Sweden says telecommunications cable with Estonia was damaged at the same time pipeline between Finland and Estonia developed mystery leak
- It was reported that Chinese vessel was close to pipeline and cables at the time
Sweden has said one of its telecommunications cables was damaged at the same time a pipeline between Finland and Estonia developed a mystery leak.
The cable connecting Sweden with Estonia was mysteriously damaged at the same time as the subsea gas pipeline Baltic Connector and another telecom cable, Swedish Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin said today.
The Baltic Connector as well as its sister phone cable are expected to be out of service for months after Finnish authorities discovered it had been damaged on October 8 – coinciding with the damage to Sweden’s telecom cable, according to Bohlin.
This comes after Estonian state broadcaster ERR said earlier today that the Chinese container ship Newnew Polar Bear was close to the pipeline at the key moment the damage occured.
Previous reports had focused on possible Russian sabotage to the gas pipeline, but Vladimir Putin described the charge as ‘complete nonsense’ despite the presence of the Russian oil tanker SGV Float close to the scene.
Estonian state broadcaster ERR said the container ship Newnew Polar Bear (pictured above) was closer to the pipeline at the key moment
The 94-mile-long Baltic Connector pipeline (part of which is pictured above) supplies a third of Finland’s gas demands
But now Estonian daily Postimees said the Chinese vessel – sailing under the Hong Kong flag but belonging to China – was in the vicinity of the Baltic Connector pipeline when ‘seismic’ activity was recorded in the area.
It was ‘much closer’ than the Russian ship eight days ago when the leak was caused by ‘strong mechanical force’ in the Gulf of Finland.
READ MORE: ‘Chinese vessel was close to undersea pipeline linking Finland and Estonia when it developed mystery leak’
The Estonian authorities were reported to have been slow to voice concrete suspicions because the information ‘is so politically and diplomatically sensitive that they want to make absolutely sure first’.
The container ship was returning from Shanghai with a stop in Russian Baltic exclave Kaliningrad on its way to St Petersburg, it was reported.
Estonia has not yet challenged China at diplomatic level.
The reinforced ice class vessel is due to carry 62 large containers from St Petersburg to China, via the Northern Sea Route, to the north of Siberia.
Putin mocked the Western suspicion of Russia.
‘Frankly speaking, I did not even know this [Baltic Connector] gas pipe exists,’ he said. ‘It could have been anything… They might have hit it with some kind of hook. I don’t know . . . There might have been an earthquake. I don’t know, let them investigate.’
He claimed the West was seeking to mask its involvement – unproven – in explosions which damaged the Russian-built Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year.
‘These claims have only one purpose: to cover up the terrorist act committed by the West against the Nord Stream gas pipelines,’ he said.
Estonian daily Postimees said the vessel (pictured here) – sailing under the Hong Kong flag but belonging to China – was in the vicinity of the Baltic Connector pipeline when ‘seismic’ activity was recorded in the area
Finnish defence sources previously said the government considered the possibility of Russian interference from the beginning
Probes by Germany, Sweden and Denmark have so far failed to pinpoint the blame. Leaks from the German investigation focus attention on a Ukrainian link. Russia has variously blamed Britain and the US.
While no official cause has yet been announced, Finnish defence sources told the Iltalehti newspaper that from the beginning of their enquiries, the government considered it possible that Russia sabotaged the key pipeline.
READ MORE: Finland suspects Russia is to blame as gas pipeline and phone cable connecting the country with Estonia is damaged
Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, said in a statement: ‘It is likely that the damage to both the 94-mile-long gas pipe and the communication cable is the result of external activity.’
He said that Finland was cooperating with Estonia to investigate the root of the problem, adding that he had spoken with NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said on X, formerly Twitter: ‘NATO is sharing information and stands ready to support allies concerned.’
Several other countries have also announced that they are standing by Finland and Estonia.
Sweden’s foreign affairs minister, Tobias Billström, said: ‘Sweden stands with our Nordic-Baltic colleagues and are ready to offer any help regarding the damage to undersea infrastructure.’
And Latvia’s president, Edgars Rinkēvičs, said he was ‘very concerned about reports that the damage to the gas pipeline and the data cable between Finland and Estonia is caused by external activity.
‘Looking forward to the results of the investigation.’ he added.
Russia is known for sending spy ships into Nordic waters
The pipeline is able to send up to 2.6 billion cubic metres of natural gas every year, enough to power up to a third of Finland’s gas demand.
Relations between Finland, one of the newest members of NATO, and Russia are fraught.
Earlier this year, Finland expelled nine Russian diplomats from the country for allegedly working with Russian intelligence.
And last year, it was reported that the navies of both Finland and Sweden were stepping up their preparations for if Russia decides to attack either of their energy grids.
Russian submarines and ‘research vessels’, which are reportedly used to disguise espionage activity, are often seen off Finland’s coast.
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