President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia was involved in the rupture of a gas link between Finland and Estonia, in his first comments on an incident that has rattled the European energy market.
(Bloomberg) — President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia was involved in the rupture of a gas link between Finland and Estonia, in his first comments on an incident that has rattled the European energy market.
“It’s total nonsense,” Putin said, when asked about allegations that Russia may be behind the leak. “Anything could cause it,” the Russian leader said at the briefing that concluded his visit to Kyrgyzstan. An earthquake or damage from a ship anchor could well be the cause, he suggested.
The Balticconnector gas pipeline with a capacity of 2.6 billion cubic meters per year connecting North Atlantic Treaty Organization members Finland and Estonia started leaking at the weekend. Finnish investigators are working on the assumption it was a deliberate act of destruction, and NATO has pledged to respond on behalf of its newest member if the damage proves to have been intentional.
Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said the rupture was caused by an “external source” as he declined to speculate who may be responsible. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas isn’t ruling out Russian involvement until the investigation is concluded, she said, speaking in an interview with local news publication Delfi.
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European gas prices jumped, as the leak revived concerns about security of European energy infrastructure ahead of the winter, even though the incident is of small significance for the regional gas market. Following the explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Germany last year — for which responsibility has yet to be determined — European countries have stepped up defense of their key assets.
Government officials in Lithuania ordered more naval patrols in its territorial waters to protect a power cable with Sweden and the nation’s liquefied natural gas terminal. In Finland, the Interior Ministry said on Friday it was working on restricting access to the area where the country’s floating LNG terminal is docked. Further afield, Norwegian police also ramped up security around some energy facilities.
Russia halted gas flows to Finland in May 2022, about a week after the Nordic country said it would apply for NATO membership in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland also refused to pay for Russian gas in rubles, a key condition for continuation of supplies Putin set following the invasion in Ukraine. Gas accounts for just 3.5% of Finland’s energy mix.
Allegations about Russia’s involvement in the Balticconnector incident are just “an attempt to divert attention from the Nord Stream” pipeline attack, Putin said. Russia has on numerous occasions denied it had anything to do with the explosions that damaged two pipes of Nord Stream and one line of Nord Stream 2 in September 2022.
“I didn’t even know this pipeline existed,” Putin said at the briefing in Kyrgyzstan, referring to the Balticconnector. “It’s very small.”
–With assistance from Kati Pohjanpalo.
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