Russia ‘has plan to sabotage North Sea windfarms, cables’

Moscow deploys fleet of spy ships disguised as fishing and research vessels, Nordic TV investigation claims

Russia has a programme to sabotage wind farms and communication cables in the North Sea, a joint investigation by several Nordic broadcasters has claimed.

The investigation – carried out by public broadcasters in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland – says Russia has a fleet of vessels that are disguised as fishing and research vessels in the North Sea.

According to the BBC, the investigation alleges that these carry underwater surveillance equipment and are mapping key sites for possible sabotage.

The first programme in the new documentary series The Shadow War by DR in Denmark, NRK in Norway, SVT in Sweden and Yle in Finland is set to be screened on Wednesday.


According to the broadcasters, they have studied intercepted Russian communications that indicate some Russian ships in Nordic waters have switched off their transmitters so as not to reveal their locations.

The report claims a Russian underwater research vessel called the Admiral Vladimirsky belongs to the Russian navy and is a spy ship.

The report identified some 50 vessels that could be part of a Russian programme to gather intelligence on wind farms, gas pipelines and cables for electricity and data traffic.

Although most of the ships have been identified using data from the automatic identification system (AIS) tracking system, others such as the Admiral Vladimirsky have been travelling with AIS transceivers switched off.

When a team from Denmark’s public broadcaster, DR, approached the ship, which has passed several offshore wind farms in Denmark and the UK, men armed with machine guns appeared on board.

Norway’s NRK also identifies a Russian fishing vessel that has sailed slowly past US nuclear submarines when they have surfaced in Norwegian waters on at least four occasions.

DR reports a Danish counter-intelligence chief as saying the Russians are ready and know where to intervene if they want to paralyse Danish society in the event of a conflict with the West.

Last month, Russian government vessels equipped with technology capable of interfering with subsea cables were identified off Ireland’s west coast.

The two Russian flagged ships, the Umka and the Bakhtemir, caused alarm among defence officials when they were spotted engaging in unusual manoeuvres off the Galway coast, in the vicinity of a newly opened subsea communications cable.

The Defence Forces deployed ships and aircraft to keep track of the vessels, which later turned south and appeared to resume their originally charted journey to the port of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea on the west coast of Africa.

However, on the night of March 30th just before leaving the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, the ships turned around again and began sailing back up the west coast, causing further confusion about their intentions.

Elsewhere, on September 26th three explosions and sharp drops in pressure were recorded in the Nord Stream gas pipelines at a depth of 70m near the island of Bornholm, outside Denmark’s territorial waters but in its exclusive economic zone.

Sweden reported a fourth gas leak on September 29th.

Russia has consistently denied involvement and blamed western rivals for the explosions.

Media reports in early March in Germany and the US suggested investigators had found links to a Ukraine commando group operating independently of the government in Kyiv. – Additional reporting: BBC, Bloomberg