A probe into a leak from an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia is proceeding on the assumption that it was a deliberate act of destruction, according to people familiar with the matter.
(Bloomberg) — A probe into a leak from an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia is proceeding on the assumption that it was a deliberate act of destruction, according to people familiar with the matter.
There are no final conclusions, the people said. Officials are expected to give more details on the investigation later on Tuesday. European gas prices rose as much as 12.5%.
An “unusual” drop in pressure in the pipeline prompted the operators to halt flows early on Sunday, with the neighboring countries starting an inspection. The gas leak was in Finnish waters, according to one of the people.
Russia halted gas supply to Finland in May 2022, about a week after the Nordic country said it would apply for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The region now increasingly depends on flows of liquefied natural gas from the US.
The leak — and subsequent investigation — has revived concerns about the vulnerability of undersea infrastructure following the blasts on the nearby Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Germany last year. European countries have since stepped up defense of infrastructure in response.
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The Finnish government said in a statement Tuesday that it located the damaged area of the gas pipe and that it also detected a fault in a communication cable to Estonia. Officials scheduled a news conference for 5:30 p.m. Helsinki time.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said the damage was likely caused by “external factors,” and that he’s consulted with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The military alliance chief said that it’s sharing information and “stands ready” to support its allies.
“When it comes to gas, Europe is in for a safe winter. However, this hinges on the integrity of its pipeline and LNG infrastructure,” Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, said on the X social media platform. “Sabotage or disruptions could have severe consequences.”
North Atlantic Treaty Organization members have increased monitoring of energy assets using satellites, aircraft, ships and submarines, with sites in the North Sea and Baltic Sea seen as among the most sensitive.
Read more: NATO Turns to Underwater Drones and AI in Bid to Deter Russia
The Balticconnector pipeline was put into use just over three years ago.
While the Baltic nations and Finland have reduced reliance on Russian gas even before cutting off imports from their eastern neighbor, they increasingly depend on liquefied natural gas, primarily from the US. The interconnector linked the new LNG import terminal in Finland with Estonia, and similar floating terminals have been set up across Europe over the past year, including in Germany.
–With assistance from Elena Mazneva, Leo Laikola, Anna Shiryaevskaya and Kevin Whitelaw.
(Updates with Finnish president, NATO chief from seventh paragraph.)
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