Estonia to probe Sweden cable damage as part of Baltic Sea incident investigation

By Andrius Sytas and Marie Mannes

VILNIUS/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Estonia said on Thursday it would probe the damage on a Baltic Sea telecoms cable connecting the country to Sweden as part of its ongoing investigation about the rupture caused on another telecoms cable, connecting Tallinn with Helsinki.

On Oct.8 a gas pipeline and telecoms cable connecting Finland and Estonia were broken, in what Finnish investigators believe may have been deliberate sabotage. Helsinki is investigating the pipeline incident, while Tallinn is probing the cable incident.

On Tuesday, Sweden said a third link had been damaged at roughly the same time as the other two.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Estonian Prosecutor General said the Baltic country’s probe would be expanded to include both telecoms cable incidents, in a move showing a potential link between the two was being considered.

“The circumstances of the telecommunications cable connecting Estonia with Sweden will be investigated within the ongoing criminal proceedings,” the spokesperson told Reuters.

“We will also be in contact with the Swedish authorities when necessary.”

Separately, Finnish police said they had completed their crime scene investigation into the damage on the pipeline, without giving further details.

The most recently reported incident on the Sweden-Estonia cable occurred in the afternoon of Oct. 7, an executive at Arelion, the owner and operator of the cable, told Reuters.

“Whenever there is an interruption in (data) traffic you see in the ends that there is no signal transferred,” Mattias Fridstrom, Arelion’s manager in charge of security discussions with authorities, told Reuters.

“And you see immediately exactly when that happens.”

He declined to give an exact time, citing the ongoing investigation.

The cable carried general data traffic, Fristrom added.

He said traffic was quickly restored as the cable was only partially cut, adding a ship was waiting for good weather to sail to the site and conduct repairs.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius and Marie Mannes in Stockholm; editing by Gwladys Fouche)