The Nord Stream operator said Thursday it was unable to immediately assess damage to pipelines linking Russia to Europe and threatened an indefinite outage – after Sweden spotted a fourth leak and NATO condemned “acts of sabotage”. .
The Swedish Coast Guard confirmed on Thursday that there were four leaks in the pipeline in the Baltic Sea – two on the Swedish side and two on the Danish side. Three leaks were previously reported.
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were at the center of geopolitical tensions as Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe in alleged retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Nord Stream operator said it “intends to begin assessing the damage to the pipeline as soon as it receives the necessary regulatory approvals.”
Access can only be allowed after the pressure in the gas line has stabilized and the gas leak has stopped.
“Until the damage assessment is completed, it is not possible to predict the timeframe for restoring the gas transportation infrastructure,” the operator said.
NATO said the damage was “the result of intentional, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage” and said it was supporting an investigation to determine the cause of the damage.
The Western alliance warned that it was “committed to prepare for, deter, and defend against forced use of energy and other hybrid tactics.”
“Any deliberate attack on Allied critical infrastructure would be met with a unified and determined response,” it said, adding that the leaks would pose risks to shipping and cause significant environmental damage.
Russia has denied being behind the blasts, saying a foreign state was likely responsible.
President Vladimir Putin blamed “international terrorism” for the leaks.
In a phone call with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, he described it as “unprecedented sabotage,” according to a Kremlin ad.
The Russian Security Service has also launched an “international terrorism” probe into the gas leaks, saying they have “caused significant economic damage to the Russian Federation”.
Russia on Wednesday said Washington should respond if it was behind the leaks – a claim the United States dismissed as “ridiculous”.
The UN Security Council will meet on Friday to consider the matter.
Finland, which borders Russia, has made efforts to strengthen security around its critical infrastructure, with a particular focus on the power grid.
Sweden’s two largest nuclear power plants have raised their alert levels.
– “Constant” gas flow –
Operated by a consortium majority owned by the Russian gas giant Gazprom, Nord Stream 1 and 2 run from Russia to Germany.
Although the pipelines are not currently operational, they both still contained gas.
The huge leaks have caused underwater clouds of gas, with bubbles several hundred meters wide at the sea surface making it impossible to inspect the structures immediately.
Seismic institutes reported Tuesday they “in all likelihood” recorded explosions in the area before the leaks were discovered.
A Swedish Coast Guard search and rescue vessel was patrolling the area.
“The crew reports that the gas flow visible at the surface is constant,” the agency said in a statement.
Danish authorities said the leaks will continue until the gas in the pipelines is exhausted, which is expected to happen on Sunday.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said at a symposium in Paris that it was “very obvious” to him who was behind the leaks.
He said post-war gas shortages in Ukraine could lead to a harsh winter in Europe.
“If there isn’t a big negative surprise, I think Europe can survive this winter in terms of gas with a lot of bruises on our bodies in terms of prices, economy and social issues, but we can get through this,” Birol said.
According to climate associations, Nord Stream 1 and 2 contained about 350,000 tons of natural gas – methane.
According to Greenpeace, the leaks could cause nearly 30 million tonnes of CO2, or more than two-thirds of Denmark’s annual emissions.