Embattled Nord Stream 2 seeks to skirt Danish veto

Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline consortium on Friday said it had applied for an alternative route to skirt a new Danish law that threatened to block the project.

Embattled Nord Stream 2 seeks to skirt Danish veto
A file photo showing pipes for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline stacked in Mukran harbour in Sassnitz, Germany. Photo: Stefan Sauer/DPA via AP, file/Ritzau Scanpix

New legislation which took effect in January allows the Danish government to veto pipelines passing through the Nordic nation's territorial waters based on its foreign policy, security and defence interests. 

Led by Russia's gas giant Gazprom, the consortium said in a statement that the law gives the Danish foreign ministry the right to grant the green light for pipeline and infrastructure projects.

Since no decision has been forthcoming since the law was passed in January 2018, “Nord Stream 2 AG decided to explore alternative routes outside of Danish territorial waters,” the consortium said.

The initial route was planned to pass south of the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, entering Danish territorial waters.

But the 175-kilometre-long alternative route would pass northwest of Bornholm, avoiding Denmark's territorial waters and only entering its exclusive economic zone.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, countries cannot block other nations from laying underwater pipelines and cables.

The Danish Energy Agency on Thursday said it was processing the application.

Gazprom plans to lay the 1,200-kilometre Nord Stream 2 pipeline through the Baltic Sea to the German coast near Greifswald, where it would connect to the European gas transport networks.

The pipeline has caused splits within the EU, with Poland and other eastern states fearing it could be used as a tool to boost Russian influence over the bloc.

The Baltic route allows Germany and other European countries to avoid gas piped through Ukraine. Russia has shut off gas supplies to Ukraine in the past, having knock-on effects in the European Union.

READ ALSO: Denmark could block Russian pipeline


Nord Stream: Investigators link Ukrainian-owned yacht to sabotage, reports claim

German investigators have identified the boat they believe was used in the sabotage attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea, according to a report in the Die Zeit newspaper, based on a joint investigation with the broadcasters ARD and SWR. 

Nord Stream: Investigators link Ukrainian-owned yacht to sabotage, reports claim

According to the report, a group of five men and one woman rented the yacht from a Polish-based company with Ukrainian owners. The group all used false passports and their true nationalities are unknown.

Traces of explosives have been found on the yacht, which set sail from the German city of Rostock on September 6th, 20 days before the explosions, which destroyed the two pipelines at a point off the coast of Sweden and just south of the Danish island of Bornholm. 

“The traces lead in the direction of Ukraine,” Die Zeit wrote in its article. “However, investigators have not yet found any evidence as to who ordered the destruction.” 

The newspaper said that, “according to its information”, a western intelligence service had already tipped off its European partners in the autumn that a Ukrainian commando unit had been responsible for the attack, after which there had been “further intelligence indications that a pro-Ukrainian group” was behind the attack. 

In a separate report, the New York Times newspaper reported that US officials had seen new intelligence indicating a “pro-Ukrainian group” was responsible for the sabotage.

The Times report said US officials had no evidence implicating Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the pipeline bombing, and it did not identify the source of the intelligence or the group involved.

The attack, the newspaper said, benefitted Ukraine by severely damaging Russia’s ability to reap millions of dollars by selling natural gas to Western Europe. The intelligence suggested that the perpetrators behind the sabotage were “opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia”, the Times report said.

When confronted with the reports, Ukraine denied any involvement.

The country’s presidential adviser Mychajlo Podoljak told ARD that Ukraine “of course had nothing to do with the attacks on Nord Stream-2”. There was, he said, “no confirmation that Ukrainian officials or the military took part in this operation or that people were dispatched to act on their behalf.”

It was still conceivable that Russia was behind it, he said. “There are many more motives and many more uses in this scenario.” 

He later tweeted that Ukraine “has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap”. 

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, claimed the reports had been fabricated by the true “authors of the attack” as a diversion. 

“How can American officials assume anything without an investigation?” he told the Ria news agency, complaining that Russia was not part of the investigation of this “monstrous crime”.

The Russian embassy in the US blamed the reports on US intelligence services, which it accused of “an attempt to confuse anyone who sincerely wishes to seek out the truth in this flagrant crime”