EU vows ‘strongest response’ after saying damage to Nord Stream pipeline was ‘sabotage’

The European Union has threatened “the strongest possible response” after claiming that the Nord Stream gas pipeline had been deliberately sabotaged.

In a statement on behalf of all 27 member states, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday said: “All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act.

“Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.”

He echoed words from European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen who said that the leaks were the result of sabotage and warned of the “strongest possible response”.

While the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, wrote on Twitter: “Nord Stream sabotage acts appears to be an attempt to further destabilise energy supply to [the] EU,”.

The EU leaders stopped short of directly calling out Vladimir Putin and Russia of being responsible.

But the bloc has previously accused Russia of using gas supplies, and the Nord Stream line, as a weapon against the West.

Ukraine however has gone further and accused Russia of an attack.

Mikhaylo Podolyak, Ukraine’s presidential adviser said: “The large-scale gas leak is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU.”

He accused Russia of seeking to “destabilise the economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic”.

Pipes at the landfall facilities of the ‘NordStream 1’ gas pipeline (REUTERS)
Pipes at the landfall facilities of the ‘NordStream 1’ gas pipeline (REUTERS)

The operators of Nord Stream 2 warned of a loss of pressure in the pipeline on Monday afternoon. That led to Danish authorities saying ships should avoid the area near the island of Bornholm.

Then on Tuesday, the operator of Nord Stream 1 said the undersea lines had simultaneously sustained “unprecedented” damage in one day.

Seismologists said that explosions took place before unusual leaks were discovered in the two underwater natural gas pipelines.

Nord Stream 1 stretches 745 miles under the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast near St Petersburg to north-eastern Germany. Its twin pipeline, Nord Stream 2, was halted after Russian invaded Ukraine.

The lines are filled with natural gas and were not delivering fuel to Europe when the leaks occurred. But the damage has increased fears of another spike in energy prices.

The damage means that the pipelines are unlikely to be able to carry any gas to Europe this winter even if the political will to bring them online emerged, according to analysts.

The pipeline’s operators said it was impossible to estimate when the system’s infrastructure would be restored.

European gas prices rose on the news of the leaks, with the benchmark October Dutch price up almost 10 per cent on Tuesday.

Prices are still below this year’s peaks, but remain more than 200 per cent higher than in early September 2021.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he thought the leaks would “not have a significant impact on Europe’s energy resilience”.

Mr Blinken did not directly accuse Russia - but said it would be in “no-one’s interest” if they were caused deliberately.

But Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, also called the damage an “act of sabotage”, while his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen said she views the leaks as “deliberate actions”,

The Danish energy authority said any event like this was “extremely rare”.

Denmark’s defence minister Morten Bodskov said: “There is reason to be concerned about the security situation in the Baltic Sea region.

“Despite the war efforts in Ukraine, Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect them to continue their sabre-rattling.”

A Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said he was “extremely concerned” about the leaks, adding that the possibility of a deliberate attack could not be ruled out.