“The clear advice from the authorities is they were deliberate acts. We are not talking about an accident,” Danish prime minister Mette Fredriksen told a press conference. “We don’t have information yet about those responsible.”
Her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson said at a press conference in Stockholm later on Tuesday that the leaks “probably are the result of a deliberate act, so probably sabotage.”
Sweden’s foreign minister Anna Linde said she would not “speculate on motives or actors”.
Copenhagen expects the leaks at the pipelines, which are not operational but full of gas, will last “at least a week” — until the methane escaping from the underwater pipes runs out, the Danish energy and climate minister said at a press conference.
The two Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia and Europe had been hit by unexplained leaks, Scandinavian authorities said earlier Tuesday, raising suspicions of sabotage.
The three gas leaks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were visible Tuesday in waters off Denmark with huge areas of bubbling spreading from 200 to 1,000 metres in diameter, the Danish military said.
“The biggest leak is causing bubbling over a good kilometre in diameter. The smallest is creating a circle about 200 metres” in diameter, the military wrote in a statement accompanying photographs of the leaks off the Danish island of Bornholm.
Earlier on Tuesday seismologists said explosions were recorded before mysterious leaks in two Baltic Sea gas pipelines linking Russia and Europe.
The Swedish National Seismic Network recorded two “massive releases of energy” shortly before the gas leaks near their locations off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, Uppsala University seismologist Peter Schmidt told AFP.
“With energy releases this big there isn’t much else than a blast that could cause it,” he added. “You can see that they are quite sudden. It is a very sudden energy release. It’s not a slow collapse of something.”
Earlier during a visit to Poland for the inauguration of the Baltic Pipe Project — connecting Poland and Denmark to a North Sea pipeline – Danish PM Frederiksen told Danish media it was” hard to imagine that it’s due to chance.”
“This is unusual and I want to say that we on the side of the government and authorities take this situation very seriously. We look at it very seriously,” she said, also calling it an “extraordinary situation”.
The pipelines have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions in recent months as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.
One of the leaks on Nord Stream 1 occurred in the Danish economic zone and the other in the Swedish economic zone, while the Nord Stream 2 leak was in the Danish economic zone.
Denmark’s energy agency has, however, called for “higher levels of preparedness in the electricity and gas sector” in the country, Jørgensen said.
The EU Commission meanwhile stressed that it was too early to speculate on the causes of the leaks.
“We believe we do not have the elements in order to determine what is the reason for the leak. And obviously any act of sabotage on any infrastructure is something that we would condemn,” EU commission spokesman Eric Mamer told reporters earlier on Tuesday.
A Nord Stream spokesperson told AFP that they had not been able to assess the damage but conceded that “an incident where three pipes experience difficulties at the same time on the same day is not common.”
The Danish energy agency told the Ritzau news agency that only the area where the gas plume is located will be affected by the leak, but methane escaping into the atmosphere has a “climate-damaging effect”.
“Breaches of gas pipelines occur extremely rarely and we therefore see the need to raise the alert level as a result of the events we have seen during the last day,” Danish Energy Agency director Kristoffer Böttzauw said in a statement.
Built in parallel to the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Nord Stream 2 was intended to double the capacity for Russian gas imports to Germany.
But Berlin blocked newly-completed Nord Stream 2 in the days before the war.
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.
Russian energy giant 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.
Germany has rebuffed Gazprom’s technical explanation for the cut, instead accusing Moscow of wielding energy as a weapon amid tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, German daily Tagesspiegel reported that “the Nord Stream pipelines may have been damaged by targeted attacks and leaked as a result”.
According to a source close to the government and relevant authorities, quoted in the newspaper, “everything speaks against a coincidence”.
“We cannot imagine a scenario that is not a targeted attack,” the source said.
Russia said it was “extremely concerned” about the leaks. 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 options”.
Ukraine, however, said the attack was “nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU”.
The United States said it was looking at reports that the leaks were “the result of an attack or some kind of sabotage,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Both Sweden and Denmark have been quick to emphasise that they do not consider the blast to be an attack on their territory.
“This is not an attack on Sweden because it did not take place on Swedish territory,” Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign minister, said.
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.
As a result of the leaks, navigational warnings have been issued for a distance of five nautical miles and a flight height of 1,000 metres.
The incidents on the two pipelines have no impact on the supply of gas to Denmark, the Danish energy minister said.