Swedish investigation confirms Nord Stream detonation suspicion

Aggravated sabotage suspected on four pipelines built to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany

Sweden says preliminary inspections of the Nord Stream pipelines in its territorial waters have confirmed initial suspicions that they were damaged by sabotage.

Multiple detonations were reported on September 25th in the Nord Stream network, four pipelines about 1,200km each built to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany. Sweden’s public prosecutor said that its “crime scene investigation had strengthened the suspicions of aggravated sabotage”.

The investigation was carried out by Säpo, the Swedish security service, in co-operation with the Swedish coastguard, armed forces and police.

“We can conclude that there have been detonations at Nord Stream 1 and 2 in the Swedish exclusive economic zone that has led to extensive damage to the gas pipelines,” said Mats Ljungqvist, Swedish public prosecutor, in a statement.


“We have also made certain discoveries which we are unfortunately not able to comment on what they consist of,” said Nina Odermalm-Schei, Säpo spokeswoman, to Sweden’s TT news agency. “We will continue the preliminary investigation, analyse the evidence and further clarify the incident.”

News of the preliminary report came as sea cordons of a 9km radius around each investigation areas were lifted. After the news, Sweden’s acting prime minister Magdalena Andersson was cautious about commenting on the claims of sabotage on the gas pipelines.

“In Sweden we have pre-trial confidentiality, but it’s good that authorities are working intensively in co-operation with Denmark and Germany,” she said.

The acting leader said that since the incident Sweden, a Nato candidate country, had received backing from the defence alliance and its EU partners.

This support included “offers of technical assistance, but also very clear statements from EU leaders and from Nato”.

“This is about much more than Sweden and Denmark, this is about the European energy supply,” she added.

With western countries and Russia each accusing each other of being behind the incident, a special task-force has been set up with members from Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Russia says it will “insist on a complete and transparent investigation”. Denmark’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod has said the investigation task-force is open to accepting Russian members.

German authorities say damage to three of the four Nord Stream pipelines has left the gas transport infrastructure beyond repair. Without expedited repair work, large volumes of salt water will corrode the pipelines from the inside.

The Nord Stream operator said this week it is removing gas from the final, intact pipeline and feeding it into its network St Petersburg.

Researchers estimate that about 70,000 tonnes of methane were released by the leaks, about a quarter of the original estimate. Two of the leaks are in Swedish territorial waters, two in Danish territory. Swedish authorities said on Thursday that the pipelines appeared to be almost empty, but that the underwater leakage clouds of 15 metres in diameter are still visible.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin