and secure alternative energy suppliers.

But European leaders said the bombings were a threat, sending a message that their critical infrastructure could be vulnerable if they continue to support Ukraine. Since then, they have increased security around key infrastructure and increased maritime operations.

Russia denied responsibility and questioned the logic of the European account. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia has started a trial on an international terrorist act.

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The Nord Stream spill could be the largest methane leak, but not catastrophic

Russian energy giant Gazprom shut down gas flows through Nord Stream 1 earlier this year, citing technical problems, and European leaders accused Moscow of “blackmail”. The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline has not yet been approved for operation; Germany stopped this project before the war in Ukraine.

The explosions hit both pipelines, and the resulting leaks caused the largest release of methane into the atmosphere. But energy and climate experts did not expect it to have a significant impact on climate change.

Francis reported from London.

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