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NORD STREAM

Germany opens probe of likely ‘blasts’ against Nord Stream

German federal prosecutors said Monday they had joined European partners in formally opening a probe into likely "detonations" leading to leaks in the undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia.

This photo provided by the Danish Defence Command shows the Nord Stream 2 gas leak near Bornholm from the air. Following the damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, authorities in Germany and Denmark continue to search for the cause.
This photo provided by the Danish Defence Command shows the Nord Stream 2 gas leak near Bornholm from the air. Following the damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, authorities in Germany and Denmark continue to search for the cause. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Danish Defence Command | -

A spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office said in an email to AFP that it was investigating “against persons unknown” on suspicion of “intentionally causing an explosive blast” and “sabotage” linked to the leaks.

Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office typically only opens investigations into cases involving national security such as terror attacks.

READ ALSO: What the Nord Stream pipeline leaks mean for people in Germany

It said that its involvement in the case was justified by the fact that a “violent attack on the energy supply could impact the external and internal security” of the country.   

The probe comes in addition to cases opened by German federal police and the federal bureau of investigations. German prosecutors said there was “sufficient evidence” that Nord Stream 1 and 2 were “intentionally damaged with at least two detonations”.

They said their probe was aimed primarily at “identifying the perpetrator or perpetrators as well as the possible motive”. Swedish authorities said on Thursday that an inspection of two of the leaks reinforced suspicions that they were acts of sabotage, with “detonations” that led to “extensive damage to the gas pipelines”.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas under Baltic Sea: spokesman

While the pipelines are not currently in operation, they both still contained gas before they fell victim to apparent sabotage.

Both Moscow and Washington have denied responsibility for the leaks, which were discovered in late September. Germany, Sweden and Denmark formed a joint investigation unit to probe the apparent “sabotage”.

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  1. Breaking news: intact Russian passports have been found at the bottom of the sea right next to the leak sites.

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NORD STREAM

Swedish prosecutor confirms Nord Stream pipeline sabotage

Swedish officials confirmed Friday that the September blasts which destroyed sections of the Nord Stream pipelines carrying gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea were acts of sabotage.

Swedish prosecutor confirms Nord Stream pipeline sabotage

“The analyses conducted found traces of explosives on several foreign objects” found at the sites of the blasts, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, who is leading the preliminary investigation, said in a statement.

Ljungqvist added that technical analyses were continuing in order to “draw more reliable conclusions regarding the incident.”

Sweden’s Prosecution Authority said that the “continued investigation will show if anyone can be formally suspected of a crime.”

The four underwater explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea in September this year were caused by a force corresponding to hundreds of kilograms of explosives, a Danish-Swedish report has previously concluded.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Four large gas leaks were discovered on Nord Stream’s two pipelines off the Danish island of Bornholm at the end of September, with seismic institutes recording two underwater explosions just prior.

Investigators had already said preliminary inspections had reinforced suspicions of sabotage.

Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States, have traded bitter barbs over who is responsible for the blasts.

“The analyses conducted found traces of explosives on several foreign objects” at the sites of the blasts, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, who is leading the preliminary investigation, said in a statement on Friday.

Ljungqvist added technical analyses were continuing in order to “draw more reliable conclusions regarding the incident”.

Sweden’s prosecution authority said the “continued investigation will show if anyone can be formally suspected of a crime”.

The Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) — which is conducting the investigation under the prosecutors’ leadership — confirmed the findings in a separate statement but both authorities declined to comment further.

The closely watched investigation has also been supported by Sweden’s coast guard, the Swedish armed forces and the police.

Trading blame

While the leaks were in international waters, two of them were in the Danish exclusive economic zone and two in Sweden’s.

At the end of October, Nord Stream sent a Russian-flagged civilian vessel to inspect the damage in the Swedish zone.

The same week the prosecution authority announced it was conducting a second probe of the damage to complement the first done in early October.

In early November, the operator said roughly 250 metres (820 feet) of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline had been destroyed and that craters with a depth of three to five metres had been found on the seabed.

Although the pipelines were not in operation when the leaks occurred, they both still contained gas which spewed up through the water and into the atmosphere.

Moscow has accused Western countries of being behind the explosions of the pipelines, but has not provided any firm proof.

In early November, the Kremlin accused Britain of “directing and coordinating” the explosions.

The accusation was rejected as “distractions which are part of the Russian playbook” by a spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Ukraine and some Western countries have meanwhile pointed the finger at Russia.

In mid-October, Russia said it was ready to resume deliveries of gas through the parts of the pipeline not affected by the leaks, with President Vladimir Putin saying “the ball was in the EU’s court”.

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