The Balticconnector gas pipeline, an essential element of the Baltic states’ energy integration with the EU, was damaged by unknown agents who destroyed a communication wire.
According to experts, it could have been a Russian subversion operation.
Iltalehti, citing a source in Finnish foreign and security affairs, reports that the Finnish defence forces suspect Russia of the October 8 gas pipeline attack.
The Swedish Navy also believes that Russia attacked the Balticconnector. Due to the risk of damage to underwater electrical cables, the Swedish and Finnish navies are on high alert.
The Estonian Foreign Minister and Defense Minister believe that the damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline is most likely the result of someone’s actions; the location of the damage to the data cable has not yet been found. Foreign Minister Margus Tsakhkna and Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur held a press conference concerning the incident, the EER media reported.
“The footage we have seen confirms that some force caused the damage. This is not the work of a diver or a small underwater robot – we are talking about larger-scale damage,” Pevkur said, adding that seismological data did not indicate the use of explosives.
Margus Tsakhkna said that human actions most likely caused the damage and is another signal that critical infrastructure needs to be protected more carefully. According to him, it is already known which ships were moving in the area when the pipeline was damaged – at least those that did not turn off the transmission of their location. Still, there is no reason to link the incident to any particular vessel.
Hanno Pevkur added that the location of the damage to the data cable, which is most likely in the Estonian economic zone, is not yet known. “We have most likely identified the location but must confirm the assumption. It is at a great depth,” he said, adding that the depth reaches about 70 meters. The damaged section of the gas pipeline lies at a depth of 60 meters, and its deepest area is about 100 meters deep.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö emphasized that NATO is ready to help investigate the damage to the gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia.
“It is likely that the damage to both the gas pipeline and the data cable was caused by external activity. It is not yet known what exactly caused the damage. The investigation will continue in cooperation between Finland and Estonia. We are also in constant contact with our allies and partners. Today, I discussed this with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. NATO stands ready to assist in the investigation. These events do not affect our security of supply,” Niinistö stated.
The Finnish media reported that Finland’s political and military leadership admitted Russia’s involvement in the incident earlier.
The NATO Secretary General had a telephone conversation with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. The foreign ministers of Estonia and Finland also discussed the incident, and the issue was raised at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.
The Norwegian non-governmental research institute NORSAR recorded signs of an explosion off the coast of Finland in the Baltic Sea around the time the Balticconnector gas pipeline was damaged.
NORSAR announced this in a press release shortly after Finnish and Estonian government officials briefed on the incident.
NORSAR, engaged in seismological observations, reported that stations in Finland detected a possible explosion off the Finnish coast in the Baltic Sea at 01:20 Finnish time on October 8, 2023.
Balticconnector gas pipeline
Balticconnector is a bi-directional gas pipeline connecting the gas networks of Finland and Estonia. The gas pipeline is 151 km long, of which 77 km are underwater.
Balticconnector allows Finland to receive gas from the Inčukalns underground storage facility in Latvia and reduce its dependence on Russia’s Gazprom. The pipeline was commissioned in December 2019.