Journalists from four Scandinavian countries were able to track the ships’ movements through radio communications transmitted by the vessels to their military bases and satellite images analyzed together with KSAT.
A joint investigation by journalists from four Nordic countries found that Russian warships had been near the sites of the explosions on the branches of the Russian Nord Stream gas pipeline at least three times before the explosions. One of them was over the pipelines five days before the incident.
The Russian vessels were moving in the area with their identification devices turned off, but the journalists were able to track the ships’ movements through radio communications transmitted by the vessels to their military bases and satellite images analyzed together with KSAT.
The journalists found that in June 2022, Russian vessels potentially capable of conducting underwater operations visited the gas pipelines at least twice. The last time was less than a week before the explosions. In one case, the vessel stayed in the pipeline area for almost a full day.
The first vessel spotted near Nord Stream on the morning of June 7 had departed from a naval base in Kaliningrad. The ship spent several hours in the exact place where the Nord Stream pipeline branches run at a depth of 80 meters. The name of the vessel was not provided by the journalists. According to the Danish authorities, three of the four explosions on the pipelines subsequently occurred here.
The second vessel, the 86-meter-long Sibiryakov, arrived in the area on June 14. The ship was very close to or almost above the pipelines, sometimes traveling at very low speed. In addition, the images show another vessel, which was also apparently moving with its identification device turned off, but it could not be identified.
Satellite imagery shows that both of these ships were within a few hundred meters to several kilometers of the sites of one of the future explosions.
Journalists claim that NATO’s Baltops 22 maritime exercise was also taking place in the Baltic Sea at the same time, but none of the units were close enough to the area to spot the Sibiryakov and the other unidentified ship.
The third recorded vessel that visited the pipelines on September 21 was a 49-meter tugboat of the Russian Baltic Fleet, SB-123. The German portal T-Online has already mentioned that this tugboat could potentially be involved in the explosions.
SB-123 switched off its transponder halfway from its base in Kaliningrad to the Nord Stream pipeline area. Based on information from intercepted radio communications, journalists assume that the tugboat was in the area from about 20:00 on September 21 to 14:00 on September 22.
Recently, the Danish media received information from military sources that a Russian SS-750 vessel was also near Nord Stream four days before the explosions.
The journalists contacted the Russian embassy in Copenhagen with the information, but they refused to comment.
Swedish prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, the main person in charge of the investigation into the sabotage of the gas pipeline, says that the investigation has very detailed data on the movement of ships in the area, even on “ghost ships,” but at this stage he cannot comment on anything.
As a reminder, in April, the same Scandinavian broadcasters DK, NRK, SVT and Yle in a joint investigation found that Russian military and civilian “ghost ships” were moving in the Baltic and North Seas and collecting data for sabotage of wind farms, gas pipelines and communication cables.
In addition, a joint investigation by journalists from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark revealed dozens of Russian spies among former and active employees of Russia’s diplomatic missions in these countries.