EU countries increase security after apparent pipeline sabotage

Escalation in European energy crisis denounced as act of deliberate ‘sabotage’

European countries are rushing to increase security measures around critical infrastructure after denouncing a deliberate “sabotage” of two pipelines that provide a gas connection with Russia.

Three major leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines released enormous bubbles of gas into the Baltic Sea and caused European gas prices to rise once again, in a sudden escalation of the continent’s energy crisis.

European Council president Charles Michel said the damage was due to “sabotage acts” and described it as “an attempt to further destabilise energy supply” to the European Union.

“Any deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure is unacceptable,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said, adding it would “lead to the strongest possible response”.


Western leaders have steered clear of assigning blame for the pipeline damage, which took place in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden, stating that further investigation was required.

But Norway said it would step up security at its oil and gas installations, while Nato and the EU both stressed the importance of ensuring other infrastructure is secure in the wake of the incident.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg “addressed the protection of critical infrastructure” in a discussion with Danish defence minister Morten Bødskov about the “sabotage” of the pipelines, Mr Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the EU would act to increase its energy security.

“We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why, and will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security,” Mr Borrell said in a statement.

The pipelines were not delivering gas at the time they were damaged, amid a standoff over energy between the EU and Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, but the damage put the infrastructure definitively out of action.

Not long afterwards, Russian energy giant Gazprom warned that it may halt its remaining gas deliveries to Europe that transit through Ukraine due to a legal dispute.

The leaks coincided with the launch of the Baltic Pipe that will connect Poland to Norway via Denmark, which was celebrated at its inauguration by the leadership of the three countries as a way to reduce energy dependence on Russia.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority had on Monday, one day before the leaks, urged operators to increase their “vigilance” after being notified of “unidentified drones/aircraft” flying close to offshore oil and gas platforms.

It warned of the risk of “collision with the facility” or “deliberate attacks”, and later said the cases in which drones had infringed the safety zone around facilities “are now being investigated by the Norwegian police”.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher warned that Irish infrastructure was potentially vulnerable. “Russian navy was carrying out manoeuvres off Ireland in January 2022,” he wrote on Twitter.

“At the time many people said they were there mapping undersea communication cables, between EU and USA. Attack on gas pipelines in Baltic Sea today leads me to believe that Russia would sabotage these cables.”

In a daily conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed any speculation that Russia could have attacked the pipelines.

“That’s quite predictable and also predictably stupid,” he said. “Now the gas is flying off into the air... Are we interested in that? No, we are not, we have lost a route for gas supplies to Europe.”

The timing for the repair of the pipelines was unclear, Mr Peskov said.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O'Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times